You have to hand it to Simon Cowell. In a bid to outwit the campaign against an X-Factor Christmas No.1, he’s announced that this year’s winner’s song will be a version of “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine. Thus he wins.
Of course that’s not true. Though fans of Rage Against the Machine will tell you that the new line-up of Leona Lewis, Jedward and that old man who did some breakdancing on “Britain’s Got Talent” has been a disappointment. I totally understand the rage against the X-Factor machine. It’s agony to know that a constituency of knee-jerking automaton fans will buy a record, however crap, and get it to number 1 at Christmas. Still, it worked for Cliff Richard.
And that’s slightly my point. This is nothing new. It’s just that now, like that monkey that Jeff Goldblum turned inside out in “The Fly”, we can see the innards, the mechanics of the music biz, or at least the ones we’re allowed to see: the process of selecting a plastic star, the A&R man (Simon Cowell), the ruthlessness.
But it’s one of the great things about X-Factor that the monkey guts are out there. It’s like democracy in miniature, complete with all the manipulations and flaws and spin and sham. At the next general election, Johnathan and David Dimbleby will no doubt be known as Javid, and if no party gets an overall majority it will go to Deadlock, with the Queen probably bottling it and putting it to the public vote. The Jedward phenomenon is like an experiment in what would happen if the Science Fiction Loony Party got enough votes to really threaten the system.
Personally, I didn’t like the twins. They shouldn’t have been there. We have to remember that women threw themselves under horses for the right to vote on the X-Factor. But as a true free-speech liberal, I may not approve of how they sing but I will fight tooth and nail for their right to sing like that. Except with the Wham one. That was awful.
You could have a field day analysing what we can learn about democracy and voter intentions from protest votes in reality shows. We should ask a political correspondent – John Sergeant, perhaps. Ultimately, though, the people saw Jedward off. That’s the great thing about reality TV. It reassures me that, in the end, the great British public are honest, unprejudiced rewarders of talent, decency and good teeth. Democracy works.
I’m an X-factor fan (there, I’ve said it!). I know it’s massively flawed, especially the new format where the first half of the results show has nothing to do with the competition (though I did enjoy that woman last week who was one of the best Michael Jackson impersonators I’ve ever seen. Janet Something). But at a time where viewing habits are so split, it’s good to have something that unites us whether we hate it or love it or just want to slag off the strange black meringues Dannii calls her hairdo for that week.
Don’t get me wrong, I want Rage Against the Machine to get to number 1. It would make a vital statement about democracy, the power of subversion, and the resistance to a cultural hegemony imposed upon us by the Big Business. Then again, that Joe Mcelderry has got such a cute smile.
Thanks to @stanandollie for the pics.