Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

The X Factor – Quarter Final

December 3, 2008

And so the longest advert in history trundles on, destroying all that might dare to threaten the global dominance of Cowell et al. The contest itself is an irrelevance, a deus ex machina of neccessity in place to guarantee the further financial obliteration of all rivals and to homogenise the music industry so that it can be controlled by one man and his Blackberry.

There was a time when asset-stripping was a tactic reserved exclusively for the hardnosed Gordon Gecko’s of the world, but Cowell has admirably stepped into those shoes – cherry-picking the elements of art, music and culture that will make him the most profit and willingly discarding all that is extraneous and unnecessary. Even the songs the contestants perform are fractured into two thirds of their original length, just in case the audience become bored or there’s not enough space left for tie-in adverts, painfully repetitive VT autocues and phone number announcing.

It’s hard to blame the contestants here. Each have genuine talent and see the show as an opportunity to become recording stars. They naively believe they’ll be the ones to defy the curse of Cowell-meddling that will see them reduced to bargain bins and further reality show humiliation over the next few years.

It’s sad to think that, not only does that man resculpt the still growing identities of a number of teenagers to further his swelling bank account, he also does it under the guise of concern and consideration. He’s an evil soul – not the pantomime villain he plays – but the face of corporate greed, pummelling and psychologically bullying all in favour of a third house in Barbados.

The X-Factor didn’t used to get to me too much in the years past – it was always an ignorable piece of fluff that didn’t matter much. I’d watch the auditions for a laugh and then abandon the show as the remaining contestants were whittled down to the least offensive, most bland nadir and then roll my eyes at the woeful Christmas release that inevitably followed.

This year I’ve stayed with it all the way through – mostly at the bequest of my lady – and I’ve found my eyes opened to the summit of evil that the show really is.

The music industry is, by and large, a hugely corrupt and morally bankrupt industry. The X-Factor manages to represent that far better than any sharply-worded critique or snappily dressed indie anthem ever could. From the fawning faux-praise of the grown up Martin Prince that is Louis Walsh, to the bought-and-paid-for ‘controversies’ in the newspapers, this is not a television programme – it’s a vertically integrated business model that’s found a legally allowable method of advertising during the period in which networks are meant to be broadcasting content.

This week was Britney week. The overproduced pop princess decided to bestow a rare UK miming event upon us and so, as a result, we were forced to watch a clinically depressed redneck being forced to pretend to sing her latest vocoder-featuring single while a bunch of semi-talented amateurs all murder her previous hits by occasionally alternating the intonation on a couple of words.

Actually, scratch that, it wasn’t Britney week – it was Disney Cross-Platform UK Tween-Push week as the show also featured, inexplicably, an appearance by Kevin Federline fuckee-in-waiting Miley Cyrus and a ‘spirited’ performance of a High School Musical number by the shows resident dashboard-nodding grandson fantasy, Eoghan Quigg.

And yes, Britney – poor, poor Britney. If ever there was a warning shot across the brow of the contestants it’s Britney. Brought in to stumble across the floor, forget which lyrics to lip-synch to and to display no knowledge of what show she was on – she was a walking / talking advert for the destructive nature of fame. Still the contestants blithely waffled on about how fame and money were their dreams. It was like watching smackheads looking at an ODd corpse and not being able to make the connection.

Dead-eyed Britney was the low point of a show that has plumbed the depths more times than I can count. I wouldn’t object so much if it acknowledged its fakery, but it insists on ploughing ahead, repeating the lies enough times to be heard as truths – it’s about the artists, it’s about music, it’s about making people’s dreams come true.

It’s none of these. It’s about making money – huge, unimaginable piles of money – and may God have mercy upon whatever singers, songs, impressionable children and cultural legacies get in its way.

Nickelback – Photographs

August 27, 2008

There’s a town in Florida called Celebration that was designed, built and engineered by the Disney Corporation. It’s an ode to the small town of American mythology – where everyone knows everyone elses’ names, where little league is the sport of choice, where there’s a church on every corner and where 97% of the population are white. In its early years, actors were employed to aide the impression of the the yokel spirit and snow was sprayed on the ground every Christmas whether it was cold or not.

