Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Simon Says, Sign Here For Exploitation

Further to my last post, I have just been reading about the latest sad sap who just over a week ago won the opportunity to be further exploited, chewed up and spat out by the Simon Cowell money making machine. His name is, as you will no doubt be aware, Joe McElderry and he seems the usual ingenue and pretty boy with a talent, albeit hardly an extraordinary one, who is about to be thrown into the bearpit of pop music.

I just find the whole thing extraordinarily sad. They are all heading inexorably towards disappointment and disenchantment while Cowell sucks out their few months of money making ability before casting them to the wind. And did you know that the much vaunted £1 million recording contract they are given actually only gives them £150,000 in their hand? The rest is spent on promotion. So Cowell is giving them a prize which he actually spends effectively on himself and maximising his investment. He probably makes more during the series from the phone votes alone. I bet this is a one-way only option too. Contestants are no doubt obliged to accept this 'prize' so that Cowell can make money from them fast. Why else does the series always finish a couple of weeks prior to Christmas? So that they can rush out the inevitable single.

Of course such manipulation and cynicism has always been a part of pop music. It's just that now the string puller in chief has become as big or a bigger star than the poor unfortunates he is exploiting. It remains the same however. He takes some pretty boy or girl, makes them as anodyne and non threatening as possible and waits for the public to get bored. If these stars have anything about them they become proper artists who want more control over their careers and material, wanting to say something meaningful rather than just belt out another ballad dressed in all of their finery. Maybe just maybe they then manage to become more than mere singing ciphers. Most just don't have what it takes other than a pleasant enough singing voice.

X Factor is a nasty, manipulative circus for freaks, show offs and wannabes in our fame obsessed age. The people who benefit are Cowell and ITV. The pop world is ruthless enough without making the process itself into entertainment. It's a wonder Cowell hasn't tried to turn it into a soap opera. Once in a while, admittedly, they find a Leona Lewis who may well have the talent and indeed the looks to last the course and have a long career. She would be best advised, as soon as legally possible, to find herself a decent manager sharpish, someone with her best long term interests at heart. That is not Cowell. Most contestants however will have their fifteen minutes of fame and then fade back into obscurity. If they're lucky they might end up singing on a cruise ship. For most its back to karaoke.

Cowell is about a fast buck and exploitation. He's very good at it. But you can see why people are starting to ask questions and rebel.

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