Friday, 23 November 2012

23/11/12 - X Factor: the also-rans

There’s a lot of buzz around X Factor at the moment. (Of course there is, that’s the point of it. But you know what I mean.) The will-they-won’t-they sexual tension between Gary and Rylan, the inevitable victory of James Arthur (probably), the baffling popularity of that cheesy Liverpudlian cackfest Christopher Whatshisname, the relentless use of the phrases ‘you made it your own’ and ‘your whole life has been leading up to this’ and ‘you remind me of a young [x]’ – the drama, the tension, the sheer nailbiting suspense of it all. Which one (or possibly, if they’re phenomenally lucky, two) of the acts will we actually remember this time next year? Which of the acts who have left the competition have we already entirely forgotten? (Carolynne Poole, anyone? No?)

I rather like X Factor, which is strangely at odds with my usual standpoint on reality television, i.e. that it’s all worthless shit. I have no interest in watching a bunch of strangers baking, or dancing, or performing ‘wacky’ tasks on a tropical island, or just sitting around in a house doing nothing at all. No fucking interest whatsoever, bunch of fame-hungry berks, peacocking for the cameras. Waste of time.
I’ll watch The Apprentice with enthusiasm, principally because the contestants are all such mindless, inept cretins that it makes me feel a whole lot better about my own life. (What makes this different to Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity… and the like is that in The Apprentice they’re actually pretending to be real people, rather than just shamelessly showing themselves to be the pricks they are. It’s an important distinction.) I only end up watching about 50% of it though – I miss the other half because I’m holding my hands in front of my eyes in horror, or cringing my face inside out.
But X Factor I’ll happily get on board with. The early auditions where they show a healthy mix of the brilliant and the bloody awful are always entertaining, and the week-on-week ridiculousness of the show, ever more overblown and elaborate, is increasingly compelling.
The most important thing to remember, of course, is that IT’S NOT REAL. Sure, there’s a public vote and a cast of rags-to-riches characters, but it’s basically just a soap opera. I don’t mean this as a criticism, merely that it’s not the ‘we’re doing this because we want to help give a good singer a break’ exercise they like to emphatically repeat. It’s scripted entertainment. And thoroughly entertaining it is too.

So, just for fun, I’ve been doing a little investigating. What does become of the contestants who make it through to the live shows but get knocked out early on? Do their dreams come true? Do they sign extravagant record deals and luxuriate in new-found wealth and glory, or do they just go back to shelf-stacking in the local corner shop and spend the rest of their days cursing Simon Cowell’s name, refusing to talk about what happened? I’ve been lurking, stalking, and buffing my telephoto lens to find the story behind these poor unfortunates. Oh, and Carolynne Poole? She now sells eggs at the side of the road in a layby off the A12, just outside Hatfield Peverel. She seems happy enough.

Diva Fever
Never let it be said that in-your-face campness and excessive use of luminous polyester cannot go hand-in-hand with academic pursuits. 2010’s Diva Fever can today be tracked down under the names of Josef Al-Smadi, MEd, and Dr. Craig Saggers, PhD. Josef is now the headmaster of the historic Charterhouse School in Godalming, where he spends much of his time encouraging pupils to build their education around a solid foundation of the classics and the sciences rather than chasing whimsical dreams of fame and glory. Dr. Craig has written numerous papers on the subject of mass-appeal-versus-substance, and is currently on a lecture tour across Northern Europe offering wise counsel on how to be brainy and yet still have great hair.

You may remember Wagner as a sort of mental, sub-Meatloaf lunatic with long hair and a Napoleon complex.
After the broadcast of the 2010 series in which he featured, it came to light that Wagner didn’t have a single mirror in his house, and had never in fact seen his own reflection; an encounter with a Brazilian gypsy in his youth had led him to believe that he was part-vampire, and thus had no reflection, so looking-glasses had never blipped on his home décor radar. Having bought a shiny new television upon which to watch his weekly performances (lovingly committed to VHS by an elderly neighbour), he saw himself for the first time. And he was not pleased. What he’d taken for style and mystique appeared to others as embarrassment and idiocy. He became deeply melancholy, and had a good hard think about his life choices.
You may think that you haven’t seen him since, although it’s entirely possible that you have. He now presents the ITV weather under the pseudonym Becky Mantin. You’d hardly recognise him. Lot of surgery.

