There’s no way to get round it; every X Factor final represents a significant choice in the symbolic life of the nation. Who can forget 2010’s battle between coolness, cockiness and “credibility” (the Fergo/1D/Cardle showdown) or when Shayne Ward led cheekiness to victory over cleanliness AND cheesiness in 2005? Here in 2012, times are more austere and the UK’s choice is a solemn one between almost religious virtues: PURITY, PASSION or PAIN…
(NB Not to be confused with Trey Songz’ very good 2010 album Passion, Pain & Pleasure. If only.)
Cherubic reflex-giggler Jahmene is a role model for all those cautious kids you see hanging around drinking milkshakes outside Morrisons these days. Well I don’t see anything like that in the slightly stabby neighbourhood I live in, but I hear it goes on elsewhere. What with calling for a Gospel Week, admitting he’s never been kissed and saying he won’t sing any songs with swear words in them, he’s set a new gold standard for non-threatening behaviour in a reality show. Whether such a gentle soul will get very far in the music industry remains to be seen, but you know, there was, er, Dana.
Jahmene’s favourite virtue is his chastity, and I say favourite because it’s the one he aggressively advertises via the constant public display of a purity ring. I have begun to suspect that the power of his alarming falsetto is linked in some way to this holy ring, like a sort of anti-Sauron. Bust the ring and the spell is broken. But hasn’t that always been the way.
PASSIONNo-one has brought raw emotion more firmly back into British public life this year than Christopher Maloney, as he stands on the stage each week violently shaking, sobbing or generally collapsing (Popjustice has a nice gallery). He only seems to find equilibrium when he’s singing. Famously, the great love of his life is his nan, who’s been passionately deployed as a bargaining card right from the start. Originally viewers were urged to vote amid grave concerns for her health, but now she’s more prosaically invoked with Chris saying he hopes to buy her a new kitchen.
The best thing about Christopher’s presence on X Factor is how completely it undermines his mentor, pompous control-monkey Gary Barlow. Gary’s preferred quality in a protégé is laddishness, which is why he picks acts like Kye Sones or Frankie Cocozza in some sort of attempt to vicariously relive his youth – or at the very least snare a “Robbie-I-can-control-this-time”. And as all the acts Gary chose for this year’s live shows were eliminated in the first few weeks, he’s been left politely endorsing someone he rejected while saving his most lavish fawning for rival James Arthur. So allow any smugness on Barlow’s part if Christopher wins.
The public’s final symbolic option is pain. Week after week James Arthur has taken one cheerful song after another, slowed it down a bit, unsheathed the Acoustic Guitar of Authenticity, and proceeded to sing with the sort of anguish that makes me wonder if he’s suffering from hard stool syndrome.
Oh he seems like a nice fella but you won’t get any sympathy round here for thinking that great pop songs need smothering with torpid angst to make them somehow worthwhile. Last year’s winners represented FUN after all. But the country gets the X Factor finalists it deserves and it’s been a fucking miserable year. So what’s it to be? It’s time to face the music.