For those of you who don't live in the UK, or who have better things to do than watch TV, The X Factor is a cheap 'reality' TV programme in which members of the public perform their party pieces - covers of other people's songs - in front of a live studio audience and three arbiters of quality and taste. It is a show that has captured the public imagination. There is something mesmerising about watching people make fools of themselves before being torn apart by a panel of judges. Car crash television.
So why should I care? After all, I don't watch much TV and there are plenty of other viewing options if wanted them. But I do work in music education and it bothers me that children watch this and aspire to being involved in 'art' of this kind. And when I say involved I don't mean as a hard-working (but unseen) stage musician, make-up artist or camera operator. They want to be the stars and they want it now. And most are spared the humiliation.
What happens to the chosen few? Being young they know that getting older, being last year's, or last decade's, news is not going to happen to them. After their attention seeking has been fully exploited they have two choices. Either launch their kids into hot-air balloons for another media-fix or resign themselves to a life of opening village fetes and switching on Christmas lights. Pantomimes, of course, need actors so that's out.
Andy Warhol said "In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes". Well it's the future now and the competition for cutting the ribbon at the new supermarket is immense; fifteen minutes is a very short shelf life. Everyone has 'talent' for something but only those who work at developing and honing that talent will endure.
For more on this, by someone far more eloquent than myself, read Sting's take on The X Factor.