A couple X Factor questions from a US viewer

I’m from the US, but through the magic of the internet we’re following the X Factor. It’s my daughter’s favourite show (she likes one of the boys from One Direction). Not having regular access to general British media outlets, I have a couple of questions.

The way the judges talk on the show, everything that happens on or about the show is front-page headline news in every paper across the country. I assume this is self-aggrandizing hyperbole. (American Idol does the same thing, for example.) The way they talk, you think the entire country has come to a standstill for the next 12 weeks, waiting with baited breath for the winner to be revealed. But, how popular is the show, really? Does it get any attention beyond the entertainment pages?

What’s up with Wagner? He’s awful, who’s voting him through every week? Is there some kind of campaign to keep him in as long as possible? Again on American Idol, there was a pretty terrible guy on there a few seasons ago, and there was an organized campaign by a popular national radio host to keep him on to the end, mostly as a joke. Is something similar going on?

It’s huge. The tabloids which aren’t exactly like the US tabs will have them on the front page and entertainment pages. The tabloids like The Sun have the biggest readership of any paper in the UK.

It’s a water cooler show in a big way. I was at a friends 40th party last weekend which was a few days in Galway. She and her friends were mad about xfactor and we watched the show in her room before going out for a meal.

In short, no, the people on the show aren’t really exaggerating too much.

Yes, it frequently makes the front page, and further coverage, in the tabloid press. The Sun has a whole section just for the X Factor: The Sun’s X Factor Pages.

It is big, big news. It will be discussed around the coffee machine in most offices on a Monday morning.

As for Wagner, there’s usually a joke act that stays in for a bit (see Jedward from last year), but this year has taken a twist. Not sure if you are aware of it, but last year there was an anti-X Factor Facebook campaign which successfully resulted in the winner not getting the supposedly guaranteed coveted Christmas Number One spot, and it going to Rage Against the Machine instead. This year, there is an anti-X Factor campaign to try and get Wagner to win it. Wagner Campaign.

Its absolutely massive. There are stories in the tabloids almost every day about it. Most of it is made up nonsense designed to keep the show in the papers but still there is no escaping it. At the start of the Saturday show the host Dermot comes out and says something like “Your weekend starts here.” He’s not wrong. Most people I know will wait until the show is over before going out for the night.

Last year there was an act “John and Edward” they couldn’t sing but they were entertaining. The show has been on a long time, and before that there was Pop Idol so I think people just got a little tired of boring good singers. John and Edward brought some fun to it along with a bit of a car crash thing. So this year a lot more ‘comedy’ acts got further along in the competition. Before last year people like Wagner would never have made it past the audition (unless a couple of the judges were doing it to annoy Simon). But now we have him and the likes of Diva Fever making the live shows. I have to admit I’d rather watch either of them than the boring acts that can actually sing like Treyc and John. Plus it seems like there are 100 million contestants this year so knowing that Wagner will be on doing something bonkers is something to look forward to.

Hijacking this thread to rant a bit.

Im in no way a big fan or anything, but I have watched the X factor over the years, and I cant remember it ever being as fixed as it is this year.

Its always been very stage managed, of course, but this year seems to be just blatently, unabashedly, set up.

Take for example the two new groups formed. Performance wise, they are very very ordinary. Yet of course they get put through the different rounds. It was an absolute lock that regardless of their performance, they would have been put through from the judges house. It must have been hard for some of the groups that got eliminated to stomach the fact that two groups that didnt have their talent got selected ahead of them, but it was obvious that Simon Cowell was going to put his pet projects through.

Thats one thing, the judges can pick who they want. But the judges comments at the live shows are just ridiculous.
Repeatedly the judges will praise Bel Amie, or Cher as “The fresh new talent”, or “just what pop in this country needs”, or “a breath of fresh air”. But the simple fact is that the actual performances do not match this lofty praise. Cowell is doing his damnedest to TELL us that these kids are brilliant, because he wants record sales, but they arent matching the hype, and it is only highlighting how little talent actually has to do with these shows.

A good author/director will show you, rather than telling you. Think of acts like Leona Lewis, or even Matt this year. Their talent shines through, you can see it and hear it. But the judges are pushing acts that cant match that, and for anybody with an ounce of perception, this blatent shilling will strip away the illusion that this is an honest talent show.

The Bieber fans will go gaga over “One direction” because Simon tells them to, but for cynical fucks like me, the shilling is just starting to annoy me, so I doubt I will bother watching anymore.

(I’ll not even get into Louies repeated use of the judges comments to push download sales…

“That was an amazing performance, I bet that will be number, Simon, is that available to download? It is? I bet that will be number one come Monday morning…”

Yeah, sure Louie, you cretin)

I’m a huge pop music fan and basically every forum/social networking site I go to on the internet aside from Facebook and here has something to do with music or is filled with other fans. X Factor, for the weeks that it is on, completely dominates conversation (most of the places I go are mostly made up of British people), and even though I don’t watch the show I can’t help but know what’s going on, who’s the favourite, what controversy happened this week.

From what I can tell, talking about the show and deconstructing it is as much a part of the fun as watching it. TV talent shows aren’t really my thing but if I lived in Britain I’d watch the X Factor because otherwise I’d be totally left out (I’m left out now of course, but at least I have the excuse that I live in Australia).

My favourite thing about X Factor is that Dannii Minogue, one of my favourite pop underdogs, is enjoying a new steady career high thanks to the show. After years of being “poor old Dannii” she’s now on the biggest show in the UK - who would have thought?

This. This is the reason why the show annoys me. Cowell used to ‘tell it like it is’ now he is full of crap. Cher, Belle Amie and One Direction are awful. Yet every week we’re told about how amazing they are, how current they are. It does my head in.

Dannii is my favourite judge. Probably because she seems to always be on the outs. Simon is boss, Cheryl is ‘the nation’s sweetheart’ and Louis is…Louis. But Dannii always seems out in the cold. Add that to the fact that she seems to work with her acts and care about how they do. That puts her top in my books.

It’s not “front-page headline news in every paper”, though. You won’t find much X-Factor stuff in the broadsheets, apart form on the TV pages. I only know it’s on when I hear other people mentioning it. It is the top-rated show on TV though - about 12 million viewers, with the next most popular shows getting about 10 million.

Random data point: I live in the UK and apart from being vaguely aware of Wagner (due to a Stephen Fry/Wagner mashup viral video), I have no idea what is happening in X Factor. So it’s certainly not across every paper, because I read both the Guardian and the Telegraph online, as well as BBC News.

I tuned in briefly and caught Cher Lloyd doing “Hard Knock Life”. Holy cow, it was bad - she can’t sing in tune, has limited range, can’t dance, can’t rap and dresses like someone going to her sixth-form Halloween party as Amy Winehouse, yet all the judges were praising her to high heaven. They’re not even pretending anymore.