I've always had an uneasy relationship with The X Factor. It's that old scab-picking psychology where it makes you tingle with pain, but there's a lazily automated pleasure in dipping in when there's nothing better to do.
I don't mind watching the already stupid being made to look ever more buffoonish by cunningly directed studio technique, and I don't even care when an impassioned yet trite pre-Christmas Facebook campaign fails to get an obscure 1970s hit in the charts with the result that we have to suffer a JLS or a Leona Lewis at the number one spot.
That's because it's music, and although I've still some way to go before I'm even 30, I've long understood that barely anything of musical worth was released after about 1996. Modern pop is a rotting titan to those of us with any taste, say I, and Simon Cowell and his cash-bloated friends are free to parade it around in its death throes all they like. It's funny, and it makes me feel ever more smug as I sit listening to my imported indie vinyl on labels you've never heard of and wouldn't care to know of.
But for those desperate to spend £9.99 on something – anything – in a high street store, band-by-jury is a perfectly acceptable model for me to chortle at from my comfy chair. There's a sort of commercial equilibrium there, and if it keeps people called Kyla and Dwayne off the streets of a Saturday night, more power to it.
But Lots of Money just isn't enough for Simon Cowell. Only the heights of Even More Money will suffice. He's made it more than apparent through a salacious autobiography or, more often, by raking the always-available private life of ex-minion Cheryl Cole through the tabloid muck, that the X Factor formula's grown stale for him.
"What do the cool kids want now?" he must have asked recently. In fact, he probably asked ebullient rapper, panellist of X Factor-challenging singing contest The Voice and, most importantly, PR partner of their new joint project, Will.i.am, that exact question.
"Kids love iPhones, Simon," Will.i.am probably replied, placing an iDevice into the cold-hearted talent vulture's outstretched claw. They were probably strolling around Macey's, idly fingering gadgets and trying to work out on what to spend $10,000 of tax write-off money.
"Bah. I only use these things to give Max Clifford a quick call and end a career, or to text The Sun the next location I'll be seen with a woman," Cowell may have replied, doubtfully. "Who even makes them, anyway?"
"Well," Cowell's hip hopping chum may have said, "It was a man called Steve Jobs. You might have liked him. He had an aggressive, almost hypnotic stage presence, and even an unhealthy penchant for black rollneck jumpers. But he's dead now anyway, so you can't have him."
"Dead, you say?" Cowell possibly breathed, as his cold, blank stare began to warm up with the vague outlines of dollar signs. "What you mean, Mr i.am, is there's now a gap in the market..."
Yes. Simon Cowell, and Will.i.am intend to bring us, and I'm quoting now, the "X-Factor for Tech". That's the decision, and that's the instant switch of a business model to reflect the trendy times we live in.
So imagine a world in which – even more than we have with the likes of Apple – we're buying technological innovation purely on the strength of which keynote speaker we fancy the most. A world where an orphaned ex-window cleaner from Catford will become an overnight billionaire not because he designed something anybody actually wanted or needed, but because ITV told you Christmas isn't complete without the e-Spoon ("eat cereal and surf the internet at the same time. Sponsored by Kelloggs").
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