A little pre – X Factor final post

And so, after what seems like an eternity of it being on TV (not helped by the endless ad breaks), this year’s series of the X Factor reaches it’s conclusion this weekend. The final is being staged in my hometown of Manchester this year. I am not going to it, incidentally. It would have been nice to go to it and experience live TV from actually being in the audience of it, but I wouldn’t have got the chance anyway. Plus I’ve been starting to come down with a bit of a cold, which sucks as I have loads of stuff to do. Ah well, I’ll be at home watching it, which is probably the best place for me really.

I have to say, again I haven’t really enjoyed this series as much this year but it has been marginally better than last year’s, in terms of the fact that there has been at least one contestant that I’ve been interested in this year. I think I’ve forgotten most of last year’s contingent, bar Little Mix (which I still think is a stupid name for a group, nothing against them personally) and Marcus Collins – oh and Janet Devlin, and The Risk. But the latter two is probably down to the fact that I follow them on twitter (what about it?).

So what do I think of this year’s final three? Well there are two of them that I thought would definitely make it to the last stages of the competition and one that I didn’t necessarily think would get to this stage. You can probably guess already who fits each one, but even so, here’s what I think of each of this year’s finalists:

Jahmene Douglas – When I first saw Jahmene’s audition I knew that he would go far in the competition. It’s fair to say that he has delivered pretty much every week, even in the performances that I personally wasn’t really that keen on. His ABBA week contribution was probably his weakest , but hey, it was an ABBA song he was doing. If he wins the show I think he will do quite well if given the right material. My only fear is that he might easily be forgotten about – he’s a nice kid, his talent stands out, but he doesn’t. This is not a dig in any way and it is understandable given what we know about him. I hope the experience of being on the show really does bring him out of his shell, then he will really shine. In any case, I don’t think he will be going back to ASDA any time soon.

James Arthur – Of the three left in the competition, James is my favourite. Again, he has been a very consistent performer. In fact, I don’t think there has been anything he has done on the show I really disliked, apart from when they threw in the dubstep bit when he sang Adele’s Hometown1 Glory (why they did that I will never understand). While it would be great if he won, part of me is not sure he will. What works against him is the fact that he is the only one of the three that has been in the bottom two at some stage of the series, and those who have been in that situation have never gone on to win it. That doesn’t mean to say that it couldn’t happen, though.

However, if he does go on to win it, I hope that Syco do not shaft him the way that 2010 winner Matt Cardle was. It’s not wrong to say that James is similar to him in terms of that he writes his own stuff, has played in bands and done the gigs, but they are different musically. I hope James gets a chance to be able to do his own thing, and that he isn’t moulded into Cowell’s own version of Ed Sheeran (I like Ed Sheeran by the way), as it‘s clear he has got something of his own and I would hate him to lose that. I also hope that if it does go wrong with Syco, he follows Matt’s example and walks away from them, rather than stay with them and end up waiting ages to release new material like Shayne Ward did. James would do well to grow a thick skin too, as engaging in twitter spats with the likes of Frankie Boyle will only result in giving Boyle and his ilk more ammo to fire at him. Not to mention making it more likely that the media will tear him to pieces post X-Factor.

Christopher Maloney – I am going to admit it. I actually don’t mind Christopher at all. Really I don’t. Sure he is cheesier than the most mature cheddar, and his performances don’t float my boat (probably because it’s not a cruise ship), but he can sing. He was voted in by the public as the wildcard at the start of the live shows, and the public have kept him in each week. However sad it is that some other singers who we thought would be in to the end have gone while he’s remained, it’s not his fault he’s still in it. In fact, a lot of the negative press surrounding him has made me feel uncomfortable. There has always been at least one contestant each year that has been painted as a kind of pantomime villain by the media since the show’s inception. This year, however it has been nastier than ever before, to the point where I’ve felt sympathy for Christopher and also for Rylan towards the end of his time on the show. Not enough to make me want to vote for them, but enough to make me think that certain sections of both the media and the public have overstepped the mark this year somewhat. I don’t know, nor care, if Chris is a diva, or anything else that he has been accused of being in the tabloids. But even if there’s even a hint of truth in the stories about him, are those spreading them and giving him abuse any better people than he is? Somehow I doubt it.

