A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Monday, 14 December 2009

The X Factor: How Cowell's Mod Squad Got Ripped

Yes. I admit it. I am a closet watcher of  reality talent (or no talent) shows. I am happy knowing that for one hour a week,  I can start in August watching X-Factor (Britain's version of "American Idol") and then sail into "American Idol" in January and just about when that is finished there is "Britain's Got Talent" and then "America's Got Talent". Then, a few more weeks after that, after a late summer breather, "X-Factor" starts up and the cycle starts again.. Whether it is "rigged" or not, a mega-cheesefest or not, does not matter. It is super-duper escapism. This might be an indication that I should get a life. It's a guilty pleasure of mine...and probably downright shameful.

And this past week, the new winner of the "X-Factor" was "crowned" to much pomp and pageantry as usual. Because I am now a "self-proclaimed expert" on these silly shows, I had to admit that the talent in this year's X-Factor was the best ever and that for the very first time, it actually bypassed any grouping on "American Idol". I thought it would be a "breakout" year in which some  real talent would be lauded and recognized. In X-Factor, each judge is given a group to mentor (not like "Idol"). There are four judges: Louis Walsh (an Irish manager and producer responsible for the scrummy boys of "Westlife"), Danii Minogue (lesser known sister of Kyle Minogue), Cheyl Cole (wife of footballer Ashley Cole and member of the girl band, "Girls Aloud") and Simon (no last name or introduction needed.)  Walsh had the "groups" (two or more in a group singing together), Minogue had the "girls" (up to 25 years), Cole had the "boys" (up to 25 years) and Cowell had the "over 25s" (anyone over the age of 25, male or female...and yes, that means any age.).

The excitement and the talent, I felt, was all pooled this year in Cowell's group...the "over 25's". I call them "Cowell's Mod Squad." A force to be reckoned with, or so I thought. I forgot that it is mostly little girls that vote in this country. This group had three powerful, amazing, talented vocalists and/or performers....Jamie Archer, Danyl Johnson and Olly Murs. These three men were multi-talented entertainers. They didn't just stand up there and sing, they danced, they moved and they _knew their music_.  And the stuff started to fly....the judges began ganging up on Cowell,( the favored winner with his outstanding group) and did it by trashing Danyl that had been the odds on favorite. He was called "cocky" and then Minogue blatantly made a ridiculous remark about his sexual orientation (which of course had nothing to do with his talent or his performance). It was a cheap shot and it derailed Johnson. It threw him off his game. He was devastated. He did bounce back eventually, but the catty remarks by the other judges and the pounding from the press did not stop. Jamie Archer also kept turning in stellar performances, but he did not fit the "clean cut mold". He was in his early 30's, a club singer and wore a giant Afro which he refused to trim. He could belt out rock like no one's business. Archer and Danyl lasted until the last few weeks. When Danyl was voted off, everyone was stunned. He was called the "best singer" in the competition. The only one left standing out of the three that I thought had the "X-Factor" and in Cowell's group was Olly Murs.

Murs looked like a throwback to the '50's crooner, gorgeous, blond and resembling Heath Ledger. He was also "an entertainer" in that he did not have a balladeer's voice, but he could still belt it out...and most importantly, he could dance and get the audience moving. He was, overall, the one that I would pay to go see in concert. He would be worth the price of admission. In the final, it was to be Olly Murs and 18 year-old Joe McElderry left standing. There was no doubt who had the real "X-Factor".

As usual, however, the British viewers of "X-Factor" most of whom are teens (apparently) as they keep voting the same sort of boy in...every year...rallied behind  the baby-faced, dimpled, Joe McElderry who does not dance, stands at the microphone and sings ballads. He has a great voice, definitely, but he is as bland as cold English porridge. I can picture him in a West End musical or a Little Theatre revival of "The Fantasticks" in Oxnard, but not packing stadiums or making me want to get up and dance.

It doesn't bode well that every male winner of the X-Factor has shot into obscurity. Leon Jackson, winner in 2007, also voted in by the "teenies" made one forgettable album and was dropped by his label last year. The runner-up, however, Rhydian Roberts (who really should have won) is releasing his second album this year. It seems that the runners-up fare better.

I hope so...because I'd like to see more of second-place Olly Murs....and Danyl Johnson....and Jamie Archer. Cowell's group was formidable. They deserved to win the top three spots. Only Olly Murs managed to stay until the end before McElderry took the prize.

It turns out the that "X-Factor" isn't about the X-Factor at all. It's about what young silly girls in Britain think is "soooo cute." Shame, really.

You can look at the videos and decide for yourself. I'm busy getting ready for "American Idol".  :)

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This is the Audition video that wowed the nation and placed Danyl Johnson as the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing...not to be missed:



Jamie Archer:



Danyl Johnson (performing in the actual show):



Here is Olly Murs (in the final where he chose one of his favorites...this is retro-fabulous):



And after viewing the previous contestants...take a look at the winner, Joe McElderry...lovely boy...but well........