I started writing a post yesterday for The Daily Dust, and rather than a paragraph or two, it started to turn into an almost Olbermann-esque polemic about The X-Factor, Simon Cowell and its effect on the Christmas charts. And I thought that with a bit of work, a bit more length, and some classy cliches, it could be a “Special Comment” at the end of Countdown. Maybe.
Anyway here it is, with the final script afterwards (and yes, I did improv some bits!)
When I was young, this was the time of year that had you on the edge of your seats. This was the last few days before Christmas, but you had something to distract you from your presents. You had something that was more important. You had to decide who you wanted to be at the top of the charts and claim the Christmas number one.
In those days, those heady days of Paul McCartney, Jona Lewie, Mud, Slade, Roy Wood with Wizzard, we even forgave Shaking Stevens and Elton John. Christmas was a fair and honourable race that everyone in the country all partook in.
Even those who failed in the race, those that many say should have been the rightful winners, were duly rewarded with inclusion on the many Christmas compilation albums and ensuing royalties that let them buy a bottle of wine every year. That was the pact. The covenant. They did the cliches, the sleigh bells, the childrenâ€™s choirs â€“ we bought into that view, we bought the singles, and everyone knew that Christmas was special.
Until reality TV arrived.
There has been no faster way to devalue the spirit of Christmas than this crass, media driven sledgehammer. After three solid months of free advertising on every single media outlet, the national press, the radio and commercial television, the minds of the watchers have been conditioned to accept the winner as being bigger than The Beatles. The effect lasts about a week, but thatâ€™s enough for our Grinch to steal the Christmas Number One.
And our Grinch, Simon Cowell, has had this since 2003. The year before the warning signs were there, as Girls Aloud and One True voice were created to battle each other for this spot, excluding everyone else from the race. We hoped it would be a one-off.
We were wrong.
2003 was to prove the epilogue to a tradition that has run from a time before Noddy Holderâ€™s â€œItâ€™s Christmasâ€ boomed out across the nation. The Darkness, a last gamble glam group from Lowestoft knew the rules, and penned â€œItâ€™s Christmas Time, Donâ€™t Let The Bells End.â€
In a cruel twist, it reached number two, joining the greatest song of all time, A Fairytale of New York in the bin marked â€œShould have been.â€ And to stick the knife in further, the number one was â€œMad Worldâ€
Never a truer song title has been sung
The winner of the X-factor has been all but guaranteed the Christmas Number One. It doesnâ€™t matter what they sing, who sings it, or whether they will feature on Now Thatâ€™s What I call Christmas in ten years time. Do songs called Thatâ€™s My Goal, A Moment Like This and When You Believe do not speak of family, of friends, or a deeper relationship with the world and the human condition.
They said pop will eat itself. If thatâ€™s the case, then Mr Cowell has a Michelin Star atop his Christmas Tree. His chosen track this year is a cover of Leonard Cohenâ€™s Hallelujah, and everyone outside of Sony BMG and Syco are hoping that a download only cover of this song, now eligible for the charts, from Jeff Buckley can put a stop to this madness of capitalism from the music industry.
I fear that this will not be enough and our Grinch will laugh all the way to the bank having stolen what was once precious to an entire nation.
Cross posted from The Daily Dust, which you should really check out.