If Chris wins, it will more likely be because of the hate towards him, rather than in spite of it. That said, there are probably as many people out there who haven’t read the tabloid stuff and voted for him because they like him, as there are those who have voted for him just to stick it to Cowell and his minions. To some, he might not be the most marketable act that ends up on Syco’s roster, but he will probably still sell records to more than just his Nan. Whether anyone will own up to owning one is another matter entirely, but whatever happens fair play and good luck to him.

So there you have it. This has turned out to be more than a little pre – X Factor final blog post. Whatever, this is the only one I have done this year. Lucky you.

Music polls and snobbish fools.

If there is one thing I hate, it’s snobbery. I’m pretty much against all kinds, but one form that really gets me going is musical snobbery. There’s nothing I despise more than people who look down at artists who they don’t regard as “cool”, regularly put down the music tastes of others and try to tell people what they should be listening to. So when something happens in the music world that really pisses off the jumped up critics, cool types and the self-proclaimed “guardians of taste” that make up a huge chunk of music journalism, I punch the air and laugh at how pathetic they are.

Today, the Guardian, that oh so liberal and pretentious broadsheet, announced the results of their reader’s poll for the best album and single of 2011. The winner of both polls was..wait for it…Matt Cardle, for his album Letters and the track Starlight respectively. You can imagine the look of sheer horror on the faces of their pop hacks when they counted the votes and realised that their pollsters had voted an X Factor winner as their favourite of the year. You can imagine how bitter the person writing the article result must have felt towards the voters, as well as their thoughts: “Oh why couldn’t they have voted for The Vaccines, or some dubstep act that nobody’s ever heard of?!” How I’d have loved to have seen them squirm.

The Guardian obviously felt embarrassed by the result, so much so that in the article announcing it the writer ridiculously claimed Matt’s victory was down to his fanbase “hijacking” the poll and “block voting” to ensure he won. For one, most people, except Guardian readers and visitors to its website, did not know that the paper was running such a poll. Two, you could only vote in the poll once as you had to register your email address when you voted – a tactic designed to stop block voting. Not even the most obsessive fan of an artist would have the time or energy to register 100+ email addresses just to vote in what is, for the most part, a not entirely important contest. Not even Directioners would do it, however they would give it a bloody good try (they’re very dedicated, those One Direction fans).

Seeing them try to deny the result was amusing, but at the same time so indicative of the attitude a lot of music journalists have towards people like us – the ones who actually buy records and pay to see the bands they love live. If you are going to ask members of the public what their favourites are, you must be prepared if the answer they give you isn’t necessarily what you expect or want. You don’t dismiss what the people tell you and you certainly don’t go implying that the winner won because of what you believe to be suspicious voting activity. Truth is, there are a lot of people out there who like Matt Cardle. Just as there are loads of people who love Coldplay, Keane, the soon to split Westlife, Stereophonics, James Blunt, Justin Bieber, and many other artists that are popular with the public yet often get stick from sections of the media.  There are a lot of bands and singers I don’t like, and some whose popularity I will never understand, but I would never put them or their fans down.  All music, whatever genre it is, whoever it is by, means something to somebody.  For someone to knock my taste in music would be like knocking my memories, the things that have happened in my life, both good and bad. And as for telling me what I should and shouldn’t like, well I don’t tell you to stop being a pretentious twat, no matter how much I would like to.

