I’m conflicted over X Factor. I’ve watched it start-to-finish for the last three years (something about owning a house impels one to spend Saturday nights in, I suspect) and have been known to get a little dewy-eyed at some performances. I have a certain amount of professional respect for Simon Cowell, who masterminds the theatre of the whole thing very well (even if, after 3 years, the narrative of both the whole series arc and most individual contestants is now crushingly obvious from the beginning). He does what he does very well.
Speaking of which: I’ve always maintained that watching other human beings do something they really, truly excel at is one of life’s great pleasures. Some X Factor contestants sing very well. Some of them.
But I am also a semi-retired aggro little bastard, and as such love to see the best laid plans of men get absolutely spannered by happenstance and discord and willful troublemaking. So, much as I’m not a Rage Against The Machine fan, I loved it when the applecart was upset last Christmas. Joe McElderry, after all, is such an obvious West End musical theatre boy, rather than a pop star, that he should never have won.
But this year’s attempts to stop Matt “Corset” Cardle from winning have been all wrong. Which is why they failed.
The Cage thing is too clever, too conceptual, and thus lacked any kind of visceral momentum. As intriguing as four and a half minutes of silence may be (and I love the original concept), it’s very hard to imagine people in any great numbers getting behind the idea of buying… nothingness. Even if it does piss off Simon Cowell.
Billy Clyro’s own attempt to push their original version ahead of Cardle, meanwhile, is too literalist, too obvious, too childish, and is dangerously close to acknowledging what a clever song choice it was by Cowell. Plus it smacks of a little too much ego; Clyro could have just sat back, raked in the royalties, and said, in punkish fashion, “so what if Cardle ruined our song? he’s bought us new houses”.
So that leaves Surfin’ Bird. Which actually probably is surreal enough, and fun enough, to have gained momentum sufficient to topple Cowell & Cardle. Except for the fact that Rage’s success last year means that everyone knows about Facebook campaigns now, and that has two consequences. Firstly, it means you get multiple campaigns emerging, and subsequent vote-splitting, lessening the impact of any single contender. Secondly, and most importantly, it means that no one sees this idea as being NEW anymore; raging against X Factor’s Christmas chart dominance is old hat, everyone did it last year, and this year we’re too busy making snow angels and listening to Take That.
Someone over at The Guardian suggests that next year we should get behind just one alternative to Cowell, possibly the magnificent Windowlicker by Aphex Twin. Having once stood and applauded after a lecturer played the video for Come To Daddy to prove a point about Althusser, I would probably wet myself if that actually happened. But there are going to be a billion different things trending between now and next Christmas, and in 12 months we’ll all have forgotten.
Or will we?
I’m putting it in my diary.