TV talent shows are an almost sacred element of British popular culture to many people, with millions upon millions of Britons tuning in to shows such as The X Factor and The Voice every season.
Pop music mogul Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor” was first aired on ITV in 2004, following the success of Pop Idol, which aired between 2001 and 2003.The show allows budding musical talents to compete for the grand prize of a £1million record deal, kick-starting their careers.
Although this is an amazing opportunity for any young, aspiring artist, it could be argued that this straight shot to fame may be more a curse than a blessing. For many contestants, their X Factor audition, recorded and broadcast on national television, may also be their first experience in the world of live performance and music in a wider sense. This a great amount of pressure for contestants, which could be a reason for the numerous one-hit-wonder contestants who vanish from music after their Christmas number one, in a cloud of heat magazine interview clippings.
Numerous one-hit-wonder contestants who vanish from music after their Christmas number one
Aside from their inexperience, these people are drastically transported from their humble, normal lives, to the centre of a pop culture firestorm in a matter of weeks, and therefore may not quite appreciate how much work would it usually takes to get anywhere near that point.
Musicians work relentlessly to pursue their dreams of sharing their art with the whole world, many honing their skills in recording and performing from a young age. In 2010, One Direction famously took to the X Factor stage, and without even taking first place in the competition, hurtled into a record-breaking career. Their first album sold over 4.5m copies in it’s first year on the shelf, and the group have been international superstars ever since.
To play Devil’s Advocate, lets compare another area of the music industry in 2010, for example, the release of the critically acclaimed vocalist Erykah Badu’s album New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh. Unlike the 1D boys, Erykah followed the more gradual slope to success, starting off free styling on local radio from the age of 14, going on to work multiple jobs to fund the recording of her first mix tape. Her talent and hard work were recognised and she began to build an illustrious career in the music industry. It would be fair to say that she has earned her place in the ranks of musical greats.
However, her 2010 album, although selling in respectable numbers, reached a brief 4th place in the Billboard 200 charts. Compare this to One Direction’s long stint at number 1, which broke the record for first UK group to hit number one with their debut album.
These easy-assemble, flat-pack pop groups do not represent the state of music
So, if this means that more people are interested in the overnight success story than the dedicated journeys of life long musicians, then is all their hard work for nothing? Obviously, musical preference or perhaps appreciation is different in everyone, and these easy-assemble, flat-pack pop groups do not represent the state of music. But it is worth wondering whether the music industry would be able to maintain its integrity a little easier without the novelty of TV talent shows.
Maybe this integrity relies on us rewarding those who travel the long road to musical notoriety, rather than lining the pockets of those who had a seat on the express train.