Is This Art? The X Factor


The X Factor is a phenomenon of massive proportions. Thousands of people queue across the country for thousands of hours to have the opportunity to sing in front of the master of music himself, Simon Cowell. In the beginning, in those heady early noughties when viewing fi gures were at their peak, The X Factor was the only topic of conversation. It was the cornerstone to which we bound our hesitant small talk with hairdressers. It was the bedrock of every discussion at the beginning of every year eight science class. It bridged the generational gap between grandparent and adolescent grandchild during every slow Sunday lunch. Who was going to win? Does Wagner share a similar level of talent to his namesake? Is Simon Cowell’s hair for real?

The glorious noughties however have faded to a distant teenage memory, much like the nauseatingly sugary smell of Britney Spears perfume and the youthful innocence of Justin Bieber. And yet, in some slightly dusty corner of ITV, The X Factor carnival continues. Producers, judges, and auditionees cling to the continuation of this televisual juggernaut as sailors to a sinking ship with Simon Cowell at the helm. Indeed, Captain Cowell returned to his vessel after a brief absence in 2014. It was hoped that his renewed captaincy would rekindle the viewing fi gures and so bring back the millions who had turned their attentions to alternatives. Instead, since his return in 2014, ratings have continued to dwindle.

The show is an artistic expression of a specifi c aspect of the human experience; hope. Thousands of people hope that their patchy rendition of the Titanic theme will tug at Cowell’s cold heart. Contestants hope that their performance will be the stuff of musical legend. Guest judges hope that their appearance as a guiding light will reignite their own faltering musical careers. People across Britain continue to phone in on their BT landlines and other networks that may be charged in the hope that their democratic contribution will infl uence the future of music. Cowell himself hoped that his return to the captain’s seat would steer his ship back to the glory of 2010.

It’s an expression of hope in an environment of continuing hopelessness. It is, in this way, a representation of the own delusional optimism of humanity. To this very day, The X Factor continues its descent along the arc of success. Its descent continues to be a poignant artistic expression of hope. In this way, it is very much a part of the modern artistic landscape


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