The X Factor Jeremiahs

Old rockers and talent-spotters from the past say that the TV singing contests produce nothing better than middle-of-the-road pap. Paul Bignell reports
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An estimated 20 million people will tune in to watch Olly Murs and the bookies' favourite, Joe Elderry, battle it out in the final of The X Factor. The "Dagenham diva", Stacey Solomon, was voted out last night after her rendition of Michael Bublé's "Feeling Good" failed to strike a chord with the public.

Any of these may go on to global stardom; or possibly to the CD bargain bin. But their relentless sameness is seriously beginning to irk music's senior citizens. These are The X Factor Jeremiahs, whose attitudes are neatly summed up in the phrase "It's not like it was in my day".

Pete Waterman, one-third of the pop pap factory Stock Aitken Waterman, which gave us Kylie, Sonia and Bananarama, complained last week that The X Factor lacks discernable personalities. "The X Factor is a freak show," he said. "If you're a good singer with a happy home life, you won't get past the first audition. If you've got one leg, an ailing spouse and are living on a sink estate, you've hit the jackpot."

Moby, whose songs have helped to sell Nokia and Maxwell House, has also condemned the show, saying it cheapens all he believes in. "I think that some great talent has come from that, but the musicians I love are the ones who write their own songs," he said. "If you look at someone like Joe Strummer or John Lennon, when you heard their music you knew that they wrote it and they cared about it."

Slade's front man, Noddy Holder, whose Christmas number one "Merry Xmas Everybody" was a perennial favourite until TV talent shows established a death grip on the Christmas charts, threatened to expose his genitals if his song tops the chart this Christmas. "There's no experimentation at all. There's nothing new in it," said the 63-year-old singer.

"These records they release, they could have been released 30 years ago. They're not moving forward and they're not giving off-the-wall acts the chance. They're all very safe and middle-of-the-road. The chase for fame overshadows the thirst for music."

Others such as Calvin Harris and Seal also hold strong opinions. "When I started, of course I wanted to be successful but I didn't want to be famous," said Seal who is promoting a greatest hits album. "I don't know if winners of shows like The X Factor really want to be successful. What I see is an incredible drive to be famous."

But most vociferous about the show is Sting. His eloquence did not leave him. "I am sorry, but none of those kids are going to go anywhere, and I say that sadly," he said. "How appalling for a young person to feel that rejection. It is a soap opera which has nothing to do with music. In fact, it has put music back decades. Television is very cynical."

Simon Cowell hit back last week at the viral, social network campaign to put a 1992 Rage Against the Machine song up against the winning X Factor contestant's Christmas single. "If there's a campaign, and I think the campaign's aimed directly at me, it's stupid. Having a number one record at Christmas is not going to change my life particularly," he said. "It does, however, change these guys' lives, and we put this opportunity there so that the winner of The X Factor gets the chance of having a big hit record."

Others hopeful of a big X Factor hit include bookmakers: at least one (William Hill) has doubled its staff this weekend and expects to take up to 500 bets a minute.

****

‘These records they release, they could have been released 30 years ago, and they would have found a place there just the same'

Noddy Holder

'If you look at the chart, there's a frightening stranglehold that Simon Cowell has got over it. I think it shows that he's not really a music fan'

Calvin Harris

'I think it debases music and cheapens everything that I care about. The musicians I love are the ones who write their own songs'

Moby

'Can any of us remember more than a couple of the legions of nobodies who've preceded them? I hear a deafening silence. My point is proved'

Pete Waterman

'I don't know if winners of shows like "The X Factor" really want to be successful. What I see is an incredible drive to be famous'

Seal

'They are either Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston or Boyzone, and are not encouraged to create a unique signature. That cannot come from TV'

Sting

***

Tabloid Tales:

A general election-style YouGov poll in The Sun tipped Geordie Joe McElderry to win with a "landslide victory".

The Daily Mirror claimed Simon Cowell is to axe fellow judge Dannii Minogue, who wants to start a family.

The Star predicted a £50m pay day for ITV. Bosses will be "awash with dosh" from votes, ads and merchandising.

The Daily Express predicted 20 million tuning in to The X Factor's "biggest ever" final – but the highlight will be the return of Jedward.

What was the most memorable arts event of 2009? In the comments form below (or via email to arts@independent.co.uk) nominate your favourite - in film, music, theatre, comedy, dance or visual arts - with a brief explanation as to why it tops your list and we'll print a selection in The Independent Readers' Review of 2009.

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