Guilt Schmilt | The X Factor And The Barlow



I love The X Factor.

A statement regularly met with surprise, disdain and mildly withering stares. The kind of glance one doles out to  over-confident teenagers waxing lyrical on the meaning of life. Should the listening party be so obtuse, a snort or condescending bark might also make an appearance. Perhaps it is simply that one would not expect someone like myself to regard this kind of programming as anything other than brainless tripe: on any given day I can be found vehemently expounding on the general vomitous nature of series’ like Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity, Someone Do Us All A Favour and Drop an H Bomb. I am a bit of a music nerd (by no means possessing an encyclopedic knowledge, but nonetheless am endlessly enthusiastic and eager) with a penchant for the lo-fi/underground musical spectrum. On the whole, chart fare goes a long way to making me want to remove my own eyeballs with a rusty, blood-spattered spectrum simply as a means of distraction (there are exceptions to this rule, more of which will be covered at a later date).

And yet… I really do love The X Factor. I have been known to postpone dates, cancel engagements and even plan entire days around watching the Saturday night extravaganza. It must be a guilty pleasure, I hear you weep. Alas, I hate to break it to you (and therefore risk damaging my already sketchy reputation), but guilt is not welcome chez Barlow, come X Factor season. Guilt can shit right off, along with all those overly earnest, humourless souls who try to convince me I am committing a mortal sin by tuning in (before they pop to Tesco in their petrol guzzling, fume spewing monster, fast food burger in one hand, can of Coca Cola in the other, with their illegally downloaded mp3’s providing a soundtrack for the journey).

Guilt? Cripes no! I revel in my X Factor love. I say it loud, I say it proud. I have detailed conversations with friends and family during (Twitter) and after (phone) each episode. If I am forced to miss an instalment, I make sure I am free for the repeat: either at 1am on Saturday morning, armed with a ‘bab and a can, or simply the next morning – a most soothing way to cure a hangover. Yet sadly minus the ‘bab.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not extolling the virtues of X Factor, nor am I pronouncing it high-brow. I *know* it is the entertainment equivalent of McDonald’s. It is dirty and sinful and firmly places bucks in the hands of Satan’s corporate babies. It is the lowest common denominator, possesses very little nutritional value and the hype oft seems to outweigh the actual experience. But you know what else it is? Highly enjoyable. It is sluttishly good television: a genuine indulgence. Largely comedic, occasionally impressive, peppered with the odd moment of pathos, all accompanied by a soundtrack of Journey, Blondie, and ABBA. Is it cringe inducing? Absolutely. A little cruel in the way it gently mocks some entrants? Perhaps. Tacky, gaudy, and everything that is wrong with the music industry? Some might say. Does that make it any less awesome? Absolutely not.

Let’s take a closer look:



It is as camp as Christmas (I’ve never really understood this saying. Like ‘teach your Grandmother to suck eggs’. What??):

Gloriously OTT, The X Factor is unashamedly bold as brass. If you distilled the very essence of Pat Butcher, Bet Lynch and every Eurovision entrant since the dawn of time, carefully moulded it into a televisual format, sealing the cracks with glitter glue, and buffing it to a sheen with a lotion made of The Nolan sister’s tears on a cloth made of Dolly Parton‘s hair, it would look a little something like this. Us Brits, we love a bit of gaudy theatre. It may as well be monikered ‘Carry On: The Musical’.



The Judges: Love or Hate?

Simply put: both. We love to hate square-head Cowell and dough-boy Louis. In previous years, the littlest Minogue has seemed a mite cold and unfeeling (her overly botoxed face proving just too alarming for some of the nervous creatures auditioning), and yet last season we saw her flourish: smiling *and* frowning, whilst sporting the most beautifully schizophrenic hair do known to (wo)man. Then of course we come to Cheryl: oh miss Tweedy, how we all heart you so. With your Geordie accent and your delightful face and your propensity to smack someone in the face should they piss you off. You are a woman after our own hearts.



Occasionally, it produces some actual talent:

Admittedly, not very often, but once in a while, a diamond emerges from the steaming shit heap of auditionees. Initially in the background, they manage to bust out a killer audition in the middling stages, and perhaps one of the judges cries. Better still if that person has auditioned in previous years, and they’ve taken the criticism on board, upped their game, and returned to the stage a super vixen with the power to nail the competition with one swish of their hella fierce tush (yes Alexandra Burke, I’m talking about you). It might not be your cup of tea (and she seems to be one of the most vapid human beings ever created) but I challenge you to argue that Leona Lewis is not talented. Ditto for freshly outed gayer Joe McElderry, claw-wielding Diana Vickers and the aforementioned she-devil Miss Burke (official girl crush).

Ok ok, so for every good’un, there are a squillion monsters, and the incessant heart-string twanging becomes tired *very* swiftly:

“I decided to enter because, like, my neighbaah who lived like 10 doors daan, got like cancer, and I fort, like, I jus owe it to maiself to go for it. I mean, alriiight, it wasn’t actually cancer or nuffink, it was more liike, an ingrowing toenail, but it touched us all so much and *sniffle* Shanice, this ones for you”. So far, so snore.

But it remains simply brilliant. I will never tire of it. Hands up, I’ll never buy the winner’s single, nor do I give two hoots about what the artists do after they have been crowned Flavour of the Moment, but nothing can dent my ardent admiration of the best ITV based reality pop show with X in the title, ever.

When I asked my sister to provide me with a supporting quote, she replied:

“Because it just rules all. More eloquent than that?”

No Big Barlow, I think that sums it up quite nicely.



Annette Barlow


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1 Comment

  • Julia says:

    Ok,note in the diary. ‘Don’t attempt to make contact with Annette during The X’. I remember the repercussion’s of old. Love the clip.