The X Factor is flatlining

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Apart from its hardcore audience, and the legions of wannabes who queue outside the UK's arenas like cattle being herded through an abattoir, The X Factor is flatlining.

Audiences are dwindling. The whole farrago is becoming so predictable, even foetuses groan when the judges set security on the mad goth in the auditions; or Louis says, "you have the voice of a recording artist"; or Tulisa infects some poor, pure faun with her urban cred and strange, 'cutting edge' sounds; or some mannequin does a Take That song and Gary smiles indulgently while the other judges lie and say it sounded better than the original... or the one with the fringe and the druggy eyebags calls themselves "indie" and gets haemorrhoids screaming out a version of Sex On Fire that'd extinguish even Russell Brand's loins...

Duplo has more variety in its building blocks, and a Famous Five adventure more guile in its plotting, than X Factor.

The judges have all of the vocabulary and charisma of dolls with pieces of string hanging out of their backs. The blockbuster melodrama that used to sound exciting and glamorous just sounds like a never ending migraine.

Think of anything of (pop) cultural import or excitement you can, from Only Fools And Horses to Ibiza; The Simpsons to drainpipe jeans; Tamagotchi to Friends - and they all have a limited shelf life. Everything - bar, perhaps, Stephen Fry, The Ramones and Joanna Lumley - has a best before date that has to be adhered to.

One Direction notwithstanding, the winners are on a bungee line that will snap them back to obscurity so quickly, most of us won't even notice them or the stale smell they leave in the room.

However, no amount of Febreeze or CK One can disguise the fetid whiff emanating from X Factor. It's dying. A final stumble and crawl along the edge of its mortal coil. Hitching a hollow, rattling cough. Staring glassy-eyed at the ceiling praying for a bright light, and the voice of someone other than The Big Voiced Nuclear Warning Man.

It is almost ex-Factor... exiting, not exciting.

So I'm wondering why some people treat it as if it's a rampaging and merciless Satan - bombing or firing missiles, say, at innocent women and children. You'd think Syco had poisoned the water supply, hypnotised everyone in the UK, the USA, THE WORLD, under its deadly spell. A TV equivalent of the Cybermen... just more (much more, sorry Cybermen) entertaining.

We have watched in our tens of millions. Even those who professed to abhor it, like me, watched it, pretending to do so under duress, because 'the kids' had it on. Nonetheless, we got sucked in, picking our own favourite and getting as bejazzled by the drama as anyone else.

Especially when that uber-pompous icon of smug, Simon Cowell, was the high villain of the piece - unimaginably rich, loftily trousered, and completely immune to any pretentious 'artistic' criticisms, and it's easy to be immune to pretentious criticism when you're neck deep in steaming ambrosia in your Beverly Hills super mansion.

He's behind you...

Except he was always, always, always in front of you... seemingly in front of everyone.

Simon Cowell: in front of everyone. Even you.

But even Cowell wasn't Satan. He gave the chattering majority a panto for which they all wanted a premium phone line ticket. And he gave the minority an enemy they could unite against. Not since Hitler has the UK had a more effective figure to demonise. Especially in the early days.

To win the holiday of your dreams on the Moon, who did we fight against in the Second World War? a) a banana, b) 14, c) Hitler, d) your mum.

If you liked 'proper' music, Cowell was basically giving your ears a ceaseless slurry enema; choking you to death with a big, gleeful, clown grin on his face.

If you were in a band that couldn't get a gig - it's because everyone was at home watching X Factor (this, on a Tuesday night).

If you couldn't get a record deal it's because Syco had murdered the music industry, a Japanese Knotweed sucking away all of the potential nutrients. Many who theorised this - and continue to do so - had Limewire running in the background on their PCs, oblivious to an irony that may have even had Alanis Morrissette face-palming and saying, "Oh, *I* get it!"

The final, most telling and corrosive offense that X Factor committed? If you wanted the coveted Christmas number one spot, that high water mark of musical achievement, the only universally recognised symbol of unparalleled sonic quality, a tinselled audio kitemark with a star on top of it... a genuine star... a star that had learnt its scales, and could belt out a couple of Stereophonics songs on acoustic guitar on any high street you care to mention... well, YOU COULD NOT HAVE IT.

The Christmas number one had been stolen away. Forever. Well, until The Rage Against The Machine Uprising of 2009... and didn't that show them? (While adding pennies to the Epic coffers, who are owned by Sony, who also have shares in Syco... great work, revolutionaries!)

It was the final nail in the coffin of 'real music'. By 'real music', you might hope we mean the musical equivalent of Real Madrid... something with history, but also youth, verve, style, skill. Something that can evolve, surprise and make you gasp at its sheer brilliance.

However 'real music' generally means po-faced, swollen blokes with back issues of Guitarist magazine under their beds... sometimes (those on anxiety meds, please avert your eyes) out from under their beds, in shameless public view. Progenitors of 'real music' tend to have a lot of albums in their collections that contain lyrics sourced from fantasy fiction. Yep, there's nothing more real than 'real' music.

And - to my easily irritated mind - the fact that there are again this year more campaigns for 'real music' to get to Christmas number one, to defy the evil, caterpillar tread of the X Factor tanks squashing all other talent, everywhere, flat and stone dead, is more tiresome than anything Cowell has ever inflicted on us.

I have listened to the 'artists' marching under the Band Crusade banner, for example. The ones I heard would get blown away at school concerts by the cute girl singing Shakira or Rihanna. No wonder they - and their blues scales - all sound so bitter. And turgid. And rather desperate.

I'd like to start a campaign to keep the Christmas number one for X Factor. This will probably be the last one. Harassing it now is like mugging someone on their deathbed.

And finally, let's face it, if you're bothered by the charts and you're over 12, you have issues that even X Factor's crack team of psychologists wouldn't be able to help you with. And you have my sympathy. I may even knock out a heartfelt Adele cover for you.

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