Once upon a time there was a show that could unite and divide a household. A show that could make you feel inspired then semi-pissed-off in a matter of minutes. A show that made you liable to change sides quickly because, really, no one was safe.
I’m not talking about Game of Thrones. Thankfully that still does all of those things very well. The X Factor, on the other hand, has lost it, whatever it is.
It used to be what Simon Cowell could only describe as the X-factor – you either had it or you didn’t. Sadly it appears that Simon has lost the ability to spot the show’s titular phrase in its contestants, since the talent – and the ratings, for that matter – have plummeted in recent years. I would argue that over half of the contestants on this year’s show fall into the category of ‘below average’, when the quota for this specific category has strictly been two maximum up until season 10. TV critics have accounted the lax entry requirements to ‘Mr Nasty’ growing soft over the years, and indeed, it does appear that Simon has adopted a new title: ‘Mr Big Fat Yes’.
The X Factor was once an opportunity for those with talent to have a national platform where they could win our hearts with their voices, not an upsetting backstory or a quirky outfit. You knew someone was talented when you quickly left the room to make your mum a brew, heard someone auditioning to the Original Quartet and decided that they were going to the live shows based solely on how well they covered a song. You could brush off the annual rumours that the show was a fix because, oftentimes, it was too close to call who was best out of the bottom two, since every act was talented enough to deserve to be on our TV screens. Now those rumours of a fixed ‘talent’ show seem more than likely to be true, and people look at you strangely if you do keep up-to-date with The X Factor.
To demonstrate just how low the show has sunk, Facebook mums across the country have boycotted it after the broadcast of the Judge’s Houses. My own mother, a veteran viewer, called the show ‘a load of tripe’ and vowed not to watch another episode; since there have been no weekly emotional updates about who sung what, and which act ended up in the bottom two, it must be true. Even the Facebook mums of the Facebook mums have taken a stance, as my grandma recently commented on a video of Honey G saying “eugh!! can’t believe the show’s still running. just awful!!!!” Her friends quickly sprung to her defence on their tablets with similar comments on the quality of The X Factor, with even more exclamation marks.
I firmly believe that the last good season, and by far the best, was season 7. One Direction proved to be an international sensation after the season ended, Matt Cardle still boasts a successful career as the lost member of Mumford & Sons, and we have seen Cher Lloyd blossom into a gorgeous sophisticated young lady who has supported the likes of Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato. 2010 was a year of firsts for The X Factor, such as forming group acts on the show from solo acts (Belle Amie, One Direction) and the emergence of the video diaries which allowed fans of the show to get to know the contestants on a personal level. Mary Byrne quickly became a favourite after being viewed as the mother hen of the contestant house, and fans swooned over the bromance between Aiden Grimshaw and Matt Cardle. Producers must have recognised the link to these new elements on the show and its spike in popularity, since the group act formation has been repeated almost every year post-2010 and the personal goings-on of contestants while they are on the show have become the main focus of this season, and have had a huge influence on results. Focus on the alleged abusive relationship of Brooks Way singer Josh towards his twin brother and band mate Kyle ultimately led to the duo being axed from the show before they could make it to the live shows, to avoid controversy. Solo contestants Ryan and Emilie have stressed their sex ban so that they can focus on the live shows in order to generate attention to their relationship and gain votes from the public. How contestants talk about one another publicly when they are still a part of the show is so obviously fake, and shows just how selfish and fame-obsessed The X Factor has become.
Perhaps it has always been this way behind closed doors, but I still believe that, once upon a time, the music was what mattered.
(Image: Digital Spy)