X FACTOR, world domination?

Posted on: 19/11/2009

By Alice Briggs

It’s all anyone can seem to talk about of late and the appeal is in the name itself; ‘X Factor’ referring to the spectacular “something” that makes for star quality. It’s different and it’s eye catching, connoting something new and Xtra exciting for TV audiences.

The programme is just a British television singing competition, contested by aspiring pop singers drawn from public auditions. It’s not a new concept.

Except this one has grown in popularity to astonishing levels throughout its six series, dominating the television ratings from August to December. The last series’ final attracted 14.5 million UK viewers.

It isn’t just the ratings that are being so dominated – so is the press. They pick up on every X Factor scandal and try desperately to find the ‘dirt’ behind each contestant because they know it will sell. The X Factor sells.

 The X Factor’s success is perhaps because it has hit on a winning combination; live singing performed in an incredibly tense atmosphere resulting in critical comments from well known and respected judges (particularly the notoriously critical Simon Cowell).

 This has made the show so successful that other countries have adopted versions of The X Factor in a bid to achieve the same phenomenon, most notably in Denmark and the Netherlands, but also in Italy, Spain, Colombia, Portugal and India.

As is now routine, the final 12 contestants perform live every Saturday and Sunday from 8pm-9.30pm on the prime-time television slot, making it accessible to all ages.

Consequently they become household names with the help of the persona created for each contestant, courtesy of the X Factor producers. For most it’s a highly constructed sob story- guaranteed to have viewers watching and buying into the sympathy vote.

This year however a new kind of sympathy vote has swooped the nation, in the form of “Jedward” the Irish pop duo who have won the hearts of teenage girls and mother figures alike.

This popular but underwhelmingly talented act are at the centre of the current criticism that the show has lost its initial purpose, is no longer a song contest but has become part of Cowell’s bid to make money. This fact has become so prominent that it has encouraged pop star Calvin Harris to make a statement by running in on one of their performances with a pineapple on his head.

He explained on Radio One: ”I was just inspired to make a mockery of the show. Because it is a music competition, it is a joke and I think it should be treated as such, so when people were saying ‘John and Edward, maybe they deserve to stay in this week’, I was like ‘are you watching what I’m watching?’ Harris’s comments echoed an interview given by singer Sting last week, in which he said The X Factor had ”put music back decades”.

Harris criticised Cowell for encouraging generic pop music, and I agree with him, Cowell now has a frightening grasp over the current music chart in the UK and it would be nice to see him use that power more creatively. His music and his protégés are generic, and it’s time for a change.

If Jedward do win this year and follow in the footsteps of Shayne Ward, Leona Lewis, Leon Jackson and Alexandra Burke; there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind that their new single will become the Christmas number one. In each of the five series, each winner’s single – never mind the quality of the singer or the song – has reached number one in the UK Singles Chart.

I admit that I too have fallen prey to the media construction that is The X Factor and am as hooked as the rest of the nation. But I wonder – how long will it continue to grab headlines and stay so fiercely popular? Probably just as long as the cult of celebrity continues to grip us all and everyone continues to aspire to be the next Cheryl Cole and fawn after fame and fortune.

What are your thoughts about the programme? Add a comment below.


1 Response to "X FACTOR, world domination?"

I must admit, I do watch the show just for the pure entertainment value of it! But I would never waste my money voting for any of the people, I can’t believe some people get so involved that they actually vote more than once.
It’s pretty sad that we know every year that X-factor will be number one, but it says something about the country we live in if they are sucked in by all the marketing and drivel!

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