Fight Cowell: campaign for decent pop starts here
Johnny Dee: Let’s give Simon Cowell his own separate singles chart for cover versions
If the story in the Daily Star is to be believed - there’s a first time for everything - then Simon Cowell has hatched yet another masterplan to destroy British pop by (a) infecting the music charts with even more X Factor and (b) making himself even richer in the process.
It has been reported that Cowell will release every performance from the X Factor live shows this autumn and winter as single-style downloads the Monday after the shows have aired on TV.
The inevitable result will be dozens of cover versions clogging up the upper - and no doubt middle and lower reaches - of the UK Top 40 every week, giving Cowell an accelerated pay day and viewers an early chance to elevate the contestants from wannabes into "genuine" popstars.
While the move makes superb business sense - a similar idea by the makers of the American television show Glee was hugely successful in the States - it could serve as the moment when Cowell’s greed reaches its limit.
Cowell and his sponsors will no doubt market the downloads as giving people want they want. The demand, they will say, is obviously there because people have already clocked up hundreds of thousands of views of the individual performances on YouTube and illegally downloaded MP3s from the show. Furthermore, if people don't like the songs or the artists they don't have to download them. "Look," I can hear Cowell patronising me in my head right now, "it's a free country".
The problem is that Cowell now wields so much power within the entertainment industry - where would Sony or ITV be without him? - that the hype that surrounds the live shows in the tabloid press and on mainstream radio is tenfold that afforded to any other non-X Factor artist. He simply cannot fail.
Last Christmas a Facebook campaign successfully saw Rage Against The Machine reach the Christmas number one spot ahead of X Factor winner Joe McElderry. The target wasn't the sweet Geordie and his cloying cover of The Climb but Cowell and his presumed iron grip over the nation's pop culture. His ego obviously bruised, the high-trousered impresario has decided to strike back against the "haters" by bombarding us with an endless barrage of X bombs.
The anti-Cowell lobby was able to respond once with a well-timed "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" but this time they may as well wave the white flag and admit defeat.
I remember as a teenager hating the charts and everything they represented. Only occasionally would a band I liked creep into their lower reaches and be granted the chance to appear on Top of the Pops. When that happened it was as if they were secret operatives who'd invaded an enemy land - they'd plant their flag then scarper.
But today loads of great artists make the charts; alternative and mainstream music mingle in harmony. If Cowell's download plan works then it'll be the musical equivalent of a Japanese knotweed epidemic, taking over the landscape and killing off anything that can't survive in its shadow.
For the UK charts this could be a disaster - we'll no longer be seen as the cool kids any more. Instead we'll be the country whose chart is dominated by crappy karaoke cover versions for half the year.
However, Cowell's ploy could once again create a "them and us" atmosphere among music fans, something that could in turn inspire a new counterculture - and make people want to actually pay for music. Buy a non-X Factor single and you're not just getting a song you like, you're also funding the war against pap.
Cowell is a clever tactician, businessman and personality who has successfully persuaded us that his shows are about unearthing new talent and giving an opportunity to ordinary people when the reality is that they are all about lining his ample pockets with more cash.
In the 80s when compilations such as 'Now That's What I Call Music' took over the album charts the solution was to consign them to their own separate chart - a chart that receives absolutely zero attention and never will despite the fact that compilation albums still sell 10 times more than single artist albums.
With one brave step The Official Chart Company could do more for genuinely talented artists than thousands of talent shows. They could create a single chart for original music and a separate singles chart for cover version music.
In an instant Cowell's empire would crumble and along with it, as collateral damage, the supermarket bilge of Westlife and their ilk. The campaign for decent pop starts here. ·
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