September 21, 2011

The annual X–Factor rant

If you know me at all in the real world, you’ve probably heard all this before, but for those that haven’t, I figured I’d type this up after seeing Twitter once again light up on Saturday with things on one side of the debate or another.

So here’s how the theory goes: if you like The X-Factor, you don’t like music.

You might think you like music, but you don’t. At this point I’m also going to throw out any claims for watching it ‘ironically’ or ‘for a laugh’. If either of those are true, then you may also like music. But you are also wasting your life. Please stop.

It’s also okay not to like music. I don’t like literature. I read, I enjoy reading, but I read low-brow pap. I read Star Trek tie-in novels and quite enjoyed The DaVinci Code. When I’ve tried to experiment with tougher ‘proper’ authors I’ve found it too tough. If I try really hard I can get something out of the plot and characters, but it’s more effort than it’s worth and I never really appreciate the prose. And that’s okay. I recognise that. Some people will think I’m mad or pity me because I can’t get the immense joy they can out of books but I don’t care. Reading the odd bit of pulp fiction is just something I do for fun but I don’t consider myself someone that likes literature.

Music, on the other hand, I love music. It means a lot to me, I’m passionate about the music I love, because the music I love creates feelings, emotions and mood-spaces within my brain that are otherwise hard to reach. Music affects me, emotionally, intellectually, even physically.

No performance on The X-Factor has ever made anyone feel anything. Except maybe self-disgust. Oh the show can create feelings for sure, but for a show that is ostensibly about music to have to resort to pre-filmed sob-stories about the tough lives these contestants have had just to get some sort of emotional reaction from the audience is, to my mind, ridiculous.

In the X-Factor version of Schindler’s List, it opens with a shot of holocaust survivor Poldek Pfefferberg walking down the street before he relates part of his experience in an interview. We’re then shown how he met Schindler’s Ark author Thomas Keneally who wrote the novel based around his life. The shot then pulls out and Steven Speilberg is stood there, who then proceeds to tell us how the novel inspired him and moved him so much that he just had to make the film we’re about to watch. Because if we don’t know all that, how are we meant to be emotionally effected by the film?

Actual music isn’t going anywhere, of course. There will always be people willing to pick up an acoustic guitar and sing their hearts out wherever and whenever they may be. And there will always be people willing to listen, looking for something to connect to, looking for something that moves them. But it is getting harder for people to find.

While the awful, anodyne, emotionless candyfloss-pop that the likes of The X-Factor give us gets more and more common, to the point that those who do like the show don’t understand. They think they like music. They think they’re like us. They think that when we go to gigs it’s sort of like watching ITV on a Saturday night. They think that when we say we’re going to listen to a band, we’ll put it on in the background while doing something useful. When we explain that we’re going to sit down with headphones on and just listen to a new album they look at us like we’re a bit mental.

And most of all, they’ll never understand why we hate The X-Factor because they simply can’t comprehend caring about music enough to not want to watch it abused and beaten in to a messy pulp by Simon Cowell for two hours every weekend.

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