Auto-tune, Outrage, and the Pseudo-Reality of TV Talent Shows
One of the bigger news stories this week (in the music world, at least) has been the use of Auto-tune during boring, contrived, glorified talent shows on television. British television sensation X-Factor has been feeling the heat after it was revealed that they’d utilized Auto-tune for the final version of the broadcast of their season premiere, and most likely many of their previous episodes as well. They’ve apologized profusely, but the story isn’t going away. American Idol has even been forced to release a statement of their own, distancing themselves from the controversy by making it “clear” that they have never and will never use Auto-tune for their broadcasts.
Honestly I don’t like or watch any of these shows, so I love it when this kind of shit happens. But, I also don’t understand how anyone can watch such highly-produced, big budget franchise programming and not assume that there is some trickery at play behind the seasons. This is capitalism people. You want epic, flawless performances from unprofessional vocalists, and that’s exactly what X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, and American Idol gives you. “Reality” be damned.
“Reality” television is probably the biggest and most blatant misnomer in popular culture today. Maybe some of us aren’t aware of this yet, but Keeping up with the Kardashians is not real. The Bad Girls Club, as gloriously entertaining as it might be, is not real. These shows are maybe more “real” than a scripted show like True Blood, for example, but their non-stop, unrelentingly dramatic nature leaves little doubt that everything from extreme tactics, like literally writing storylines, to more discrete ones, like clever editing, are being employed in the production of these shows. Real life just does not play out as absurdly and timely as it does in the Bad Girls Club house.
Why should we assume X-Factor to be any different? You’re kidding yourself if you think these talent shows are about showcasing young talent, and giving up-and-comers a chance to achieve their dreams. That’s just a byproduct of all of the millions and millions of dollars these shows make off of people like you buying into that very concept. I don’t care how many dreams American Idol has made a reality; if this next season of the show bombs, and the money well starts drying up, FOX is cancelling that shit. Reality be damned.
You can call me cynical if you want (cause you’ll probably be right), but none of this should surprise anyone. Britney Spears has sold millions of records worldwide. She’s an icon and a bonafide living legend, and she probably hasn’t sung live in over ten years. Our culture should be used to fake reality by now. If you want the real and authentic experience of watching an amateur vocalist showcasing their skills before a live audience, then find one of the many open mic nights happening every night in whatever city you live in and actually be in the audience.
Otherwise, you’ll just have to settle for whatever Simon Cowell has to offer you.