I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Cher Lloyd on this year’s [[The X Factor 2010|X Factor]]. Regular Shout readers will know that I really don’t rate the girl’s voice – it’s not strong enough or developed enough for a show like X Factor. And another thing, Cher is one of those contestants who the judges give good comments to even when she’s delivered a clunker of a performance.
Sure, sometimes Simon will throw a bit of criticism at her – like on the twisty staircase in last week’s John Lennon song – but it’s clear that the show wants her to succeed. Often in the face of all logic.
Ask yourself why. Why is this scrawny kid so important to The X Factor?
The answer came tonight in a comment from her mentor, Cheryl Cole. After a performance of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way Cole commented “We have never seen anybody like you on the X Factor before.”
The missing ingredient from any year of X Factor is a contemporary urban sound. The X Factor never attracts urban acts, yet urban artists are among the most popular in the UK charts – look at N-Dubz (who never seem to be off ITV2), Dizzee Rascal, Taio Cruz, Chipmunk and rappers of a more international flavour. That’s got to be a very lucrative share of the market, and one that X Factor hasn’t captured yet.
And surprisingly, Cher Lloyd is the first such act to represent that British urban scene. Admittedly she’s not very good. Sorry, but it’s a fact folks. And it’s not particularly relevant that she’s not good. She’s a foot in the door for The X Factor.
Imagine aspiring British rappers watching the show this year, thinking “I could do better than that.” And they probably can. And they might just audition next year. It’ll make such a difference from the dull and boring aspiring popstars – let’s face it, X Factor hasn’t had as much success with especially male winners like Joe McElderry and Leon Jackson.
If X Factor can attract some good urban acts, it’ll mean less of the cheesy copycat rubbish we’re getting now and more modern music representative of what sells in the charts today. Imagine them bringing on a black male and giving them something other than crappy soul songs to pigeonhole them. I’ve always thought that the X Factor has consistently failed black artists by never quite knowing what to do with them. Look at how Treyc Cohen, John Adeleye and Paije Richardson have been failed this year by rubbish staging, bad song choices and an intrinsic disconnect with the audience. Adeleye in particular might have done better if he’d been given more relevant modern R&B to sing.
So, Cher Lloyd may not be a winner in any of this, but she may be quietly ushering in a new era of X Factor, one where the show attracts artists capable of competing in the charts with great urban music and a certain kind of individuality.
It’s going to require some change on the part of the show too. The themes will have to remain broad to allow the right song choices for urban acts. Louis Walsh will have to broaden his comparison vocabulary from Lenny Henry and Lionel Ritchie! And the staging will have to change – Brian Friedman (a constant bone of contention for me) will have to dispense with the backing dancers and cheesy ‘street’ staging. The man is so cheesy, he probably thinks backwards baseball caps are still acceptable.
Like I say, I don’t think Cher represents the best or the most talented rapper that will ever stand on that stage. But I hope that she encourages more rappers and hip-hop acts to join the show. With rival shows like Must Be The Music already attracting a higher calibre of talent (in their first year!) X Factor needs to change and they may be able to do that by tapping into the vibrant youth culture in this country. What do you guys think?