Sunday, 29 September 2013

X Viewer

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn.

I must write this while I'm still angry. I want every shred of hatred, rage, indignation, mouth-foaming fury, and sheer contempt to be apparent in this article. I won't take it down. I won't regret it. I will simply write the unfiltered thoughts that occur to me for the next half an hour or so.

For the past 6 or 7 years, since the year that Leona Lewis won, I've very begrudgingly watched the X Factor. I've never been impressed by the show. It has always very obviously seemed to me to be nothing like what it pretends to be. It's not a singing competition. They're not looking for someone who can go on to sell millions of albums or hit singles. It's little more than the TV equivalent of a farm. A farm to milk dry well-intentioned aspiring singers of their emotions, credibility, individuality, and yes, talent. All of this in the name of ratings and advertisement money. If they were really trying to find the next big singer, they'd be more successful. Because make no mistake: there is no lack of competence in what they do. Let me demonstrate that by analysing the latest gauntlet these creatures have devised for the singers to run.

There are 6 chairs. Each of the singers left in the singing competition must stand, in Wembley arena, in front of thousands of people and the 4 judges and sing for their right to sit in 1 of those chairs. The judge who is in charge of that singer's group (boys, girls, overs, and groups) must decide whether they get to sit or go. Right off the bat, this format is shamelessly ripped off from The Voice, it's just a lot faster. But it doesn't end there. Once all 6 chairs are filled, the remaining singers must also sing in front of the judges and Wembley, but if the judge really wants to keep 1 of them, that judge must ask 1 of the people sitting on the seat to go home. This after they have already been asked to take a seat and have gotten their hopes up about going through. I watched this format play out once. Nicole Scherzinger replaced 3 chair occupants during her group's performances. She was in a state, the contestants were in a state, one of them even had to stand outside because they were so upset about the fact that if she did well enough to go through, she would have to, essentially, force someone else out of their chair. I had to sit there, while everyone else was watching, and suppress the most powerful rage I've felt in a long while. It sickened me to the core to watch this. Yet I must, despite such feelings, concede the obvious competence with which this thing was devised.

This format brought out some of the most powerful emotions I've ever seen on the show. Most of the contestants on the chairs were trembling. Everyone who had to replace someone else on the chairs cried at some point before, during or after their audition. And, no doubt, what I felt, I won't be alone in feeling. When you're sickened, you're not bored. And let's face it, I'm writing this article. This will just give them more attention, and make them more popular. I will justify that decision later. What matters now is that this format is genius, in the same way that the contraptions from any of the Saw films are genius.

But let's not kid ourselves. This has no beneficial impact on any of the singers. This teaches them nothing that couldn't be taught infinitely more humanely and competently through some other means. I say this because people are bound to defend this format by saying something like "it's a dog-eat-dog industry", "it's tough, and they've got to show they can handle the pressure", or, my personal favourite, "they've got too many contestants, they've got to whittle it down somehow". As arguments these are up there with defending obvious novelty acts without any future in the business by saying "they're fun". Well guess what. In a couple of months, they won't be. These people will have to live their lives as an embarrassment of pop culture. The X Factor producers, judges, and audience, including myself for contributing with my viewer-ship, all contributed to that and let them believe they were something special, when really we just laughed at them. And as for the "dog-eat-dog" industry argument, the rest of the show already does more than enough to teach them that lesson. They spend their entire stint in the show competing with everyone else and only 1 of them can win, and you honestly want to tell me that's not enough? No, this format is a disgusting exercise in cruelty. Nothing more. Nothing less. It would be like punching someone in the face and justifying it by telling them that "life's not fair, sometimes people do these things to each other, so you may as well get used to it". This is the argument you make when you're trying to justify something to yourself. When you feel conflicted about what you're watching so you find a way to rationalise it. I've done this many times. The process almost never generates a rational argument, as you're not working from a place of reason, but of defensive admiration. And "they've got too many contestants"? Then they should've taught some of them a lesson about how "dog-eat-dog" the industry is by not putting some of them through in the first place! I thought the people sitting behind that desk in front of the stage were supposed to be judges! Oh wait, no I didn't, because it pretends to be a singing competition! Of course it would create pretences elsewhere!

But do I hate the judges? No. They're as much a victim of this as everyone else. I'm not, however, going to respect them, like we're clearly expected to do, for making those "really tough decisions". I only saw Nicole, and she didn't have the discipline to choose her 6 wisely. I sat there thinking about what I would do in their place. Very simply, I would walk. If I had absolutely no choice, I would at least make a promise to my group that everyone I asked to sit on those chairs would stay on those chairs. And, most importantly of all, I would keep that promise. It doesn't matter how hard it would be. And I wouldn't want my contestants to make it easy on me. But I would damn well keep my promise.

I have made the mistake of watching this show for 7 years. I did it only because everyone else in the house did. I sat there in silence watching that show insult my intelligence and any self-respecting musician with almost everything they did with their crap defences of acts that wouldn't realistically last a few months, or that had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, giving them false hope instead of doing the decent thing by saving them a lifetime of embarrassment by telling them that they wouldn't have a sustainable career and would be the joke of the country for the next few months. I sat there watching the judges decide to keep those novelty acts in the competition over people with an actual chance, purely because "they were entertaining". I sat there watching the judges break up bands and manufacture new ones out of an arbitrary group of soloists. I even sat through Jedward. But most importantly, I watched every final in which a singer, who may or may not have a chance at a decent future, sang a mind-bogglingly ill-fitting song, with the near-guarantee of getting the Christmas no.1 except mercifully the year we decided to stick Rage on them, and when the military wives took it from them fairly, and I watched most of those finalists fade into obscurity after 2 badly performing singles, gutted from their record deal for what is entirely the fault of the Syco record label themselves as they wrote the songs, after not being given any chance. But maybe I should be thanking them. Because finally, at long last, they have crossed my line. The line that means I can't, even begrudgingly, support them with their viewer-ship. I'm free. It's over.

I want to end this article with an apology. I'm sorry to everyone who feels like me and who I've betrayed by watching that show. I feel sorry for anyone who truly believes they have a shot at greatness by going through that ordeal, given the show's track record. And I wish that my past self could apologise to my current self for ever deciding to sit down on that sofa and turn that shit on.


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