The X Factor begins this weekend and my heart drops for a ninth time. Yes, It's 10 years since I "won" the first series and I've seen the first article about the show and its previous winners. As the truth about my departure has never come to light it is not surprising that I'm portrayed as the disgruntled contestant who failed to take advantage of the opportunity that the show gives. A narrative that was instigated by Max Clifford in 2005 after telling me, "Talk to the press and we'll bury you."
Today I have read a long article in The Guardian about 10 years of X Factor. The delivery was subtle but effective. They hold me up as the example of failure and find someone who is doing something. It just so happens that this year Alexandra Burke is starring in a West End Show that needs promoting. They can't ask Leona, she's just been dropped. Alexandra was also dropped by her label and her music career is on ice but that's not important. What is important is that Alexandra Burke is singing from the X Factor hymn sheet and is doing something high profile that makes her appear "successful". Journalist Mark Lawson made a point that Alexandra Burke was easier to contact because she was in a West End Show and she represents all that is good about X Factor.
"The X Factor is a 'Fame Academy' crash-course, that's what it is. So you have to go into it in the right frame of mind. I think the mistake that a lot of people make is that they go in wanting to be famous, rather than wanting to be successful, and those are two different things. The X Factor will give you an opportunity, but the hard work starts once you win it." - Alexandra Burke
Now whether or not that was aimed at me we don't know. But in the context of the article the writer is leading the reader to that conclusion.
Alexandra says wanting fame and wanting success are different. One Direction, Olly Murs, JLS, Jedward, Chico, Rylan and Leona are a mixed bunch. Differing musical abilities but all famous. Talent isn't a word that is mentioned in this piece. That's not part of The X Factor remit. they are more interested in "fun", "likability", "cheeky", "young" and so on. The main thing all these acts have in common is that they all play the game.
To suggest that people don't succeed because they don't want to work hard or are just fame hungry wannabes is insulting to me and many people that I have met over the years. Every year 75,000 people enter and I've heard many stories where people have had their careers damaged due to the association with The X Factor. Obviously, you won't hear these stories. You will hear about the handful of successes that keep people believing it could be you!
At the end of the article Mark finally refers to my reply that he alluded to earlier in the piece saying that I replied to his request by iPhone. This spacing in the article and distance from Alexandra Burke's initial quotes gives the impression that I took longer to reply. In reality, I replied just three hours after his request. Sorry Mark if that was too long to say I'm not interested.
The iPhone comment was a dig. 99% of musicians manage their websites and can access the emails via a mobile phone. Mark Lawson is making the point that it's not "big time" - I'm small time. It's not famous and it's not successful, regardless of the hard work I put in to doing things independently. No, I haven't got a PA. Sometimes I pass an enquiry to an agent and sometimes I deal with it myself. I'm 45. I can handle basic tasks.
I suppose I could get an intern. I have a friend whose son has just graduated with a degree in music business. He had an internship at a music agency. He was the intern to the intern. Unpaid. He made coffee and tea and posted things. A three month internship ended after just 5 weeks. I guess they weren't drinking enough coffee.
Mark Lawson lists the things that Alexandra Burke has done and is doing. He is kind enough to mention the jazz clubs I've played in along with a ferry I once performed on in 2006. He says my website says I have an album coming out. (Mark, it's been out since April.) He is less keen to mention the Olivier Award winning show that I toured with in 2008 and the two albums I've made, including one funded by fans via Pledge Music. I should be thankful, he did mention my website and that you are now reading this as a result.
Alexandra Burke went on to endorse the insults and abuse that the judges dish out because it prepares singers for the real world. Well, with that twisted logic we should celebrate school bullying. It's a tough world kid.
The X Factor gave me a crash-course in the reality of the media spin business and I am an expert in spotting propaganda. What I got from this article is that The X Factor is returning to it's harsh negative image of the early years to push up ratings, judges will be arguing and being rude to "wannabes" and there will be endless edits of Cheryl crying. Anyone who complains about their treatment are dismissed as bitter losers (assuming they are not reminded first of the contract they signed to stay quiet) and if ratings do drop the fact people are tweeting about it makes it famously successful.