Batten down the hatches folks, the X-Factor's coming back and it's going to be dominating the TV schedules and red tops from now until Christmas. Gary Barlow's going to try and be more interesting than a water-damaged pack of cream crackers, Tulisa's going to show that Cheryl doesn't own the patent on 'bad girl done good', and Kelly Rowland will be explaining how she managed to grow to 5' 7" despite spending her entire adult life in Beyonce's shadow. As for Louis, he's going to stay exactly the same, blinking his watery eyes at a never-ending parade of blind, fat and Afro-Caribbean kids, wondering how best to patronise them.
Meanwhile, the contestants will be split into two neatly defined categories - talented and deluded. The first half of the series will undoubtedly fixate on the latter group, as we're treated to their inspirational stories, have-a-go attitudes and unflinchingly devoted families. The capable singers will just have to keep their heads down until the live finals, when they'll invariably float to the top like inexplicably unflushable turds.
The X-Factor's relentless conquering of the zeitgeist comes down to its schizophrenic approach - part comedy, part talent show. Something for everybody. Those that don't have the vocal chops for the competition can be easily spotted; they're the ones who talk about how they've always wanted to be famous. For them, it's all about the celebrity rather than the music. It's just a shame that we have to sit through all the off-key ballads and teary rejection to get to the actual talent part - surely the show could be whittled down to six weeks, sparing us the indignities of other people's lack of dignity in the process?
If these people are motivated purely by the illusion of celebrity, we could just give them each an iTunes voucher for 69p to cover the cost of the new Fan Mail app. Designed to appeal to anyone whose ego feels a little under-fluffed, the app promises to turn "anyone into an instant celebrity!" In a description that boasts more exclamation points than a Shania Twain set-list, Fan Mail sets out its stall as the unlimited source of letters from "adoring fans". Of course, the fans are as non-existent as the talent that supposedly sustains them. But let's face it, if you're the kind of person to sign up for fawning love letters generated by an algorithm, you're not going to be too worried about the veracity of the adoration cluttering your inbox.
The capable singers will just have to keep their heads down until the live finals, when they'll invariably float to the top like inexplicably unflushable turds.
The instructions are simple - enter your name, your job and a preferred email address, and let the app do the rest. Almost instantly you'll start receiving messages that read "I am your BIGGEST fan!" and "Just want to send you a note to you know that YOU ROCK! I hope one day I can be as cool as you are."
According to an article on Gawker, the app's inventor is a Jacksonville radio host called Mark Kaye, who explained in a press release that "A twelve-year old boy sent an email telling me how much he enjoyed my morning radio show. It made me realize how lucky I am to be in a position to receive encouragement from people who appreciate what I do... Wouldn't it be great if teachers, doctors, volunteers, and everyone else got fan mail too?"
The thing is, if you're a teacher or doctor, you don't need "new messages of encouragement and adoration from all of the people who are inspired and awestruck by you". When you have a meaningful career, the work you do is its own reward. You're certainly not dependent on an influx of randomly generated id-fellation.
As for the people who do sign up for regular affirmations of their own brilliance, the appeal will soon lose its lustre. So then it'll be a race against time for an industrious app developer to build an update that breaks into your house and wanks on your bedsheets. Or hides in your wardrobe in a pair of night vision goggles. That's when you know you've really made it.
The only other option is to develop a talent for singing and actually compete in the X-Factor. In which case, you'll ultimately have to endure weeks of being interviewed by Olly Murs for ITV2. I think I'd prefer the linen-spoiling stalker.
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