Why I have a problem with TV talent shows

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Jackson Langford rants about why TV talent shows certainly do not have the X factor

Let’s rewind back to 2010, in the UK to be exact. Five, fresh-faced, future heartthrob teens auditioned individually for the British version of The X Factor. These five dudes go by the name of Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson  – and they collectively became some of the most famous names of recent years as the all-conquering One Direction. While 1D are a manufactured concoction of evil genius Simon Cowell, and have become successful beyond compare, they are an anomaly. They do not represent the ‘reality’ of reality TV talent shows and they have since inspired a generation of aspiring musicians and performers to believe having the “X factor” is the only way to make it in this industry. When it comes down to it, the ongoing success of contestants on these shows are few and far between.

This is mainly because of the rigidity of the actual prize for the “lucky” winner. A fixed record deal is great for the music industry, but far less great for music itself. These shows are in place to find, and then mould, an artist who will sell. It’s not like this is some sort of secret agenda – the judges make it quite clear throughout the entirety of the show. I mean, remember when Ian “Dickhead Dicko” Dickson told hopeful Idol contestant Paulini Curuenavuli that she should shed some pounds to wear her choice of outfit? This wasn’t done as a personal attack, despite how offensive it was. It was done to make Paulini as marketable as possible.

Coming under this idea of marketability is the compromising of talent for sales. Case and point: Jessica Mauboy.

Take this video of her audition for Australian Idol nine years ago:

A young Jessica Mauboy showcased her beautiful, angelic voice while swatting flies out of her face and subsequently the nation fell in love. Fast forward a few years later and we have this:

Does anyone else notice the difference in quality of her voice? Look, I have nothing against Jessica Mauboy. I think she’s incredibly talented and it’s so important to have an Indigenous Australian with her level of fame and celebrity. But, how long does talent remain talent if it becomes tainted? I understand that all of this is subjective, but the difference between the two clips is undeniable.

Another interesting case is that of Matt Corby. He was a teen dream on his season of Australian Idol, being marketed as a type of pop/punk entity that girls nationwide would have fits over. After his season wrapped, Sony BMG offered him a record deal to which he declined (originally meant for winner Natalie Gauci but lack of album sales make the corporation have second thoughts). Four years later, he drops the growling ‘Brother’ that shot to extra-terrestrial levels of success. Joining his ranks is that of Lisa Mitchell, whose airy vocals and light guitar work were never meant for the mainstream, and Brooke Addamo (aka Owl Eyes) who is currently killing it on the indie pop circuit.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of the judges. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Redfoo should have no say in determining the talents of the future. Furthermore, I’m not sure how Kyle Sandilands, a man of no musical talent but happens to be a host on a radio show that plays pop music in between insulting every man and their dog, landed a role on the show, but apparently that’s a thing. Let’s not forget about Natalia Kills and Willy Moon either, who thankfully were fired for bullying on-air. Judges are supposed to offer valuable, constructive criticism that the contestants can apply to themselves whether or not they survive another week on the show, and I’m not sure whether fat jibes or claiming that a man wearing a suit is plagiarism fit into this category.

All in all, I do think TV talent shows provide great entertainment value. You cheer for who you want to win, and engage in debate about who should go home. I just don’t think they should be showcased as a viable way for artists to make it. Long-lasting careers that spout from these programs aren’t too common, and when they are it is usually because that individual has separated themselves from the TV show itself. Just a tip for all you aspiring Kelly Clarksons: never let your talent be defined by a misogynistic, afro-donning douchebag.

Image: rocor, Flickr, No changes made.