The X Factor: here’s to 10 more years

Alim Kheraj

Topics Culture

On Monday, The X Factor celebrated its tenth anniversary with the release of a compilation album featuring some of the biggest hits the show has spawned.

For some, the realisation that Simon Cowell’s baby has been on air for 10 years will come as a surprise, and will surely be met with the usual disdain from the ‘real music’ lovers, gabbing on about how the show has ruined pop.

Through the ups and downs of The X Factor‘s run – Katie Waissel-gate, Dannii Minogue – the most consistently irritating thing about it has been its haters. Not least because they’re a painfully misguided lot who know naff all about modern music.

The truth is The X-Factor didn’t kill music; it had very little to do with it in the first place. The X Factor has been, and will always be, a TV show – cast in the mould of so many Saturday night entertainment shows before it. The fact that relatively few of The X Factor’s 10 winners and umpteen runners-up have made enough of a splash to be included on this compilation is proof of how cut off it is from the real-world music market.

Indeed, old-fashioned would be the most appropriate way to describe The X Factor. The lucky winners are signed to outdated Stock Aitken Waterman-era contracts, committing them to drawn-out recording processes, and huge, costly marketing campaigns. Nowadays only established mega stars like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry can rely on such smash-bang-wallop approaches, with most executives aping the slow-burn internet model, with free EPs stoking up hype on the blogosphere.

If anything, The X Factor thrived off of a harmless nostalgia for a bygone era; the contestants groomed to be like the pop stars of yesteryear. So, when the series was over, the winners were launched into a market that had long moved on, starry-eyed hopefuls forever relegated to appearances at nondescript nightclubs across the country.

There have of course been exceptions to the rule. One Direction have established themselves as global mega stars and Little Mix now look to follow in their footsteps, cracking the near-impossible American market with second album Salute. Looking through the compilation, a lot of the songs are rubbish, but there are glimmering moments of pure pop brilliance.

Still, the fact remains that The X Factor was always just harmless TV fun that occasionally has produced some real pop gems. All the priggishness surrounding it is just a thinly veiled disdain for the ‘plebs’ who watch it.

Here’s to 10 more glorious, snob-enraging years.

Alim Kheraj is a spiked intern.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Culture


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