The X-cruciating factor

00:27, Jul 23 2013

I hope you watched The X-Factor. You would know - perhaps even if you didn't watch it - that New Zealand's next big pop star is Jackie Thomas. Who? Well, that's right - she'll be working at the checkout counter before too long. To begin with every second or third customer will say: "Oh hello dear, you did so well on TV, good for you." And that'll happen every second or third day. Then two or three times a year.

Here's the news story announcing her the winner of the first series of The X-Factor New Zealand.

But are there really any winners? By winning the competition isn't she already set up as the biggest loser (I know that's some other god-awful reality TV show so I was clear to not capitalise it).

There are a couple of clear winners here. The network will gush about a ratings smash - a second season is already lined up after all and our idiotic funding body has already gone into bat, giving out our money.

And Sony - the music label that looks like the good guy for giving poor Jackie a "contract" has in fact been paid by all of us, the taxpayers, to host its cheesy pop-star auditions. We have in fact paid for Sony to take a really safe punt, an easy write-off in these troubled times.

Jackie Thomas will join the names Ben Lummis and Rosita Vai - people who can sing at the local church or RSA and hey, they're better than you and me, sure, but they did no such thing as become a pop star. Their fame wasn't even fleeting - they were paraded around cruelly for another tier of ugliness: The gossip rags and "women's mags" (what a horrible title that is; women should stand up and argue against being defined by such magazines) - and then dumped.


Jackie Thomas is a nobody. And that's fine. We're all nobodies - and most of us are very happy being exactly that. But when someone cruelly brands you a nobody, when you become defined by having tried to be somebody, you stand no chance.

And you're all complicit in this - unless you never watched an episode of the show, never live-Tweeted the action (even if "ironically").

I'll tell you now I never watched a second of The X-Factor. I couldn't do it. You see, I like music...

So I couldn't watch it. Not even for the car-crash.

My blood boiled enough just knowing that people would talk about Ruby Frost like she was somebody; that judges Stan Walker and Daniel Bedingfield were using this as a platform to launch their own nationwide tours (coming soon! I can wait!) That a former member of All Saints was supposed to mean anything in this day and age. So it was all fundamentally ridiculous to begin with. But, many of you will claim you knew all of that already but still tuned in because it was "funny" or "light" or "easy" or because you enjoyed how awful it all was.

X-Factor is a cruel rort; a nasty ruse and we're all being ripped off by it. We're all playing into it too. You could say I am by mentioning it here - the first time I've mentioned it in fact. It's been easy to ignore it the last few months. All that supposed hype around auditions and judges being named and the competition and Dominic Bowden and weekly columns updating the action as frustrated arts writers were seemingly trying to be frustrating sports writers...

All of that was so easy to ignore.

But now Jackie Thomas will think she's somebody for a day. For a week. For a tour. For an excruciating album with a tacky video and for a handful of promotional appearances at movie theatre malls around the country timed for the school holidays.

And then she'll work at a packhouse or as a cleaner or go on to train to do whatever else in this world.

But she won't stand a chance at life as a performer after this. Because wearing The X-Factor crown is worse than meaningless - it's the ultimate sign that you have nothing close to anything resembling an x-factor.

And for us, the viewers, the consumers, the smugly casual commenters, it's just another victory for the bankers, another waste of our money and resources, another sign that NZ On Air is a cruel, nasty joke. A clueless, sac-less vacuity.

Did you watch The X-Factor? Did you enjoy it? Did you see - or hear - anyone with talent? Do you feel good about yourself for playing along with this nasty, mean-spirited, cruel joke; for further legitimising what should have been a swiftly passing fad?

Do you look forward to hearing what Jackie Thomas can do - ahem, musically speaking - post X-Factor? Or is she screwed? Just another laughing stock in waiting while New Zealand's real talent schleps it out loading its own gear, playing to no one for twice as long and half as much as it should.

The X-Factor should make us all die inside a little. For today might seem like a celebration for Jackie Thomas and her family and friends - but the gravy train is over, the biscuit wheels have snapped. Today is the beginning of the end. Tomorrow she is no one. Again. The trouble this time is everyone now knows it.

X-Factor you are cruel. You are ugly. You are not what I want for this world.

Blog on the Tracks is on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.