British people seem less worked up about the ballooning
national debt or the military debacle in Afghanistan than they are about a
television talent show.
There are officially four judges on the X-Factor, but everyone knows that there is only one who really
matters: Simon Cowell, who basically owns the show, which has become a small industry
in its own right. He has been established as a major player in the global music
industry since before he went into television, and, through his record label,
the show’s winner is almost certain of the prestigious Number One spot for the
Christmas week in the UK Singles Charts – singles may be less important
commercially than they once were, but the Christmas Number One still has great
significance in marketing terms.
If that is not enough, he is also a judge on the
phenomenally successful American Idol
and on Britain’s Got Talent – which seems to have been something of a pet
project which, with Cowell’s usual Midas touch, just happened to discover Paul
Potts and Susan Boyle.
So his decision, two weeks ago, to ditch Rachel Adedeji, a
brilliant youngster with a voice far beyond her years, in favour of Lloyd
Daniels, one of only two Welshmen in the world incapable of singing, aroused
much negative comment.
Perversely spurred on by the criticism, Cowell did something
similar last week. As if to demonstrate that he was an equal-opportunities music-hater,
this time his victim was Welsh – but one with a lovely voice – Lucie Jones, who
is also blessed with a heart-breaking “girl next door” beauty. She was ditched
in favour of “John & Edward”, an astonishingly untalented duo.
The disgust prompted by these bizarre decisions is entirely
merited – but it also misses the point.
Cowell’s interest is not talent but the music business, and
the music business is not about music – it is about business.
Business is not about rewarding natural talent. Indeed,
those blessed with natural talent have no right to complain when their talent
is not recognised, because they had no right to the talent in the first place:
it was a gift.
Business is the struggle to use whatever talents one has. It
is not about waiting for them to be applauded.
So perhaps Cowell, in his own perverse way, has a useful
lesson for us all.