Celebration is, in more ways than are readily recognised, the epitome of American values. It presents the right image, it taps into patriotism and nostalgia and it is effortlessly controlled by a ruthless corporate behemoth that purports to be about family values. If it looks genuine and it sounds genuine then who cares if it actually is genuine?

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Nickelback country.

Writing about music on WWM is always a tricky proposition as it always flares up far more defensive responses than your average ITV show. However, with Nickelback I feel I’m on safe ground.

To like this band you must be a tone deaf, semi-illiterate fucktard who enjoys the sensation of being aurally patronised and having their values slowly beaten into a bloody pulp by a thousand men in very expensive suits. You must be a masochist whose musical purchasing revolves around the latest ‘Now’ compilations and ‘Hardcore Urban Trance Classics 2009’. By all accounts and all tastes and all allowances for musical snobbery, you must be a moron.

‘Photographs’ is the band’s most recent single – a rerelease following the highly explicable but no less painfully successful ode to money and directionless consumerism ‘Rock Star’. It’s a contrived amalgamation of supposed memories from lead mullet Chad Kroeger, all perfectly emoting what is an archetypal upbringing for your average middle class ‘troubled’ teenager who still shops at The Gap – you know, the ideal demographic for this sort of thing.

Like a fake medium hustling a rich and grieving widow, Kroeger channels picture perfect vagaries of screen-door memories in middle America Nowheresville, picking out the schoolgirls who broke his heart and his numerous brushes with the law. He contemplates how he went astray, becoming a reflective and wizened soul who wants a second chance at life – all the while seemingly forgetting that he’s actually a former session musician from Canada whose only conviction is for being a drink-driver.

This follows the same line as their previous single ‘Rock Star’ which is basically a list of rock star cliches – a song particularly interesting as it features a rock star singing from the point of view of an ‘everyman’ about how he really wants to be rock star. Projected self adulation it may be, but it’s also about a rock star clearly becoming annoyed that his rock star life doesn’t follow that of what a rock star life should be – so he sings a song about he’d rather have a rock star image than be the actual rock star he is. Are you still with me?

Music is all about image, I’m not denying that, but there’s something deeply sinister about the way Nickelback go about it – their lyrics are almost focus-group driven, sculpted from marketable subjects that can inspire the most ferverent puchasing and imbued nostalgia. They drip Americana; etched into every rumpled t-shirt and straggly rat-tail is a sense of rugged machoism and glistening self importance, all topped off by a style that was popular roughly 15 years ago.

Of course, Nickelback aren’t the image of the real America, they’re the image of the corporate America. They’re the image of socially responsible rebellion, of radio friendly rock music and of all-out war-waging pomposity. Yes, there are other bands who use the flag as their image and some are far worse than these pseudo hillbillies, but I don’t think there’s a band out there who wear it so brazenly – who tread the line between sincerity and self parody so closely.

Listen to the lyrics. It’s like they’re cribbed from Facebook photo comments to achieve maximum effectiveness – a false history wrapped within a culminated life and sponsored by Disney. They’re the Miley Cyrus of rock bands; tightly squeezed by an army of imagemakers who can take their sub-average cliches and present it with so much glitter and sparkle that you hardly notice what’s beneath it all.

The talkbacks will begin soon and we’ll all wade through the usual music arguments. Let me save us all some time; I know there’re far worse bands in the world, I know that commercial rock is nothing new, I know that the music industry has always been about image and I know that even those precious fuck-you rock bands that I grew up on were really powered by Sony.

Nickelback are a new breed of all that, though. They’re a genetically spliced super group that combine the twin powers of alt dot origins and massive commercial appeal. Much like GI Joe, they have a copyright logo where the cock and balls should be – and should that sort of behaviour really be encouraged in the first place?