I admit, I have Letters on my iPod. I downloaded it as soon as it came out, and  I think it is a good album. Sure it is a little too slick and over produced in places, but it is still better than a lot of the rubbish that has been in the charts this year. It’s not cool, but then I don’t listen to music for that reason.  I listen to it because I like it. The people who voted for it in the Guardian poll did so because they liked it too. And whether the snooty journalists at the Grauniad like it or not, it won fair and square. Fuck da haters, as they say.


My one and only X Factor related blog post this year.

WARNING: Before I start this blog I should say that as the title of this blog suggests, this post will be heavily about the X Factor. If you don’t like it, then perhaps you had better not read this. If you don’t like the show yet still want to read this, then that’s cool. Just don’t troll me ok?

Right then, I’ll start…

I’ve always watched the X Factor, right from the very first series. Say what you will about the show, its contribution to the music industry, and Simon Cowell  (and a lot of people do), I enjoy it as it is a fantastic piece of entertainment. The sort of programme that you tune into and forget about the hectic week you’ve had. The type that brings websites like twitter to life. Indeed, I enjoy tweeting about it –  and reading other people’s –  as much as I enjoy watching the show.  This weekend sees the final of the X Factor, after what seems like a year’s worth of shows. Normally, I would be looking forward to watching it, getting excited (to a degree) about it even. This year, however, I am in the position where I’m not too fussed about it. Usually I have a good idea of who I would like to win or at least, who should win in my opinion. This year, I neither know or even care who does.

It’s not like this year’s series has been a bad one. I did wonder what the show would be like without Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue on the judging panel, but Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa have all done quite a decent job. Louis Walsh, meanwhile, has been his usual self (if there’s one judge I hope doesn’t come back next year it is him). There have been some good contestants and some great moments. The banter between Johnny Robinson and Gary Barlow was one of my highlights of the series. Johnny himself was one of my favourites, camp as, lovely and harmless who could sing despite Louis’ attempts to turn him into this year’s joke act. Kitty Brucknell was annoying, outrageous and desperate, yet you can’t say she didn’t have some vocal talent. As for Misha B, well I liked her at first and felt like I should support her because she is from Manchester. As time went on, however, I went off her and it wasn’t because of the “bullying” claims made against her. When Louis was going off on one saying that everyone in her hometown should pick up the phone and vote for her, I was thinking “F*** YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!” The Risk should never have left the competition so early, Janet should never have stayed in as long as she did (as much as I liked her). Frankie was just a silly little boy, who let himself down.  Craig was let down by his song choices. I still don’t like the name Little Mix, but the group has grown on me the last few weeks. Marcus is the only one of the final three who I thought would definitely get in the final. And while people still give Amelia Lily stick over the way she came back into the competition, I believe that she deserves her place as much as the others do. Indeed if the first live show had the public voting and not the judges, she would never have been sent home in the first place.

(I realise that I have missed some contestants out. I haven’t forgotten about them. Well, not all of them…)

Truth is, this series has not grabbed me in the way that previous years have. It is certainly not a patch on last year’s series, which for me was the first one that had at least one contestant that I genuinely cared about.  None of this year’s crop of contestants stand out for me as much as Matt Cardle, Rebecca Ferguson, Aiden Grimshaw, One Direction, Mary Byrne et al did last year. From what I see when I look through X-Factor tagged posts on Tumblr, I’m not the only one who holds this view. Some people I know online stopped watching the programme because of how poor this year’s show is, others have switched to the US version instead. If there’s one thing that has really ruined the show for me is the number of ad breaks that ITV have slotted into the show. We all know that the channel relies on advertising revenue to fund its programming, but going to a break   practically every five minutes is annoying to even the most loyal viewer, and actually ruins people’s enjoyment of a show.  The same thing has been done to ITV’s other major shows, like Downton Abbey which was stretched out to an hour and fifteen minutes thanks to multiple ad breaks (ITV have since been reported to be cutting Downton’s running time to one hour next series, thus fewer ad breaks). The only good thing to come out of so many breaks, (other than the chance to go to the loo or put the kettle on), is the chance to see the yeo valley advert (by the way, has anyone else seen an ad for Yeo Valley at any other time of the year?!)

