Tag Archives: x factor

2012: A review in subtitling disasters

In my similar round-up last year I explained that our telly automatically turns subtitles on when muted, which often then get stuck when we change channels. With hilarious consequences!

The year began with a nasty cold snap, and the BBC Weather Department started to get frustrated at the public's apathy

The year began with a nasty cold snap, and the BBC Weather Department was getting increasingly frustrated at the public’s apathy

And it was a year of austerity measures, with stern advice given daily on the news

And it was a year of austerity measures, with stern advice given daily on the news

Columbo had one last question for Underdog

Columbo had one last question for Underdog

June brought the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Fiona Bruce got carried away with some of the terminology

June brought the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Fiona Bruce got carried away with some of the terminology

On the Enterprise-D, Beverley was furious that Picard's special nickname for her had become common knowledge

On the Enterprise-D, Beverley was furious that Picard’s special nickname for her had become common knowledge

The Olympics! And Gary Lineker was spoiling for a fight

The Olympics! And Gary Lineker was spoiling for a fight

But it was the achievements of Team GB that really made the nation proud

But it was the achievements of Team GB that really made the nation proud

Over on the X Factor, one advertiser spotted a celebrity sponsorship opportunity during the early stages

Over on the X Factor, one advertiser spotted a celebrity sponsorship opportunity during the early stages

And as the weather turned cold again, one forecaster lost the plot altogether

And as the weather turned cold again, one forecaster lost the plot altogether

Never, Fiona. Never.

Never, Fiona. Never.

Advertisements

PURITY, PASSION or PAIN? The X Factor final decoded

PURITY PASSION and PAIN

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.)

PURITY

PURITY

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.

PASSION

See no Maloney, Hear no Maloney, Speak no Maloney

See no Maloney, Hear no Maloney, Speak no Maloney [screencap by @baradar85]

No-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.

PAIN

PAIN

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.

Available from Greggs. I know.

Available from Greggs. I know.

If popstars were… Winged

The Garuda, Faravahar, the angels of the Bible, Icarus, Huitzilopochtli and now finally X Factor winners Little Mix. Yes, since the dawn of history people have dreamed of having wings. But how have the last thirty years of pop music treated the idea?

MR. MISTER – BROKEN WINGS (1985)

What’s the mood? Earnest. This classic power ballad was inspired by Khalil Gibran’s 1912 novel of the same name (as was The Beatles’ Blackbird, apparently) and is essentially a four and a half minute self-help manual about ‘learning to fly again’. I was expecting to write something sarcastic and dismissive about it, but on listening again I was quite taken with its straightforward lumbering. To be honest my prejudice was purely down to Mr. Mister featuring in a question on an 80s schools quiz show that I got humiliated on. Maybe it’s me who should learn to fly again.

What sort of wings are they? It’s a dashing bird of prey who visits the band in the video, so in the spirit of forgiveness let’s give them that. 

BETTE MIDLER – WIND BENEATH MY WINGS (1989)

What’s the mood? Mawkish. Bette hijacked a song that had already been around the block a few times (there’s a version by Sheena Easton of all people) to fit in with the tragic ending of her film Beaches. So we have the electric piano of regret, the synth strings of sadness, the choral vox of heaven’s door and the gentle splash drums of hindsight. Not to mention those grandstanding vocal ascents into the sky at the end. Sainthood! What can I tell you? I’m a sucker for this shit. Hilariously, on the soundtrack album this funereal behemoth is followed by a perky song called ‘I’ve Still Got My Health’.

What sort of wings are they? Bette says that (subject to an appropriate aerodynamic lift coefficient) she can fly higher than an eagle. Which would make her more like a bar-headed goose.

XTM & DJ Chucky presents Annia – Fly On The Wings Of Love (2003)

What’s the mood? Jaunty. As jaunty as you’d expect from a jaunty Eurohouse cover of a jaunty Eurovision-winning song – jaunty panpipes, cheesy drum fills, flanged crowd noises and all. I like the way that the exposed bassline snakes around under the verses and I like a song that doesn’t outstay its welcome, so neither will this paragraph.

