I was watching the second audition episode of [[The X Factor 2009|X Factor]] tonight to see if the process was broken. The Guardian’s Charlie Brooker claimed in his column today that X Factor is in a shambles because they changed the format:
The X-Factor is broken. They’ve changed the audition process. Bye bye claustrophobic rehearsal room, hello cavernous stadium. The wannabe singers used to perform a cappella in front of four poker-faced judges; now they have to perform karaoke in front of a thousand mooing wankers. The programme may have been a cruel machine before, but at least it worked. This latest build is a mess.
I disagree. We’ve been complaining for years that X Factor isn’t really a search for talented performers. It’s more a loosely scripted production that whittles down 7 billion auditionees to 12 candidates, then down to a more palatable 1 or 2 for the final.
The beauty of the live auditions is that it gives the producers nowhere to hide. They have roughly 2,500 witnesses if they decide to blatantly re-shoot an audition or do something else untoward. Plus, they push the auditionee to prove that they actually can perform in front of an audience.
I mean, what is worse than getting to the live shows and discovering a promising singer shows less excitement onstage than Liam Gallagher?
Elsewhere, Brooker suggests that even the freaks that do make it to audition can’t be mocked in quite the same way:
What’s more, the crowd’s very presence amplifies the cruelty of the format to such a degree, even the smallest of guilty home chuckles is strangled at birth. In the first week, an overweight girl explained she’d been living in her car for six weeks because her family had been evicted from their house thanks to her dreadful singing. The audience tittered throughout. Even [[Simon Cowell|Cowell]] looked embarrassed as he eventually dismissed her from the stage after a few half-hearted insults.
The thing is, we all know at this stage that those morons – the car-dwelling ASBO-baiting sister act and the severly deluded Stunners from tonight’s show – actually passed by auditions with the producers already. So, either they are completely stupid and believe they can sing, or they’re playing along for their 15 minutes of fame.
So yes, perhaps it makes it harder to laugh at the fools. But if it keeps the producers honest and encourages the auditionees to raise their game, then ultimately we get a higher standard of singer at the end of three months. Don’t we? Well, we’ll have to wait and see who’s Christmas #1 this year to find out.