I will still tune into the final this weekend, even if it is only just to see Coldplay perform on it. Seriously though, I will be watching hoping that the series finishes on a high of some note, especially seeing as the final is being held at Wembley Arena (no pressure for anyone there, then).

In the meantime, I’m going to end this blog by posting a video of last year’s winner Matt Cardle, performing  All For Nothing from his debut album, Letters, which happens to be a pretty good album imho. And this is coming from someone who has never bought any music by an X Factor contestant or any artist that has links to Simon Cowell for that matter (I realise some may think me a bit hypocritical after reading parts of this, but meh).


Britain’s Got Talent – the aftermath.

Unless you’ve been in the North Pole over the last few weeks, you’ll have known that Britain’s Got Talent has been on TV.  Actually, you’ll have probably been hearing about Britain’s Got Talent even if you have been in the North Pole.  Everyone else in the world seems to have.  The contest finally reached it’s conclusion last night, when the winner was revealed as not Susan Boyle. Yes, while Sim0n Cowell was hoping for her to claim victory so that he could make many millions of pounds out of her, the British public had other ideas and voted dance troupe Diversity to perform for the Queen at this year’s Royal Variety Performance.

Overall, I thought this year’s series was good, however I did think that there were far too many singers and dancers among the competitors. For something that is supposed to be a variety show, this years final appeared to have as much variety as Oasis’ entire back catalogue. That’s not to say the eventual finalists were bad – Diversity were excellent and worthy winners, while Stavros Flatley provided the laughs.  However, I hope that next year the line up will have fewer acts like Shaun Smith and Susan Boyle and more acts like Gareth Oliver, the ventriloquist who I still believe was cruelly robbed of a place in the final.


MOST OVER-RATED ACT – Susan Boyle Yes, the hairy angel was a good singer and she deserved to go far in the competition. However, all the media fuss around her did get a bit too much in the end- even for her, if the stories were to be believed.  She will almost certainly have a career, so she didn’t really need to win the final.  And at least her coming second was one in the eye for those who believed the competition was already wrapped up.

BEST JUDGE – Piers Morgan While he may not be my favourite person in the world (or indeed anyone’s for that matter), Piers actually understood that BGT was a variety show. There were some real WTF?! moments from him (his praising of DJ Talent and the Human Saxophone being prime examples), but you can excuse them when you think that he was trying to be fair to everyone who was in the competition most of the time.

BEST ACT NOT TO MAKE IT TO THE FINAL – Gareth Oliver The ventriloquist who made people across the nation think there was something wrong with their TV sets (and later made the world think there was something wrong with YouTube) on his first audition proved that he was deserving of a place in the final on his second. However, he was denied the chance thanks to Simon’s hatred of any act that is not all singing and/or dancing. Weird thing is, Gareth’s act on the night showed that he probably had a better singing voice than many of the other singers there – and he can do it without moving his lips. And let’s not forget Pava, his puppet.

THE “HOW THE HELL DID THEY GET TO THE SEMI-FINALS?” AWARD – DJ Talent, Nick Hell and the Human Saxophone. I don’t need to explain why I chose these three, do I?

SADDEST MOMENT – Hollie Steel breaking down during her semi final performance. Or rather, the horrible reaction of some people towards that moment. Ok, I didn’t agree with the fact she got a second chance to perform and I did think that sympathy voting played a part in getting her in the final. However, there is absolutely no excuse for making nasty comments about a ten  year old girl, even if she appears to be having a bit of a tantrum. If you want to have a go at someone, have a go at the parents who let her go on the show in the first place. Or the show’s producers, who have allowed children that young to compete.

ACT THAT SHOULD’VE WON IF DIVERSITY DIDN’T – Stavros Flatley. It was a shame that they didn’t make the top three.