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Pop maestro Simon Cowell finally bows to the public’s resounding ‘no’ vote

·5 min read
<span>Photograph: NBC/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: NBC/Getty Images

Like a knackered old cruise singer who has finally decided that this cover of Make You Feel My Love will be, must be, their last, The X Factor has slunk offstage for good.

The talent show has not been on air since 2018 but, last week, ITV confirmed that, after 17 years, it was a no from the channel and there are no plans to bring it back. Reports suggest that its creator and overlord, Simon Cowell, pulled the plug to prevent it becoming “a joke”, which makes me think Cowell has not been on the internet in the past decade.

Apart from the fact that it is pub-quiz-tiebreaker-tough to name anyone who has taken part in the show since 2012, it is a sign of how rapidly and dramatically the cultural climate has changed that it is impossible to imagine The X Factor on television now.

For years, it ran a well-oiled machine for churning out pop stars and Christmas number ones, but the early stages of each series, in which members of the public could put themselves forward for auditions, sorted the wheat from the chaff with a sneer.

I don’t think it belongs on the flaming pyre of the culture wars, and plenty of shows had a similar energy, but it is a relief to realise that laughing at people who aren’t in on the joke just isn’t that funny any more. If kids would rather find their idols from a creatively edited or intricately choreographed clip on TikTok, for example, then I don’t think that is a bad thing. Audiences have moved on.

Cowell and the series’ status as kingmakers has long since declined. There are far fewer gatekeepers to new music now. I remember chatting to a big pop songwriter a couple of years ago, about how fans like to find music for themselves: he argued that they don’t like to have it shoved down their throats any longer.

A label might dictate what a single is going to be, but, often, it’s the fans who decide what the hit is. To quote Michael Gove, wildly out of context: pop fans have had enough of experts.

The X Factor attempted to evolve with the tried-and-tested format of a celebrity spin-off, and a strange, truncated, updated version of Popstars: The Rivals, but the love wasn’t there for either of them. Instead, we got Little Mix doing kindness on BBC One and The Voice having a laugh with Tom Jones on ITV. These shows did not forge stars either, but at least they felt good.

Jodie Whittaker will be a hard act to follow

Jodie Whittaker
Jodie Whittaker: farewell to the first female Time Lord. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

After months of rumours, and setting up the promise of many more months of rumours about who will replace her, Jodie Whittaker has confirmed that she will leave Doctor Who at the end of 2022.

Whittaker will depart after one more series and three specials. “I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I’ve learnt for ever,” she said. The current showrunner, Chris Chibnall, will leave with her, after revealing that the pair always had a “three-series-and-out pact”.

I remain a casual Doctor Who viewer, dipping in and out, but I haven’t felt so fondly towards a Doctor since David Tennant, to whom Whittaker came only second in a 2020 Radio Times poll of fans’ favourite Time Lords.

While debate raged around whether the show was “too woke” or “not woke enough” – there were very strong feelings on both sides, considering that it is a show largely aimed at younger viewers – I thought Whittaker was a charming Doctor and the fact of her being the first woman to take on the role meant a great deal to many, particularly younger, female fans.

Still, every regeneration brings with it a special sort of excitement and anticipation. As a broad concept, though, a rebooted show is starting to feel lazy;: there are plenty of TV revivals at the moment that nobody really asked for – Gossip Girl, here’s looking at you. But with Doctor Who, a reboot is built into the fabric of the show and it has always benefited from change. I salute the Whittaker era and look forward to seeing who is next.

DaBaby: costly rap for anti-gay rapper

DaBaby
DaBaby: not laughing now. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

The rapper DaBaby has had a peculiar week after he made a bizarre homophobic announcement at a festival in Miami, asking fans to put their phone lights in the air, but not men who were HIV positive or gay men who had sex in car parks.

I am not sure what his intention was – surely if he was so afraid of gay men, it would be easier to see them with their lights on – but he added that HIV would “make you die in two or three weeks”.

The backlash was swift and A-list, as Elton John, Madonna and Questlove formed a chorus of music giants condemning his ignorance.

It is strange, not least because DaBaby has pursued the pop dollar with verses for Justin Bieber and Dua Lipa and pop is not always an aggressively heterosexual market.

“I’m surprised and horrified at DaBaby’s comments,” Lipa said on Instagram. BoohooMAN, with whom he collaborated on a clothing line, said that it would no longer work with him.

DaBaby eventually sort of denied being homophobic. “But the LGBT community… I ain’t trippin on y’all, do you. y’all business is y’all business,” he tweeted, perhaps aware that it is his business now.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist

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