Best music result of the year

Best music result of the year


norman lebrecht

December 25, 2011

Gareth Malone’s motley collection of army wives has beaten the X Factor contender by a 5-1 margin to top the UK singles charts.

Gareth, former youth choir leader of the London Symphony Orchestra, makes television programmes in which he teaches communities how to express themselves in song. In the latest series, he immersed them in a new song by Royal Wedding composer Paul Mealor.

X Factor produces a crude simulacrum of a Simon Cowell pop formula, dehumanising all who engage in it.

Trivial as the charts may be, I am so happy that Gareth has triumphed.


  • James says:

    Am pleased for Gareth and The Wives as it’s a wonderful cause, but I think you’re being a tad too “elitist” with your comment about those who engage in The X Factor being “dehumanised”.

    I have an eclectic taste in music which ranges from hardcore classical (having attended Mahler concerts as well as BBC Proms) to “reality TV winners”. Whilst I accept that, at times, the programme offers dire drivel (such as Frankie Cocozza of this year), it does also expose talented artists. And whilst not all of their artists have longevity, that’s due to the ever-changing “pop” scene, rather than lack of talent. People often cite her as the only “credible” X Factor alumnus but Leona Lewis has an irrefutable talent. Range. Timbre. Emotion. And technique. Whether this is because she was classically trained prior to opting for a pop career, who knows, but she has undeniable talent.

    I think it’s comments such as yours which make people who aren’t into classical music feel permanently excluded from the genre, as it implies a level of snobbery and superiority to those who engage in pop music / The X Factor. And being a fan of both, I’m quite aware of how one can appreciate both without being dehumanised.

    • Jeremy Pound says:

      A touch daft to suggest that, because a classical music critic dismisses the X Factor, people will feel excluded from classical music in general. Most decent pop journalists are equally skeptical of the programme – the number of decent acts it has produced in relation to those who have passed through the audition door is desperately low. And you don’t have to be a musical genius to hear that the formula that Simon Cowell looks for – and it is a formula – in itself counts against the exposure of any original or groundbreaking talent.

      Treating it as a classical vs pop thing is just a red herring.

      • Marcus Crompton says:

        If people are really going to be put off “classical” music because Norman doesn’t have any positive words for “the X factor” then they must be the same kind of people who are put off home cooking because Jamie Oliver doesn’t think much of McDonalds!

        Snobbery is one thing, a modicum of taste and judgement is something else entirely.

  • I am also very pleased that Gareth Malone’s Army Wives attained the Number 1 in the UK Christmas charts. I liked the song and, as a conductor of several choirs, thought they sang very well indeed. I realise that strong sentiment would be involved in the choice of this Number 1 as the members of the choir are wives of servicemen, but the achievement of the Number 1 slot was a triumph for the Army Wives Choir and a triumph for straight-forward non-gimmicky singing over the usual pop number ones as far back as I can remember.

  • Randolph Magri-Overend says:

    Living in Australia the Military Wives chart-topping contribution over Xmas is good news. The single hasn’t hit here yet and knowing the tastes of the average ozzie I doubt it will make any impact south of The Channel. BUT well done girls. What’s up next?