Can An 18-Year-Old Take 12-Year-Old To The Movie It Would the Beatles Have Won the X-Factor in 1962?

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Would the Beatles Have Won the X-Factor in 1962?

When Simon Cowell told Paul McCartney that he was through to the next round, at the recent UK X-factor final, we all laughed and thought it was a good joke. But like all the best humour it concealed a chilling truth; popular music has become a piece of Cowell confectionery to be bought pre-packaged off the shelf, and no longer the engine of real talent it used to be. The Cowell quip was a symbolic receiving of the baton from one of pop’s all time greats. The question occurred to me that if the X-Factor had been around in 1962, would the Simon Cowell of the day have spotted the potential of the revolutionary single “Love Me Do”?

I personally doubt it. The Beatles were young pop revolutionaries who wrote their own music and built up a cult following, idolised in night clubs in England and Germany, by a new type of youth who had dreams of empowerment. The X-factor audience is predominantly made up of 12 year olds and grandmothers who vote for cute pop singers singing recycled pap. Their equivalent in 1962 would have baulked at John Lennon and voted for some Dean Martin lookalike instead, and Love Me Do would never have made the charts. Likewise, the young Elvis Presley caused such consternation among mainstream society that his presence on a show like the X-Factor would have closed it down overnight. Or perhaps Led Zeppelin in 1969? What sort of impression would they have made at the X-Factor qualifiers?

Of course, no one would argue that the X-Factor is anything but good Saturday night entertainment, and if millions enjoy voting and buying the singles, what harm can it do? Till now, the answer might have been to live and let live, but the power of the show and of Simon Cowell in particular is growing so much, that it is now imposing a stranglehold on the charts at the expense of new, original and revolutionary talent, and as a result we might be sacrificing the golden greats of the future on the altar of short term gratification.

This is the same process we have seen occurring in other areas, in movies and in books, where such a massive investment is required to make the thing work that the element of risk is avoided at all costs. When industries are not prepared to take risks, because the costs are prohibitive, then innovation is threatened, and we are left with boring homogeneity and bland branding. Shopping malls are now the same the world over, globalised clones of each other with no room for the small businessman left to make an impression or attempt something new. When the same thing happens to our culture, we are faced with a gloomy future of predictably low talent to be auctioned to us at the highest price.

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