Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Why I Despise Syco

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

I recently posted about the new BBC talent show, "The Voice". I'd like to follow up on that.

I wrote that post very soon after the first episode. The show's audience surpassed 10 million. Based on what I wrote in my first post I should be happy but I'm not. It's lost 4 million since then but that's not what's pissing me off. It's the reasons why. Apparently the first results show was pre-recorded. Apparently the judges are "too nice". One of my local radio DJs said it was because there were no "novelty acts". OK, 1 at a time.

Pre-recorded show

I admit this was a mistake. It shouldn't have been allowed. This is why the first million left and it's a fair point. I'm annoyed that they did it, but shows inevitably make mistakes, especially on the first series. Let's move on.

Too nice

The argument goes that bad acts are given little or sugar-coated criticism. Instead of using the word "pitchy", some viewers would prefer terms like "awful" or "terrible". I've seen the shows, and it's not necessary. I'm not saying it's not right to do so, I'm saying they're not "awful" or "terrible", they are, at worst, "pitchy". The 1 exception was a girl called Ruth-Ann. She was eliminated by Jessie J last week. Let me use her to explain why "too nice" is such a hollow and pathetic criticism.

When Ruth-Ann auditioned, I thought she was pretty bad, but it wasn't like one of the truly awful acts that would audition for X Factor and get laughed at. She was just off-key a lot. Jessie was the only judge who turned round, and the others thought she'd lost her mind. Jessie defended her by saying that she saw potential. Now, out of the 4 judges, Jessie has consistently been the most critical towards the singers. "Too nice" is not a criticism that could meaningfully be attributed to her. She is tactful about her criticisms, but she makes them consistently. My assessment of the Ruth-Ann situation then is this: she disagreed with us. Everyone has their own personal preferences, and occasionally everyone champions someone who the rest of us can't stand. This happens, and has happened, everywhere. In the end, it doesn't really matter, because Jessie eventually voted her out.

Let's compare this to X Factor and Britain's Got Talent. On both of these shows, at the audition stage, a number of truly horrible acts are put in front of the judges so that they can embarrass themselves on TV in front of millions of people. Yes, the judges tear these people apart. They have no qualms throwing around words like "terrible", "awful" and "worst we've ever seen". On the other hand, there are acts that are equally awful, but because they have some degree of likeability with the audience, the judges put them through. If they didn't make it to the live shows, I might go from utterly despising to merely hating these shows, but many of these poor people do indeed get put through to embarrass themselves further. Now for the most important part. Whenever the audience gets behind one of these car crashes, the judges don't dare to criticise them, or be as tactful as they possibly can to avoid being booed. Simon tends to get a lot of his respect from being the exception to this rule, but even he applauds such acts a lot of the time.

So let's review. The public is complaining that the judges on The Voice aren't relentlessly criticising singers, the standard of whom is a lot higher than you'd typically get on X Factor or Britain's Got Talent, on a show which, on principle, doesn't allow for novelty acts, but they're perfectly fine with Cowell and his ilk putting through and praising novelty acts on their shows. The judges on The Voice aren't being too nice. The acts are just better.

Now fans of the Cowell shows might say "what about their good acts"? I see no difference in how The Voice's judges are treating their acts to how Cowell treats the best of his acts. Both camps are critical when needs be but tactful.

Novelty Acts

Let's get to the DJs criticism. He criticised the show's lack of novelty acts, saying this made the show boring. At least he admitted how sad such a criticism is. The concept that the British public prefer shows which give us Jedward to shows which filter through only talent scares me. What scares me more though is the possibility that the DJ is right. I actually think he is. It's disturbing to me that drama, novelty and image are more important than talent to millions of people. It's disturbing that they'd choose the integrity of a show like The Voice over the pantomime that is X Factor or BGT.

But none of this really explains why I despise Syco. To do this I need to tell you a story. It's about a young man from Scotland called Jai. Last year, Jai auditioned on BGT. He was terrified, but he unleashed a voice which I can only describe as "Josh Groban but better" (I say this having just recently compared both men's versions of "To Where You Are" live and recorded). He breezed through the auditions and the semi-final and eventually won the entire competition. He won £100,000 and a one-album contract with Syco, as well as the Royal Variety Performance. In December last year, he released an album called "Believe". He was great, but the album was terrible. It's the same Syco clone styles they apply in each relevant genre, never veering from their ridiculously strict formula, and it's all covers. Jai said he was given more creative control than he thought they might but, as a novice, he was happy to hand a lot of it over to the producers. He won a contest watched by over 10 million, and released an album bought by less than 30,000. In March this year, Syco dropped him.

This is why I despise Syco. Jai had enormous potential, but they released an album of crappily-made covers, emphasising the background over his voice, making it sound just like everything else they've done, and it flopped hard. They ruined him. The winner of The Voice gets £100,000 and a contract with Universal and it remains to be seen whether they will treat their winner more seriously than Syco treated Jai. I hope The Voice hangs on so it can strike the death blow to Syco's disgusting invasion of our mainstream music.


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