Why Simon Cowell is really not making pop eat itself
There has been a huge amount of debate over the past few days about the X Factor and Simon Cowell’s ‘dumbing down’ of the music industry by pushing for Joe McElderry to have the Christmas number one.
Talent shows have always been the subject of ridicule, of disdain amongst the intelligentsia who believe organic or high brow success is the only benchmark of genuine quality.
It’s easy to have a high minded opinion of what is talent and what is worthy of critical acclaim – and what’s not.
Classical art, literature and music will always be revered in a way that makes popular contemporary offerings so much more difficult to compete with.
Cultural snobbery is the easy option in an era where originality becomes more and more difficult to achieve.
Remember that some of the great artists and poets of past eras received little recognition until they had died.
Pop music, by definition, is something that is popular with the masses rather than being something accessible or attractive only to the upper echelons.
My days as a pop fan are probably over now but with friends in the music business, I know that anything that encourages people to listen to music and to buy it, whatever it is, has a benefit.
Yes, the X Factor model is geared at rewarding the Cowells of this world more than the artists and there is a fair argument to suggest that it’s not tapping into the huge plethora of talent that plies its trade at clubs and venues up and down the country.
Maybe there is room for a Band Idol as well, but should that also fall on Cowell’s shoulders or could someone else not take up the mantle?
The fact is that while the contestants on X Factor may not always be the most talented performers or singers in the world, they provide entertainment which is lapped up by the masses and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
While Cowell may make hay while the sun shines and let winners go if they do not continue to be profitable, the fact is that people such as Joe McElderry have now achieved something beyond their wildest dreams and even if it only lasts for a short time, is there really anything wrong with that?
There is an argument that culture – and in this case music – should be a blend of what the people want and what they need, but again I ask whether that should all be the responsibility of one man?
If Simon Cowell decides to promote and run a talent competition which gets some of the highest television ratings of the year and provokes voting that compares to political campaigns, does that make him to blame for the cultural or populist shortcomings or obsessions of society?
No, of course not.
While in other countries, success is celebrated, sadly, over here, we like to knock those who have made it and we look to see them fail.
Cowell may come across as smug sometimes and who can blame him for lapping up the success that has come his way by using his talents to create an industry that has been adopted by countries all over the world?
Cowell has even suggested organising debating shows ahead of the forthcoming election and I read one report today suggesting he should keep his nose out of it.
But with election voting figures waning and the need for fresh thinking to engage all aspects of society in the democratic political process, is it such a bad idea?
Simon Cowell knows how to influence popular culture and make dreams come true for those who never thought they would get a chance (Susan Boyle, anyone?) – and how to make money from it.
He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it would be so much better to use his talents in positive ways rather than try and lambast him for his success.