Why Talent Shows Have Poisoned The Music Scene

A revised version of a piece I wrote about talent shows and their impact on the industry.


Talent shows are a world unto themselves. They seem to spontaneously begin with no warning and have a nation obsessed each and every time. The format has been used across a wide spectrum, from general talent, to music and even to acting. It seems as though you can’t turn your head away for 15 seconds without a new talent show being aired. “Why are they so popular?” I hear you scream, and the answer is Simon Cowell.

He’s giving the world entertainment by dissecting each contestants personalities and exposing their fragilities to millions of onwatchers. Through Simon Cowell, and his production company ‘Syco’, he has given birth to 6 different talent shows in the space of 10 years. Not to mention having them recreated across the globe! Simon Cowell has made a fortune from the talent show business, with an estimated fortune of £225 million. The effects on the music industry by the pint-sized jean loving mogul are already being witnessed.

Strip the X-Factor to its bare bones and what you will see is a soap opera. The search for musical talent is not the main task for show. It searches for the most likely contestants to bring in money for Mr.Cowell, the contestants to keep viewership as high as humanely possible to bring in advertisement revenue. The show has often had flamboyant and eccentric characters make it through the lives shows rather than more musically talented contestants.

It’s a really expensive televised karaoke. The format is so predictable now that I actually make bets with my brother on how many ‘sob-stories’ each episode will feature. Seriously, if you have the finance I urge you to produce a talent show and calling it the ‘Shit-Factor’. It will be simple, just copy the following format for each episode:

Firstly show the judges arrive at some venue in identical exotic vehicles, being greeted and celebrated like some fascist authority. Then feature some shots of all four judges standing from a vantage point looking down at the plebeian population while they gesticulate the ‘shit’ sign. Then some voice-overs from the judges on what they are expecting from the auditions.

Secondly, begin the auditions, featuring some jokers who actually claim to believe they can sell more singles than actual real talented musicians. Show a montage of terrible contestants accompanied with bewildered expressions from the judges. Then against the momentum feature an audition of a flamboyant, possibly homosexual, contestant. It would help attract more viewers if you could force them to get nude, all the while singing as shit as possible, as long as they make the judges and viewers laugh they’ll make it through the next round.

Thirdly, fabricate some argument between the judges about some ‘HUGE’ disagreement that could ultimately result in one of the judges quitting the show. I don’t know, make them argue over who has the most expensive home.

Finally, at the end of the show bring the sob story on. Feature some attractive 20-something year old contestant who has had to fight against all the odds (by this I mean getting up at 7am) to make it this far. Force them to say they need the money for replacing grandma’s hip and that if they don’t succeed the family will almost certainly cover her with a white sheet and end her miserable life.Simon CowellThen have the contestant walk nervously onto the stage while being patronisingly interrogated by the judges who have silently passed judgement already. Then out pops an average voice. It’s filled with melodies and he or she is auto tuned till the point where the song turns into a despot’s war rally. Feature rousing applause from the audience with the judges in an emotional wreck saluting behind their desks claiming to have discovered the saviour of music. The end! [repeat the four steps for 8 weeks and then win some Award voted by the public].

The X-Factor is criticised by many, including well-established musicians. Moby was quoted as saying the X-Factor “cheapens music” and that “talent shows are awful.” He condemned the show for telling singers how to “look” and “sound” The success of the X-Factor winners is clearly shown as they are continuously number 1 at the Christmas Charts. From 2005-2008 the number 1 was an X-Factor winner.

It was only until 2009 that someone took notice and attempted to stop (or marginally disrupt) Simon Cowell’s cash cow. An online pressure group campaign emerged to get Rage Against The Machine to number 1. It gained enough supporters to stop Joe McElderry from getting the number 1 sport. It didn’t really affect Simon Cowell as he went on to create ‘X-Factor USA’ last year, but I think it affected Joe, I’m not to sure what he’s doing now. I think he’s working in ASDA as some check-out assistant.

The whole process wreaks of fixing and manufactured storylines. Not to mention the mass genocide of my favourite songs that are being covered by these characterless robots. The music industry has been slowly degraded similarly like the importance of my PlayStation 1, the only difference between the two is that the PS1 still works.

Looking at the current charts today and the music rich list and what you would see would partially damage you’re eyesight. It is dominated by pop stars who lack talent but what they lack in talent they make up in appearance. This is how mainstream music has become, the image dictates financial success.

But who is to blame? The corporate bigwigs who employ cretins to design marketing plans with the use of study groups to attack the target audience and a team of twenty 20-40 year old males writing the music for the so-called ‘artist’. The music industry bloomed in the 60’s and 70’s leading to a mass number of artists attempting to take a slice of the market in the 80’s and 90’s. It dawned on the corporations about marketing and targeting certain markets to make money quickly. Statistically, the largest demographic of music listeners are females between 16-25, with increasing amount of disposable wealth and free time more music is being purchased.

That partially explains why Justin Bieber and One Direction are immensely popular. The appeal of good-looking boys that sing about what “makes you beautiful” and “if I could be your boyfriend” is confusing to me but adorned by girls. So the blame can be directed towards the corporate business’ targeting large markets.the beatlesBut doesn’t that sound familiar? The Beatles started out producing music with mass appeal, teenagers and parents both enjoyed the friendly music of The Beatles. However as fame grew old for The Beatles rather quickly they began to use their success to experiment without repercussions of financial failure, so out came Sgt. Pepper in 1967. The first successful concept album, and the moment The Beatles escaped their tags as a pop band and went on to become an ever-lasting force.

But is the negative criticism that the X-factor faces fair? The bullying, vapidity and format of the show is a representation of the music industry behind closed doors. I’m not arguing that this is Cowell’s true intention. It would be insane for us to think the whole concept of the  X-Factor is Simon Cowell exposing on the current state of the music industry, highlighting the raw uncensored bitch-y behaviour which has become routine for the contestants. I think it would be far too generous for us to give Simon credit for that.

The main reason is greediness. Well, from the lack of Christmas number 1’s (one in 4 years) and decreasing number of views tuning in, I think it is fair to say that the X-Factor is on the decline. It is only a matter of time until it gets taken out round the back, a white sheet is placed on its face and BANG. Much like our earlier contestant’s grandmother.


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