So You Wanna Know What I Think About The X Factor?


*inhales breath*


This week Coventry University has been courteous enough to set me the task of watching fifteen minutes of The X Factor. This TV show is very relevant to the media of today. Some say it is the saviour of television. Some say that it is the death of a respectable christmas UK chart. What do I think? Well, I think a lot of things… for example, this week I thought it was in my best interest to go back to Nottingham and buy an Iron Maiden ticket, so therefore I missed the show on Saturday. I have watched various sections of the vote-off show tonight, and I have happened to have had a small discussion with a few none-media production people. And here I blog.

So, first impressions? Rubbish, obviously. Ironic that I’m doing formats, eh? Four judges sit on their little panels, as the first five minutes of the show reveal flashbacks from the night before. Useful to me – not so much for the people who watched it all just last night. The judges are all the usual – Cowell applauds and ridicules. Cheryl says nice stuff. Louis looks far too happy for his age, and Danni just sort of smiles and nods. As the background signature music plays, the effect on me is similar to that of epinephrine – suddenly my heart rate increases, my pupils dilate, and all of a sudden I find myself teetering on the edge of a place not meant for the human consciousness.

Bringing it all back, we have the smug host, the hyper audience, and the singers who can’t sing. Woe is me – formats production at it’s very best. Repeatable, cheap, comedic, entertaining… it’s all there. So, let’s start talking discussions – what do my friends make of it? One girl has so aptly put it: “The X Factor is the face of the downfall of music.” Almost all across the board, we also seem to share this idea that the show is fixed. How else can Wagner still be on it this year? Whichever way you look at it, clearly with people like ‘Chico’ from years back, people who are entertaining get more votes than people who can sing – which says it all for the ideologies behind the show really.  Eventually, the entertaining ones inevitably bow out a week or so before the final… being used to get the ratings up are we? Hmm.

So, on an academic scale: I have a rather well-constructed argument here. For all those who say it is affecting music, I don’t think it is. There hasn’t been a band or artist that has made a good, decent Christmas song in years. The reason why The X Factor dominates the Christmas charts is because there is nothing else. You know there is nothing else – why else would we have put RATM at number one last year, with a song that was made when I was two years old?

However, to those that say The X Factor has saved television. I argue to the contrary. I say The X Factor is actually the thing that just killed television. Official broadcasters think they’re in trouble now, but with formats production now forcing their production values down to cheaper and cheaper forms, in a few years they’re going to start parring with the media produced on the internet. The production values of internet shows are going up. Format production does not exist on the internet (yet… give it one year or so). This all relates to my essay – I may duly refer to Yahoo TV, Google TV and Apple TV. These are the concepts that the big companies are crafting in order to prepare for the inevitable integration with television and the internet. Then, all media shows will be in direct competition side by side. And at that point, things like The X Factor will not be good enough. The internet is full of weird, new, clever, funny stuff. People will (hopefully) have access to a wider range of better things. Things they really want to see – not just what is being broadcast. And The X Factor’s little ‘interactive’ themes, with all the costly phone-ins (rigged or not) – yeah well, the internet is free. Shows online are three times as interactive and completely free of charge so… yeah.

All that stuff the lecturers told us about being at the forefront of a brave new era of media is slowly coming to light. Convergent media is going to happen. EVERYTHING will converge into an online forum in some way or another. The internet cannot be regulated, so these official broadcasters are going to fall into direct competition with the ‘free’ and, as Adorno put it, the ‘authentic’. Who’s going to win – ‘official’ media, or ‘pirate’ media? I know which one my money’s on.

When The X Factor comes on, the feeling is summed up quite nicely in this picture here:

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