There are many reasons to hate The X Factor, many of which are well-known. Like Louis Walsh, the theme weeks, the made-up arguments between the judges to court press attention, the collusion of the press in the made-up arguments between the judges to court press attention, Louis Walsh, everyone banging on about it being “their dream”, the schmaltzy song selections, the baffling popularity of hobbits (see Ray Quinn, Eoghan Quigg), Louis Walsh, the absurdly portentous contestant intros…
Like the way every single comment that comes out of Simon Cowell’s mouth is seemingly meant to make viewers vote (and thus pour money into his bank account), providing paid employment for Dannii Minogue, the insistence on cutting all songs down while also inserting a Westlife-style chord change moment, the relentless fucking crying, the way they cruelly dumped Poor Kate Thornton…
(Actually, that’s a plus point. But it’s the only one)
You get the picture. Oh, and did I mention Louis Walsh? But there are two reasons to especially loathe this series of The X Factor, and they’re both festive. Well, sort of.
The first is the choice of single for this year’s winner. They’re doing Hallelujah – essentially a cover of the Jeff Buckley version.
Now, I’m no indie zealot, but I sometimes wish the music industry could nick an idea from the NFL – the American Football people. Teams there retire certain squad numbers when a legendary player retires – they retire the jersey.
Songs should get the same treatment – they should be retired when someone’s recorded the definitive version, if only so Simon Cowell can’t slap a string section, gospel choir and chord change onto them ever. Hallelujah would be a stone-cold candidate for being retired after Buckley’s version – with some kind of bye for Leonard Cohen, obviously.
Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah makes people cry. The X Factor winner’s version will make the same people cry more, I predict.
But the second reason to loathe The X Factor is the way it’s killed Christmas. By which I mean destroyed the traditional fun and frolics around which song will be Christmas Number One here in the UK.
It used to be a huge deal, no matter how little a shit you gave about the charts for the other 51 weeks of the year. Okay, so you might have pretended you were more excited about John Peel’s Festive 50, but that didn’t stop you being in front of the box on Christmas Day to see who’d taken top slot. Even when it was Cliff.
The X Factor has destroyed that. Killed it stone dead. Every year, the X Factor winner is the de facto Christmas Number One. The bookmakers come up with odds on other songs, but there’s really no contest. A magical moment in music has been thoroughly stomped under Simon Cowell’s jackboot. Or whatever he wears that goes with those trousers.
The X Factor has killed Christmas.
There’s a way it can make amends, of course. Next year, shift the final to Christmas Day, and have the winner’s single go on sale the next day. It’ll still sell a shitload of copies, but the Christmas Number One will be open to all again.
They won’t do it, though. They’ll probably have the winner cover Radiohead’s Street Spirit, just to rub it in. Then we’ll be really angry…