Thursday, 18 December 2008

X Factor is over! Hallelujah?

So that happy time of the year has come about at last. Simon Cowell and his smarmy panel of cronies have successfully whittled down nearly two hundred thousand hopefuls to one contestant deemed to have the holy grail of commercial pop music – the X factor. Winner Alexandra Burke can now look forward to a record contract with Cowell’s record company Syco, no doubt with modest percentage of record sales going to the artist, given that those who win the X factor rarely have time for song writing/contract negotiating. No, that time is dedicated to rounding off square edges, to fit into the round holes of commercial accessibility and musical mediocrity.

Maybe I am being a little cynical. It is undeniable that Alexandra Burke has raw talent and could well become the next Leona Lewis, who has become a world-wide pop sensation in the last year. In fact, if I closed my eyes and listened to Burke’s voice, I could easily mistakenly identify it as Lewis. And perhaps that will be the downfall of Alexandra Burke, entering into a pop market where there is no obvious niche for her to fill. It is more than likely that she will take her token Christmas number one with all its hype and hysteria and then stutter to obscurity (a la Gareth Gates – sorry had to be said.)

Another problem which I envisage is the choice of song for her first single. I think that Alexandra has been handed a poison chalice in Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I cringed as I watched both Alexandra and JLS power through rousing, gospel choir backed versions of the classic only to break down with the emotion of it all afterwards. The renditions were wholly inappropriate, discarding Cohen’s enchanting mix of biblical and overtly sexual lyrics in order to project their pop warbling more fully in the faces of their besotted phone number dialling fans. It was yet more sad proof that lyrics mean nothing in today’s commercial pop scene.

Furthermore I fail to see how Alexandra Burke could possibly produce a cover of Cohen’s song as beautiful or as poignant as Jeff Buckley’s, which has become the definitive version of the song. Buckley’s cover has turned the song into a pop classic, which is presumably why Cowell selected the song as the launching pad for his new star. Yes, people love the song but I feel that inevitably Burke’s cover will be forever compared to Buckley’s version, which I cannot see her topping, not this year, not ever.

So enjoy your stint in the lime light, Ms Burke, which I can only envisage being brief. It maybe a year or two before your pop credentials are severely challenged or more inevitably the fickle hysteria of the British public will turn to brutal apathy with sold out stadium tours turning to desperate pantomime performances. Alexandra may well prove me wrong, but I just don’t see it having considered the evidence presented to me by Gareth Gates, Shayne Ward, Leon Jackson, Hear’say and Steve Brookstein, to name but a few of the reality pop show winner casualty list. What a truly sad prospect for those with the X factor. Merry Xmas one and all!

Tim Cox

P.S. Aled - There have been more versions of this song than Leonard Cohen has had hot dinners (he is old, and loves a roast) Here are some of the most interesting...

Leonard Cohen

John Cale

Rufus Wainwright (SHREK)

Kermit the Frog

No comments: