Thursday, November 24, 2011

The X Factor

Well, this is a long way from the so-called 'classical' music in which I specialize, but I am interested in all aspects of live performance.  I follow both the UK and USA versions of the show, and am on the lookout for the really individual act with the potential to do more than bland covers of pop songs.   I guess I would like to see the next Bj√∂rk emerge.  I do have some gripes with the format of the show, and in particular:
  • The amount of 'padding' (clips from past shows, backstage material etc.) and commercial breaks is enormous, and seems to grow as the number of contestants declines.  I try to avoid watching the show live, and instead record it and fast-forward through everything except snippets from any interesting acts and the judges' comments.  That way I save at least an hour per show, and I am sure plenty of others do the same.
  • There seems to be a difference between the demographics of the people who vote for contestants on the shows and the people who buy records, and I have always felt that the telephone voters are mainly women, which probably favours the male contestants - analysis of the published voting figures for part series of the UK shows supports this theory.  The same does not seem to apply to recording sales and downloads - for example, the Digital Songs chart for the week of November 26, 2011 showed four female solo artists and three male solo artists in the top ten.
  • I am irritated by the 'arena-type' costuming and choreography (particularly on the UK show) - when the aim of the show is apparently to find a top recording artist, who only needs to perform well in a studio rather than a stadium.  The best shows are the final audition shows where the contestants perform with just piano or a very small band, and can show their intimate side.
  • Finally, can the producers please use live bands for all the shows (like American Idol).  If that's expensive, just reduce the judge's fees to compensate.  I'm sure there are lots of celebrities out there who would do the job for next to nothing just for the publicity!


  1. Many TV documentaries from the US have the same X-Factor padding: lots of repetition, snippets of what's coming up, a continual evasion of "being in the moment". When it's a documentary series on cutting edge physics, it drives me crazy. Do they really believe that's all that people can comprehend? That they have absolutely no patience or ability to concentrate for more than 30 seconds?

    YouTube may provide easy entertainment in five minute lengths, but you have to realise that - like yourself - so many people are investing a lot of time in rehearsing their music or their thoughts for these five minute concerts.

    1. That's true. The good think about YouTube is that you choose the individual short items you want to see. The good thing about TV is that the serial nature of the viewing experience means that there is always the chance of finding something (musical or otherwise) that you like or find interesting by chance - ie, you would never have searched for it on Google or elsewhere.