And there it was.
Terrifyingly brash, built high on bad taste and over-production. The X-Factor American Edition.
Despite my misgivings and it being my Saturday brunch break, I just let it run and let the feature group sound bites wash over me. Fortunately, those and the inane, repetitive judges’ comments vanished down the drains of time, along with the rest of the massively overproduced, over-hyped, re-cycled, talent-deficient rubbish vying for the five-million-dollar contract supposedly up for grabs at the end of it all.
Strip away the hugely expensive lighting rigs and Hollywood sci-fi backdrops, state-of-the-art computerised stage control and sound systems, and the very professional musicians backing these wannabe frauds, and you are left with very average, often mediocre, talentless kids being lined up as no more than well-groomed cannon-fodder for the Simon Cowell money machine – his empire built on hype and cynical exploitation of music and the masses. His currency is ignorance and razzle dazzle – the perfect combination to make any snake oil salesman a success story in his own right.
But I’m not pissed off with or by Cowell. I could not care less that the standards of popular entertainment keep falling to new lows. Apparently. Let the public decide what they want and when. And let them be impressed and astounded by the quality of the shows like – X-Factor – which they adore.
That’s how supply and demand works.
And that’s how human nature works. Instant gratification. It’s good while it’s fresh and new and shiny and the buzz keeps coming. Television. The opiate of the masses. You need not wonder now why heroin ever get so popular among those simply unable to resist.
But I am pissed off by the underlying truth that the X-Factor exposes. Which is that in virtually every suburban street, in city pubs, in schools, in gigs around the world, there are truly talented musicians and artists who will never see the light of day – sign a record deal, become the next big thing – because nobody cares. Or because nobody rubs the publics’ nose in their ability and talent, just because that’s Nature’s way. Music like every other worthwhile discipline is about survival of the fittest, the best, the strongest, the most original.
Original. A word with absolutely no potential for application in the X-Factor story. Which when you get down to it – and I’m not going there – is really why the whole X-Factor concept totally sucks.
Which brings me to the point where I can explain why I may come across as an authority, touting the patently proletarian theory that hidden talents are the real victims of unscrupulous – and talentless – impressarios who knowingly defy Nature and spurn originality for profit.
I of course am no authority whatsover. On anything.
But one day, in the not too distant past, in conversation with a young singer/songwriter, she told me that in fact she had abandoned the whole idea of being a singer.songwriter and wanted instead to become a video documentary producer.director. Despicably, in hindsight, I knew she was impressed with my stuff so I pounced immediately and within days, she had conceived, filmed, produced and directed a very cool video for my then new single! And all for free, as she wanted to use it for a campaign she was about to embark upon.
At the point of delivery of her tres cute video, she asked quite innocently if, for the record, I would like to hear the last two songs she had recorded, both produced by her partner, a brilliant musician, composer and arranger who owned his own studio.
Of course, I said ‘yes’ and she promised to email the masters to me.
And she did. And I nearly cried.
‘My God…,’ I thought, ‘It’s Kate Bush all over again..and the songs – one in particular – still years later outshines anything in the charts now, or that has charted in the last ten years.’
Over and over I listened, stunned, tired, wise old muso that I am. And I heard the voice and the song and the treatment shouting at me – THIS IS WHAT REAL TALENT SOUNDS LIKE – clean and clear and cutting through the crap to demand, command your attention – again and again.
I hurriedly Facebooked the young lady in question and commented on her stunning debut material. She was gracious but not impressed, and reminded me that she was ‘out of that business now’ and intent instead on making serious films.
“But my God..the songs..your voice. You are a star already…these songs are awesome..the potential for you to….!”
But no. Shut up! That was a past life.
Clutching at straws, I asked if she minded if I kept the songs and perhaps found a home for them…a deal for her?
“No thanks. But you keep them, and do what you want with them otherwise. I’m just glad you like them.”
I still have the songs…still speechless.