Fac-ing hell

For the last several years, I have watched The X Factor, at least from the start of the live shows (I find the laugh-at-the-freaks elements of the first few weeks depressing). I have done this because I like watching people sing, I like the silliness and costumes and dancing and general joyfulness, and I like the idea of being part of a national conversation about something, given that despite my best efforts Modern Family is not yet in the nation’s top 10 TV programmes.

This year, though, I decided I was going to give X Factor a miss. I’m 30, and frankly I just felt both too old and too young for a show that seems designed for the under-18s, and the parents of those of that age.

But tonight, intrigued by all this guff about it apparently being a fix, I spent an hour on YouTube watching some of this year’s auditions and performances.

What the fuck is going on?! A show that has always been populated with dull-but-likeable shy youngsters suddenly seems full of anguished hipsters, desperate wannabies and – well, I’ll get onto what the hell Cher Lloyd is in a second.

First of all: yes, it’s a bloody fix. I could tell from Katie’s first audition (when I saw it an hour ago, having heard all that’s happened since – I claim no great foresight). Bloomin’ no one gets two second chances at audition, not to mention the fact that Simon would normally have turned down someone that desperate and spoiled and annoying even if they had a voice like bloody Maria Callas.

What’s going on, then? Surely Simon isn’t daft enough to risk the show’s credibility just because Katie’s mum works at Sony or whatever nonsense it is. I suppose we’ll never know, they’ll have to let her go on Sunday now to quell the rumours. I can’t believe they ever made a deal for her to win, perhaps just for her to stay a set number of rounds.

What about the boys? Well, there’s Matt Cardle, the most confusing non-closet case since David Bowie in the 60s. I don’t think he is gay, but if her were in would go some way to explaining why he seems quite so determined to sing girls’ songs. I mean, in girls’ voices. When I first watched him, I must admit I thrilled at the idea of an Essex painter & decorator being quite so girly on TV. Then it turned out he’s actually an upper middle-class theatre school graduate, which explained a whole lot. Anyway, the show seems to be determined to make him so bland people simply forget to vote for him, so I guess we won’t have to think about him much longer.

Then there’s dear old Aiden Grimshaw. Last week I tried to convince a friend of mine that people who wear comedy NHS glasses and have half their head shaved are not necessarily arrogant coke-addled hipsters with media jobs; some are quite shy and lovely, something people my age seem to have a lot of trouble believing. But what better evidence could there be than dear, shy, mad, troubled Aiden Grimshaw? And when I say ‘troubled’, fucking hell, I mean it. Look again at the first 30 seconds of ‘Mad World’ – he looks like his fucking parents just  split up. Like, ten minutes previous. (Ten minutes after my parents split up I was a blubbering mess hiding in the toilet, but I was 9.) What inner torment is he hiding? Why are our children like this?! Is it the Tories’ fault? Please please please can it be the Tories’ fault somehow? I suppose we should be glad that Aiden’s rehearsal duties mean he’s not sitting huddled round a fire on the roof of Millbank right now reading bloody Neitzche.

Back to the girls. First there’s Tesco Mary. I kept hearing people talk about Tesco Mary, how good she is, how much she deserved to win, and there was something not quite right about it. People don’t talk about people like that who actually have a chance of winning. It was like people talking about how the disabled kid deserves to win the sack race.  There had to be something wrong, something clearly deficient about her. Then I saw her videos. Ah, that explains it! She’s 50 and fat! Of course people talk about her like she’s some fucking retarded child.

And finally – I mean, there are others, but I think it’s fair to say no-one remembers their name at this point – there’s Cher Lloyd.

One one level, I actually think the show has handled Cher Lloyd quite well. In that, the judges seem to have clocked immediately that Cher’s alarming ghetto hooker act is nothing more than teenage bravado and that underneath it all she is, as The Sun meaninglessly put it, ‘tough but fragile. (The exception, of course, being Cheryl Cole, who seems to think shy girls from far-off regions of the UK acting like ghetto hookers is perfectly great, as she’s been making a fool of herself doing it for nearly ten years). ‘ They’ve neither exploited it by having her hump shirtless dancers, nor stamped on it and forced her to sing ballads to see how she copes, which is what I suspect Simon would like to do.

On the other hand, this considered reaction has rather glossed over my initial response, which was something along the lines of FUCKING HELL WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS GIRL? What did her parents do to her? She must have been fiddled at the very least. Am I old? Is this normal now? Do most 16-yr-olds from bloody Swansea or whatever now wear ripped-to-shreds jeans and rap about ‘haters’? Is this the new fucking normal? I don’t remember any of this with Rachel bloody Adeji, and she was actually  black. Even that one who lost custody of her kids was positively granny-friendly compared to this. Joe McElderry won last year! Where have these lunatics all sprung from?

Don’t get me wrong, though, Cher’s clearly extremely talented (and when she’s dressed well, like during Just Be Good To Me, looks fabulous) and I sincerely hope she wins. If she doesn’t get kicked off for sneaking into Simon’s bedroom first.

I just hope Aiden Grimshaw doesn’t kick off when he loses and start shooting people.

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Though musically the results aren’t world-shaking, the transformation of baby-faced bad-boy rapper plan b to sensitive soul boy had a bunch of potential, crush-wise. So it’s disappointing that the opposite transition, from sweet to bloated and thuggish, seems to have happened in his face