What sort of wings are they? These are wings that can take us from the softest sand (hand in hand!) to touch the sky (fly baby fly!) and the stars above – the wings of love themselves, in fact. Well if love needs to have interstellar capability AND saltwater resistance it sounds like these are probably the wings of that underwater spaceship they found in the Baltic recently. And as this discovery was by Swedish scientists it brings us nicely back to Eurovision’s spiritual home.

MAXWELL – PRETTY WINGS (2009)

What’s the mood? Stoic. Oh it’s proper heartbreak now as Maxwell lets his love go so she can find someone better. And the music’s as delicate and lovely as the title implies; subtle and powerful at the same time.

What sort of wings are they? Of course the only downside of orbiting your lovely song around a fixed metaphor is that bloggers like me will come along and dissect it at best whimsically and at worst slightly more whimsically. Is she a beautiful brightly-coloured hummingbird? No, you see loads of those, she’s something too good be true. A flying toaster such as what were all the range in 90s screensavers then? Yes, yes why not. It’s about as likely as Maxwell ever finishing the supposed trilogy of albums that this song allegedly kicked off.

LITTLE MIX – WINGS (2012)

What’s the mood? Celebratory. It’s so rare for X Factor to throw up a winning act that actually feels at home in the charts. And yet here they are at Number One, finally uniting pop’s clap-clap-clap genre with its wob-wob-wob one, with even a quick foray into rat-tat-tat at the end. Let’s not be disheartened that this decent-sounding music comes from a band with an irredeemably bad name – we did start off with Mr. Mister after all.

What sort of wings are they? Well here’s a thing. It’s made very clear in the lyrics that the inspirational appendages keeping the girls sailing above all their haterz are butterfly’s wings. Hooray! you might say. But you’d be wrong. Because later we hear that hurtful words are like ‘water off my wings’. Did they think they were ducks for a minute? Because they’re stuck with being butterflies. And the prospects for a butterfly who gets her wings wet are grim. A wet butterfly is too heavy to fly. If she falls from her perch then she’s stuck on the ground, and assuming she avoids being trodden on then she’ll quite likely get a horrific fungal infection and die. Still. Clap-clap-clap.

Celebrity Families: The Collinses

There’s a party atmosphere at the Collins house as son Marcus opens the door with a grin, resplendent in a startling pair of pomegranate trousers. “Hiya!” says mum Michelle in an accent that roves briefly across ten distinct counties and two Mediterranean ex-pat communities. Meanwhile dad Phil hands me a glass of champagne. It’s the eve of the launch of Marcus’s debut single and the family are understandably excited.

“It’s a cover of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army,” beams Marcus with a dazzling flash of teeth. “But in an easy listening style!” That sounds like a great idea, I say.

“Has it got an ‘orn section?” asks Phil. Marcus nods happily. “Good! You can’t beat proper instruments. Makes it authentic.” Phil occasionally plays drums in a local weddings band, it turns out. “But don’t tell the taxman!” he cackles.

I ask Michelle what she does for a living. She confides that she’s an accent coach. “So if you wanted to sound like you were from South Glamorgan, for example,” – she begins – “I could teach you!” she concludes in a perfect Bangladeshi twang.

Just then, fashionable grandma Joan totters in and flings a dozen carrier bags to the floor. “Closing down sale at Peacocks!” she gasps ecstatically before thrusting a handful of receipts at Phil. “See what you can do about claiming back the tax, darling.”

I ask Joan what she thinks of her grandson’s burgeoning music career. “Well I always hoped Marcus would go to private school, have the opportunities his mother and father never did,” she says impeccably.

“But it turns out he didn’t want to go up the Eton road!” guffaws Phil. Michelle and Joan glance at one another.

Then, oddly, Joan produces a Snickers bar from her pocket and takes a huge bite with her otherwise perfect teeth. I look around to see Phil has pulled out a Dairy Milk and is heading for his home drum kit in the corner while pulling on a gorilla outfit.

I worry that some sort of chocolate sponsorship is going to spoil the integrity of my interview. I turn to Michelle. “Cup of tea, luv?” she asks Marcus brightly in a faultless Easter Island accent.

