How the X Factor manufactures musical porn

How the X Factor manufactures musical porn


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2010

I am speaking tonight at the Battle of Ideas on television’s last-ever water-cooler moment, the regimented talent contest known as the X Factor.

Like most of the population, I have watched a few minutes of it and formed a view. Knowing the music business as I do, it is fairly easy to see through the pretence of ‘people’s winners’ and musical democracy to the cynical mass production of cash-till jingles. Nothing wrong with that.

One can also see how the show actively perverts the common urge to sing well, encouraging contestants to an excess of vibrato and approximated notes.

But the most disturbing X factor for me in the whole phenomenon is the show’s similarity to that other form of adult entertainment, the one known as pornographic movies (of which I have also watched a few minutes, very few). On the X Factor we see a simulation of musical activity, fixed smiles and an absence of emotion. All the moves are choreographed and the noises produced to order. It doesn’t take very long and the end is always the same.

Where on earth did Simon Cowell get his idea from?

Tonight’s debate is at the Royal College of Music at 7pm. Here’s the link: