What is it about the X-Factor that makes it so attractive to the British public? At this time every year I find myself obsessing over it, getting angry with who stays and who gets voted out. Ranting about the silly comments I read on web forums and generally getting worked up about something that will have zero impact on my life. Why?
Prior to this week, two acts have been voted out so far. In week one it was Kandy Rain who didn’t stand a chance simply because they are a girl band. There’s something about voter demographics that makes it virtually imposslbe for them to succeed on the show. Last year two girl bands went in the first two weeks, (this year it took three weeks). The other act to fall was a guy called Rikky Loney who didn’t really have a lot going for him in either the singing or charisma departments. Neither of these were the top performances on the night but they certainly weren’t the worst either. This isn’t just my opinion, it was also that of the judges. So why did these two acts go so early on?
On Sunday night this week we were presented with the remaining ten acts and a varied lot they were. By now I’ve had sufficient exposure to them that I’ve learnt the names of the acts and formed favourites based on personality and ability. Topping the charisma chart we have Stacey Solomon and Jamie Archer (a.k.a. Jamie Afro). For coolness there’s Olly Murs and for sheer performing talant, Danyl Johnson. Besides these chart toppers, there are a couple of pretty fair performers: Joe McElderry and Lucie Jones. That takes us up to six of the ten acts. In all fairness, one of the remaining four, girlband Miss Frank, ended up going home. Despite a good act, they were doomed to failure just by being a girlband. The big surprise of the evening wasn’t that they got voted off, but who came second to last, probably the biggest talent in the competition, Danyl Johnson. Once again, this isn’t just surprise on my part, it’s surprise on the nations part, the bookies unanimously touted him as the favourite to win, as did the newspapers. Why, after only two weeks was the grim reaper casting a look at this hugely talented performer?
I’m pretty sure the answer rests with those pesky voter demographics that always doom the girl bands. So why do the girl bands get voted out so quickly each year? Simple, because blokes don’t vote for them! Whilst a great many men might actually watch the X-Factor, I’m pretty sure that most of them, like me, don’t actually care enough to ever vote. That seals the fate of the girl bands. So having concluded that men don’t vote much, what are the girls doing with their votes?
One thing that’s a certain vote winner is cuteness. The young girls love a young guy who comes across as a bit shy and can do a coy smile. There’s one of those in this year’s X-Factor, Lloyd Daniels. I’m sure Lloyd is a great guy but on stage he looks like a lost puppy and sings with a comparable lost-puppy whimper. Despite his lack of ability, Lloyd will see many of the top performers fall before his puppy-dog loving voters are finally outnumbered by the then consolidated votes of the music lovers.
Next there’s the British love for the underdog. This year we are blessed with the partnership of John and Edward who’s recipe for success is to be devoid of any of the prerequisite talents. The more this depressing duo get slagged off by the press, judges and web forum subscribers, the more the good people of Britain will rally behind them. I admit it, I look forward to watching them, in a malicious sort of way, just to see how awful it will be. As with Lloyd, John and Edward will never win the prize but they’ll take out a lot of talent before they succumb.
In a reversal of perspective, why do the talented acts lack for votes? I think voter age plays a big part in this. It doesn’t matter how great a performer Danyl Johnson is, how smooth Olly Murs acts or how rawly talented Jamie Afro might be, they belong to a generation removed from the teen voters. After ploughing through thousands of comments on web forums, it’s obvious to me that the vast majority of them are from teens; written in text-speak, highly charged, utterly lacking in legibility and generally terminated with a “I luv u Lloyd! xxx”. I suspect these messages originate from people who don’t listen to much Led Zeppelin and think Robert Plant is the father to two little plants on a pre 9am CBBies cartoon they haven’t woken up in time to watch. Yes, that’s a heavy dose of cynicism but I doubt it’s far from the truth. They certainly aren’t going to vote for the talented over-25 acts!
Put all this together and I know why I’m obsessive about the X-Factor. It’s no single element of the programme, it’s lots of things combined with indignation playing the major part. I really feel strongly that talent should prevail and the fact it doesn’t inflames my indignation and increases my obsessiveness. In essence, I’m not obsessed with the X-Factor because it works, I’m obsessed with it because it does not. I care so much that a week after the final, I’ll have forgotten the names of the twelve finalists and will be sick of hearing the winner’s cheesy Christmas No.1 song.