“Brew? No. Mars!” smiles Marcus. I can’t help feeling that I’ve missed something.

(continued on page 118)

Best Subtitling Disasters of 2011

Let me explain. We’ve got a telly that automatically turns on subtitles when we hit Mute. And we hit Mute a lot: to play something exciting that’s just popped up on the internet, to leave the telly on while doing something else (because brightly lit moving wallpaper is brilliant), or when one of those adverts with babies in it comes on.

Poor J-Lo :-(

So it’s a very clever and helpful feature, but the subtitles do tend to get stuck if we’ve changed channels since the last time we muted. Like in these examples. The first one got a warm reception when I tweeted it back in July so I’ve been saving them up since then. Just for you.

Some of Gary's X Factor judgements were a bit harsh this year

No, that's Gail's actual hair

Yet another quirky video treatment from Will Young

Alan Carr and Tulisa consider how different things might have been

Diana Vickers has an AMAZING secret to share with us

The ridiculous world of the deluxe album version

Björk’s taking the piss with a luxury £500 edition of her new album. Perhaps it’s time that other artists got creative and did the same.

Bargain

The Ultimate Edition of Björk’s new album Biophilia comes in a “lacquered and silkscreened Oak hinged lid case containing the Biophilia Manual, along with 10 chrome-plated tuning forks, silkscreened on one face in 10 different colors, stamped at the back, and presented in a flocked tray. Each fork adjusted to the tone of each of the tracks from Biophilia and covering a complete octave in a non-conventional scale.” Amazing. No, hang on, not amazing! What was she thinking? No, it’s alright, don’t write in, I know what she was thinking. FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS, that’s what she was thinking. I mean she’s never been shy of tapping her fans for a bit of cash, but this is an impressive new level of milking it.

Here’s how some forthcoming releases might look in game-raising special editions:

Will Young – Echoes

To reflect Will’s love of the dressing-up box, the deluxe album will come with a Will Young action figure and several interchangeable outfits so that you can play with Military tribunal Will, Circus artist Will, 70s Blue Peter Will, Equestrian Will, Superhero Will, Pregnant Will, Top Gun Will or of course the very popular Speedos Will. £75

Dolly Parton – Better Day

Dolly’s keen to rebuild bridges with the gay community after her recent apology  to someone who wasn’t allowed into Dollywood wearing a t-shirt promoting gay marriage (although she still supports the decision, saying the slogan was too controversial for a family theme park). At the same time she’s gearing up to promote the UK release of her new album by talking about her 1984 hysterectomy.

So the special ‘Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner!’ edition of Better Day will come packaged with a home insemination kit aimed at gay couples. (It is a standard insemination kit with a pink triangle drawn on it. Although in a terrible mix-up I’ve used a picture of a bovine insemination kit. Because I’m never above a cheap laugh.) £180

Example – Playing in the Shadows

Example’s ‘highly-anticipated’ third album is pitched at the youth market, so sadly no ultra-expensive special edition will be available. However every copy bought on pre-order will include a free hairbrush. £7.99

Tori Amos – Night of Hunters

Tori’s new album, released through Deutsche Grammophon (!), is “a 21st century song cycle inspired by classical music themes spanning over 400 years.” From Bach to Satie and so on. Yes, like Hooked on Classics. In keeping with the tracknames on the album, the special edition will include some snow, a cactus, a coffin, a ghost and the Moon. £4,500

Matt Cardle

Matt Cardle’s debut album — which I’m forced to assume will be called ‘Not Final Art’ — faces the difficult task of uniting his disparate fanbase, from the plucky painters and decorators who wish they too could go on a journey like his to the mums at home who voted for him on X Factor. And it will need to convey that Matt is a proper indie artist, not like the rest of the rubbish in the charts. So the ‘Genuine Geezer’ edition will be presented in a CD player fashioned to look like a plasterer’s radio, will come with a 28-page pamphlet in which Matt assures women of all sizes and ages that he finds them attractive, and will include just enough rope to hang yourself with. £28

Thanks to the lovely @itnorris for suggesting I write this post after seeing my rant about Björk on Twitter. Sorry that ‘Katy B trowels’ didn’t make it in…