Leading article: The talent to fail

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Sharp-eared viewers detected that some of Simon Cowell's X Factor singers might perhaps not be as talented as they seemed.

As was subsequently confirmed, their voices had been enhanced so as to sound stronger and more tuneful than they really were. Our reporter describes today how his own reedy shriek was successfully doctored. Quite apart from the dubious ethics of improving talent on a talent show, however, is this not just the latest illustration of how difficult it is becoming to be truly bad at something?

First we had those flattering mirrors in changing rooms that showed your bum did not really look big in this. Then we were treated to film stars photographically reshaped for advertising purposes. And this week, along with The X Factor, we had another record crop of GSCE results, showing how much harder it has become to fail. But perhaps, in the A* world that is to come, an E grade, along with imperfect looks and an inability to sing in tune, will invite complete strangers to ask admiringly: "How on earth did you manage that?"