Has The X-Factor Jumped the Shark?

August 23rd, 2010 by Rob Brown

Most pundits and TV insiders have regarded The X-Factor as a piece of TV entertainment rather than a genuine competition for years, but for the many fans that pay to vote the integrity of the contest is still vital.That’s why the producers’ admission that they used ‘Auto-Tune’ in the opener in the new series just may be the beginning of a downward slide for Simon Cowell’s ratings phenomenon.  Auto-Tune is used by a multitude of artists to correct pitch on record and in vocal performances.  In a singing competition its use strays some way from fair play.It seems that the producers interpretation of the series has moved so far from the audience view that they were unprepared for the backlash.  They’ve admitted using Auto-Tune but said that they only tamper with the acts’ voices in the audition stages, never in the live shows.   That sounds a bit like a mid series u-turn.  Cowell and co. were caught with their pants down because of the growing trend towards live tweeting during event TV.   It was the viewers that identified the signature audio effects of Auto-Tune during Saturday’s broadcast and looking at the comments, they weren’t at all happy.   Viewer @shortymcsteve tweeted X factor is such a joke, they are even using auto tune… during the auditions. Talk about faking talent.”There is a way to go before X-Faxtor loses its crown but this could be a tipping point.  There are talent shows in the wings that are positioning themselves as the genuine article.  There is also growing disillusionment at the way Simon Cowell and his company Syco ties up revenue streams not least with the artists themselves.  Sky 1’s new series ‘Must be the Music’ actually provides downloads for songs performed by the acts after each show through iTunes with the net profits of the sales going directly to the artists.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

4 Responses to “Has The X-Factor Jumped the Shark?”


  1. Mark Perry Says:

    I agree with you Rob that we could be at a tipping point. I saw ‘Must be the Music’ over the weekend and have to admit that allowing performers to use their own songs/music was refreshing. To me it felt all the more ‘real’. In comparision I found the X-Factor format of the same old cover versions as looking tired.


  2. David Mutch Says:

    The use of auto-tune is, as per above, not new, but it was quite apprent that it’s use on X factor Saturday night was only on acts that were favoured by the judges and made the first cut – even extending to auto-tuning one half of an act and not the other (and even then when allowed to sing on her own – not autotuning that so her performance was “diminished”).

    What concerned me more was that electronic tell-tale swoop caused by the process which is more pronounced the greater the degree of “tuning” required. To take the example of the Scottish entrant Gamu – albeit an entertaining and innovative performance and perhapd deserved the vote through but the auto tuning effect was particularly pronounced on a number of top-end notes … saying to me that she was not quite as polished as was broadcast. A friend who was actually in the audience at this performance confirmed this to me (the auto0tuning is carried out post-production).

    Light entertainment is all good and well – but the vote paying audience must as you rightly say be presented with integrity – the facts.

    If it is to be called reality television – then present reality – warts and all … allow the winner to become an over-produced piece of marketing – we all know this so there are no false promises made (unless of course the artist decides foolishly to actully sing live … which I have seen with Girls Aloud and trust me – not music to the ears by any means.

    For me it takes the fun out of the show – delusional wannabes are what make the show watchable – turn them into pseudo-singers and the USP is gone.

    As a live performer – i like the organic sound of truly live artistry – and that includes the use of backing tracks (which offer false security for many until they try singing with a band).

    There have always been better singers in the local pub doing karaoke so it has never been a true talent contest … or maybe some of us knew that years ago and would never put ourselves forward to be subjected to contrived evaluation and arbitary decision making


  3. Howard Says:

    those that watch and boost the ratings are lining Cowell’s pockets with the way his company, as mentioned, ties everything up financially… the audience are fools


  4. Kate Says:

    To me TV ratings aren’t a true representation of what people think of a programme, it’s the reactions on social media/print media/radio etc that really count towards its success because this will reflect whether or not something has made a positive or negative reaction. I watch X Factor because there’s something about it that fascinates me, but at the same time it’s got a bit boring.

    I think the fact that people have reacted so strongly to the auto tune ‘scandal’ shows that people are starting to get bored of it all. We can go along with the ‘reality’ pretence until it becomes so blatant that we can’t pretend it is in any way fair

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