It was always a matter of time before the BBC would launch a talent show to rival The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. Fame Academy could never compete with Pop Idol, but now it seems the public are falling out of love with The X Factor, after seven series’ and a dearth of acts built to last.
The complaints levied against X Factor have been heard 1000 times before: the ritual humiliation, the never-ending conveyor belt of identikit acts, the inevitable Christmas number one saga. Undeniably it’s trashy, Saturday night fodder, but importantly, it hardly pretends to be anything else.
The anti X-Factor movement is partially responsible for the success of one man: Ed Sheeran. The content of Sheeran’s songs is almost the polar opposite of anything Simon Cowell has released like a virus onto the market. Where X Factor acts make grand, sweeping declarations over huge productions, Sheeran sings about the hum-drum day to day accompanied by what looks like a child’s guitar, and more importantly where X Factor acts are catapulted instantly to fame and fortune, Sheeran has grafted, got on the road and built a fanbase from the ground up. It just happens that as well as being an indie success, he’s been widely accepted by the mainstream, leading to a number one album and a Brit award.
The fact of the matter is this: If you need a TV talent show to make it to the top, then you don’t deserve it, because you haven’t worked hard enough.
It’s fair to assume then that Ed Sheeran’s fanbase are X Factor fans who’ve got bored of the sob stories of the show. People who enjoy the human drama of reality TV, but also who hate Frankie Cocozza and everything he stands for. People who want to give success to those who they think deserve it, those who are all about the music rather than fame, and it’s these people that The Voice is trying to cash in on. To prove this, think about who the BBC chose as the very first contestant on the show. Jessica Hammond, 17 year old singer from Belfast. She came on, played a decent slowed down version of Jessie J’s Price Tag, and had all the judges clamouring for her. Will.I.Am said that he could make her a star all over the world, that she’d have number ones in America, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil. Jessica Hammond – her name in lights! The next big thing! Or not, as it happened, because Jessica said that she didn’t care about selling records, that all she cared about was “communicating her message”...
And what message would that be? You sang an acoustic version of Jessie J’s Price Tag. You want to make the world dance? That’s your message? Well, Jessie J’s message, that you agree with? Except, you slowed the song down and tried to make it poignant or something? Nobody’s dancing to that. You’ve applied to be on a talent show. You want to be famous.
The fact of the matter is this: If you need a TV talent show to make it to the top, then you don’t deserve it, because you haven’t worked hard enough. Whether you like Ed Sheeran or not, what cannot be denied is that now he is reaping what he has sewn. Put it another way: would One Direction be together now if they had to slog up and down the country playing to empty rooms for two years? No. Simple as that. People are comparing their explosion in America to that of The Beatles in the 1960s. In terms of success, maybe, in terms of how they got there? Not even close.
Please, don’t make the mistake of thinking the shows are in any way different, because they’re not.
The thing that makes all this even worse is that nowadays it’s easier than ever now to make a go of it as a musician. Home recording, social networking and digital distribution mean you can conceivably build a healthy fanbase from your bedroom. American band Boyce Avenue began posting crude videos of originals and covers on YouTube in 2006, releasing the songs periodically online through their own independent record label 3 Peace Records, and touring extensively wherever they saw they were getting the most hits – before they broke America and the UK, Boyce Avenue were huge in the Philippines. It’s simple supply and demand. The band now have over 200,000 followers on Twitter and have complete creative control over their output, which is more than can be said for any talent show product.
Nevertheless, The Voice will probably be a hit. Despite not beating Britain’s Got Talent in the ratings overall, in the twenty minute crossover between the two it pulled in 2 million more viewers, averaging 8.4 million – that’s more than both the first episodes of Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor. The winner of the show will be given a lucrative contract with Universal, the runners up will also jump directly into sell out crowds across the UK, and young singers across the country will think that they too can have instant success, and now they can do it without the attached X Factor stigma. Please, don’t make the mistake of thinking the shows are in any way different, because they’re not. If you really want to make it then write a song, play some gigs, learn your craft, and start looking for your audience, because if you’re good enough, then they’re out there waiting for you.
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