The X Factor Obsession

With 19 million people still watching, and Indiana Jones theme tunes still playing, GILLIAN WHITTAKER asks, when will it end?

contestants dermot euphoria judges louis Music Simon Cowell Singing talent trauma X Factor

This week’s burning question: How on earth does The X Factor – a show whose sole aim seems to be churning out sickeningly hopeful personalities through a hype machine, then spitting them out again – still manage to boast an audience of over nineteen million viewers per week?

We have reached week two of the live shows, and there is no end in sight to the trauma, euphoria, and wailing that accompany both judges and contestants in the run-up to Christmas. Perhaps I am being unfair; underestimating the necessity of such drivel in our lives. I shudder to think where we would be if we didn’t know the exact shade of orange Cheryl Cole has selected for use to aid her in her contestant-judging. Compared to this magnitude of newsworthy scandal, I am quite frankly baffled that the story of Danni Minogue rinsing the X Factor budget with an eight-day trip to Australia for her contestants, while Simon, Louis and Cheryl had to make do with two-day trips to slightly less extravagant destinations, didn’t get a look-in. Oh, wait.

It is common knowledge that X Factor has gone far beyond the point of searching for a good voice. That, if anything, is only an added bonus. Fortunately, if you are ever in any doubt as to how you should be reacting to the events on the show, the audience is always there to show you the way. Essentially a cacophony of hyper-activity, the audience has two settings. One: loud screaming and general excitable madness, often triggered by such words as ‘cute’, ‘gorgeous’, ‘fantastic’, ‘the best’. The other: low booing and hisses, intermingled with the odd incoherent yell of condemnation, triggered by the words ‘don’t like’, and ‘worst’.

This week’s episode involved a dangerous combination of sympathy and tension. We were shown pictures from the contestants’ childhood – clearly strong factors in their ability to sing – swiftly followed by flashing lights and dramatic music set to make your heart thud at 170 bpm.  We were even privy to new heights of infuriating embarrassment, as they played the Indiana Jones theme-tune too.

Simon's The Real Winner

While I sit, apoplectic with confused repulsion at this farce of a show, I steadily lose all thought and feeling. There’s nothing like the feeling of your brain being eaten away by little X Factor-shaped termites. A VT of someone wiping their eyes determinedly, ready to ‘sing their heart out’, is played while the audience jeers and whistles in a manner surely only a hairsbreadth away from poking contestants with sticks through bars. Never a dull moment on this show. What with the possible blooming of romance between one ‘Wagner’ and one ‘Mary’, and Dermot needing to step in to settle the rowdy judges in order to cram our minds perpetually with adverts, no one can say this show isn’t exciting.

Just wait while I pick myself up from the sunken heap on the floor after the hours of audience screams that constituted this weekend’s episodes. But I am being unfair. Of course Louis’ entirely spontaneous, witty joke at Storm: ‘You were born to…sing!’ (after a rendition of ‘Born to Run’ – see it? Do you see the joke? Do you!?) was worth the burst of applause, wolf-whistles, and peals of laughter. And the pantomime of insults and compliments between judges is well worth the two hours and a quarter of your Saturday night, no?

If your nerves weren’t already frayed enough by constant reminders that each contestant MIGHT BE GOING HOME THIS WEEK (cue ‘O fortuna’), Simon Cowell has thrown yet more sharks into these rough waters in saying that NOT EVEN THE JUDGES ARE ‘SAFE’. Louis and Danni risk being axed (sadly not in a dramatic, literal sense) for being jealous of Simon and Cheryl’s ‘close’ relationship. He reportedly told News of the World: “Maybe I’m spending too much time talking to Cheryl and ignoring everyone else…What happens is that the two on the other side of the table want to play as well. Well no, they can’t!”. Take from that what you will.

In other news, Talktalk research claims 14,980 bottles of water were drunk over the X Factor audition tour and Bootcamp. Mind. Blown.