Monday, October 23, 2006

The X-plotation Factor

I actually sat through the whole programme on saturday night, a feat not normally endured by someone like me - someone with taste.

I normally watch the auditions phase if only to shake my head in wonder at the disallusioned talentless no-marks who bring everlasting shame and embarassment on their familes by appearing on national tv at the peak viewing time to wail the wrong words to "Flying without Wings" or random lines from that weeks random chart topping act who no-one else has heard of.

But on saturday night I watched the second of the knock-out live rounds - it was "Rod Stewart night".

Now when ah wor nobbut a lad I was a bit of a fan of Rod Stewart, right from the "Every Picture" album up to somewhere around the start of the eighties when he went too Los Angeles disco crap for me and I left him for a diet of Terry Wogan inspired rubbish.

So I awaited the "Rod Stewart night" with anticipation.

And my anticipation is still waiting.

It was crap.

For a start, two of the songs weren't what any sane person would label as "Rod Stewart songs" - "Try a little Tenderness" and "What a wonderful World" (yes Louis Armstrongs song) aren't instantly and inextricably linked to Mr Stewart although I acknowledge that the recent releases from him have tapped into the awful genre of "lets sing the old songs" and that it is feasible that he may have recorded Mr Armstrongs swansong, if it is so then I don't want to hear it by the way.

Putting the song selection aside though, the performers were just poor - with one excepton.

Ashley McKenzie should win the competition now, simply give him the prize and give him a recording contract and show some Tom and Jerry cartoons at 7pm on a saturday night until christmas - he is head and shoulders above the average club turns that remain in the competition right now and is the only one with anything like a unique voice and a unique image - his performance of "I'd rather go Blind" was inspirational and bore a remarkable similarity to the original recording by Etta James rather than Rod Stewarts version.

Down at the bottom of the pile was a truly appaling rendition of "Sailing" by two pimply scottish youths under the name of "The MacDonald Brothers" - they were awful, just awful, and yet they were voted straight through to the next round without having to perform in the "last two playoff", although with hindsight it was a relief as I couldn't have sat through them singing "Sailing" again.

The rest of the competitors are simply bland - looking at them on the X Factor web site I cannot remember their performances at all, if they were a colour they would be beige, if they were a vegetable they'd be heavily stewed cabbage - they are all unmemorable.

Which seems to be the point of the whole programme. in past years they have produced such superstars as Michelle McManus (see photo above), who as everyone knows, has sold lots of records to her family since she won, or Steve Brookstein, a pub singer who, erm, is a pub singer now (he's not very happy about it either) or last years winner who is so famous that he has completely slipped my mind, and apparently Googles mind too as I can't find any reference to him/her at all.

My cousin was a professional session guitarist and now produces musical tribute shows and for a long time he has explained to us how the music business takes aspiring young acts (such as the recent ten year long phase for boy bands), eats them up, milks them dry then spits them out the other end, skint.

He has dozens of tales of working in studios on backing tracks for 17 year olds who thought they had made it when they signed a "million pound record deal" - unfortunately no-one explained to them that they do not get the million pounds personally. he would love it when these precocious "talents" would keep everyone wating in the studio because they had just returned from spending some of their advance payment in a night club somewhere, whilst all of the session musicians sat around earning overtime until they were ready.

He had tears of mirth in his eyes as he explained that at the end of the first year an accountant would sit down with these young kids and explain that they had spent all of their million pound recording contract on studio time, musicians overtime, hire of those limos that they insisted on, 300 nights in a night club buying everyone drinks and the rent on that apartment in central London that they had insisted on, in fact, the accountant would explain, you owe us money now and so your second album (which will always be crap with no money spent on it) will have to be done for free to repay us. And when the second album sold only to their families then they were out of the door, passed in the reception by the next 17 year old with stars in his eyes and a million pound recording contract.

X Factor is just the starting point of that conveyor belt its just that, like cattle waiting in a field outside an abbatoir, the performers have no idea.

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