Why the X Factor Outside USA or UK Doesn’t Work

Courtesy of Thames/FremantleMedia/Syco Entertainment/Fox
Courtesy of Thames/FremantleMedia/Syco Entertainment/Fox

When we see television shows such as The X Factor (especially outside the USA or the United Kingdom), we have to wonder if they are really for the benefit of the contestants. Or are these shows really for the B-grade artists that they use as judges to get publicity before a new album or single launches? This is exactly what happened on The X Factor New Zealand reality TV show just this week.

The judging panel for the New Zealand show is made up of four artists. Stan Walker is an R&B/pop singer who has a reputation for being a great guy and has topped the charts in both New Zealand and Australia. Melanie Blatt is a British pop singer most famous for her part in the all-girl group, All Saints. Her last big single was “Pure Shores” in 2001, which featured strongly in the movie The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Up until this week, filling in the last two spots were husband and wife team Natalia Kills and Willy Moon. Both have only had very limited success, and most New Zealand viewers were struggling to find out who they were and what they had done previously. Moon was the voice of the iTunes hit advert song, “Yeah Yeah.” But really, is this what The X Factor outside both the USA and UK is resorting to? A chart-topping nice guy, a “has been,” and a couple of jingle makers? Both Moon and Kills were sacked from the New Zealand reality show for being rude and obnoxious to a contestant. In fact, they were so rude that artists including Ed Sheeran and Lorde have sent messages to the contestant to show their support and to give some encouragement.

What is the real point of having The X Factor competitions outside the countries that create the hits? After all, to make it internationally you have to at least have a decent following in either USA or the UK (or even better, both). In a world that is becoming increasingly small due to technology and becoming so independent due to the web and social media, is there really any place for such shows in this new world we have found ourselves in?

Sure, we love seeing an unknown artist rise from the ashes. We love the rags to riches stories. We love the romance of seeing “one of us” reach new heights. The reality is that this is happening every day, and we’re not even noticing. Justin Bieber started on YouTube, Lorde was a school girl from New Zealand, and while there are artists such as One Direction who have made it big because of the shows, this surely is the exception and not the norm. These shows are fuelled by our desire to be famous rather than be good at what we do and be noticed because of it. It’s an easy microwave music career – cook for 2 months and you may end up famous.

However, the flip side of this is that even if you do end up becoming famous, often it all disappears, and you end up judging a reality TV show that is designed to replace you. Natalia Kills and Willy Moon may have made a brief flash in the international music scene pan, but in a world that treats pop music as an assembly line, do we really need to water it down to 20 different countries? Let’s keep the format the most polished in the places that are good at that sort of thing. These places are the assembly lines and the music motor cities of the world; however, let’s continue to look outside these formats for truly inspirational and musically amazing artists throughout the world in the countries that create the specialized genres. Let’s continue to Explore. Discover. Music.

FDRMX Eyes: Brooklyn-based band DownBeat Keys were once just a local music group in the NYC dance scene. Eventually, they opened for big names such as Passion Pit, Talib Kweli, and Bon Jovi. Check out their music video for “Lonely” below.

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