Diana Vickers
An interesting fact that emerged after the conclusion of the 2008 series was that Diana Vickers never actually existed. All of that weird behaviour of wringing her hands in front of her face, always appearing on stage barefoot and having exceptionally messy hair should have been a giveaway – she was in fact an animated Disney character, hastily scribbled each week until the animators got to a point where they couldn’t be arsed to draw her any more, and just stopped doing it. So she effectively hasn’t been doing anything at all since X Factor 2008, beyond existing as potential energy in palettes and paintbrushes. It’s not much of a life. Still, at least we don’t have to bloody listen to her any more.

You’ll notice that all of these people so far are in some way notable for their hair. This says much about the substance of the average X Factor contestant.

Aiden Grimshaw
He may not have won X Factor, but I’m pretty sure every single viewer awarded him their own special prize for Most Needlessly Intense Performance.
Those of a hipster bent may have noticed a remarkable similarity between pop poppet Aiden and his radiotwat namesake Nick Grimshaw; in fact, they are one and the same. The Radio 1 DJ successfully hoodwinked the judges via that age-old military tactic of hiding in plain sight (using the same name, looking basically the same, being just as annoying) to pursue X Factor glory – he claims that it was a post-modern attempt to subvert the nuances of the fame machine, although he actually just wanted to sing some songs and have a laugh. (Well, not a laugh, more of a prolonged intense stare.)
He got bored of it all after a while, and went back to his everyday pursuit of being a nauseating arse. His bow has one string. A shit one.

Same Difference
When this brother-and-sister duo hit the screens in 2007, they creeped everyone out with their weird, inappropriate-seeming relationship and touchy-feelyness. Siblings shouldn’t look at each other that way…
There was much ribald speculation about their grubby, incestuous lives behind closed doors, and it all turned out to be true. Of course it did. Sean and Sarah in fact spawned a freaky little child, a baby that looks remarkably like Krusty the Clown, who they keep chained up in their attic. They’re hoping it’ll grow up to be a key part of their future entourage, like Animal from The Muppets.

Cher Lloyd
Oh, who fucking cares?

Frankie Cocozza
Another urchin in the cast of X Factor characters who can’t stop buggering about with their hair, Frankie Cocozza took it one step further and opened up a hair salon in Soho. The thinking was that he’d knobbed everyone in a two mile radius, and would therefore have a steady stream of customers who’d want to come and pay him a nostalgic visit, and at the same time have one of his army of stylists rework their hair into something approximating his own hairstyle; a kind of fibrous, greasy helmet.
Unfortunately, no-one wanted to come to his salon, because he’s such an obnoxious little berk. It’s a cut-throat business, hairdressing. (Not literally. [Well, sometimes.])

Ben Mills
Remember him, from 2006? Of course you do, he’s so memorable. Well, he’s actually achieved something genuinely impressive in the years following his fifteen minutes of warbling: he made it his mission to create the world’s greatest milkshake. You may scoff, but his newly-founded company, Ben’s Mill, is a groundbreaking endeavour – he’s crossbred Guernsey cattle with lithe little goats to create a milk that is both fulsomely creamy and piquantly light, and a tie-in with Innocent will allow each of his splendid milkshakes to provide two of your five-a-day. Imagine that: a tangy raspberry milkshake, or smooth strawberry & banana, or exotic kiwi & pineapple, all rich and creamy but also genuinely good for you. Seriously, the man’s a visionary.
Just don’t point out that milk isn’t milled and thus the company name doesn’t make a lot of sense. Years of excessive calcium intake have given him a fierce temper.

And the remaining X Factor also-rans? What became of them?
I think you know the answer to that. THEY ARE ALL FAMOUS POP STARS.

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