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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

French X Factor, the finale...yawn

Tuesday sees the final of France's X factor with the last two contestants doing battle to determine who'll pick up the contract for an album with a major record company.

But when Marina D'Amico and Matthew Raymond-Barker have finished singing their hearts out and await the viewers' votes, it's highly unlikely that millions will be glued to the box in anticipation.

Because quite simply viewing figures for the show have been consistently appalling.

Since it hit the screens in April with the recorded auditions, ratings for the show have had a hard time climbing above 10 per cent audience share or around two million viewers.

Even the first live show only clocked up a 12.4 per cent share or 2.5 million viewers, and it has been downhill ever since.

So how come a format that has worked so well - and continues to do so - in other countries, fails to capture the imagination of the French public?

After all the show, now in its second season, has had a prime time slot on one of the country's major broadcasters, M6, having switched from the smaller sister channel W9 which aired the first X Factor back in 2009 (yes there was a one year gap).

Oh yes, and let's not forget the guests that have appeared live on the show: The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, Enrique Iglesias and Nicole Scherzinger to name just some of the international acts.

And it's not as though M6 hasn't promoted the programme - ad nauseam and over-ambitiously perhaps given that it was billed as "The musical event of the year" before it began.

The reasons for the show's "failure" are probably manifold, but two stand out; the calibre of the candidates and the overkill of the TV talent search format in France.













The so-called "X factor" is surely some inexplicable quality a singer or a group has once they appear on stage and open their mouths: that "je ne sais quoi" if you like, that you just can't put your finger on, but it's obvious it's there.

Marina D'Amico (screenshot from M6 video)

Those two finalists, Marina D'Amico and Matthew Raymond-Barker, are supposed to be the cream of the crop but quite frankly there's little "X" and more "Y" factor about them than anything else - as in "Why are they in the final?"

Sure the 17-year-old D'Amico can sing - very well. But that just ain't enough.

She's simply boring to listen to, worse to watch and lacking in personality.

Think block of wood on stage and you just about have her level of charisma.

That's not being "woodist", just stating the obvious.

Then there's Raymond-Barker.

Doesn't sound very French does it?

Not surprising really st the 22-year-old is from the suburbs of London and - get this - failed to make it through to the final stages of the UK equivalent.

Yes that's right, he a British X Factor reject!

Say no more.

Matthew Raymond-Barker (screenshot from M6 video)

Then there's the obvious viewer fatigue the French must surely have with the TV talent show format.

There have been eight seasons of Star Academy (2001-2008) on TF1 and the same number of Nouvelle Star - the French equivalent of Pop Idol - on M6 (2003-2010) and four of Popstars (2001-2003 and 2007) also on M6.

Enough you would think to throw up some real talent with proven staying power.

Sadly that just hasn't been the case.

If you take a look at the number of acts who've managed to establish themselves in the hearts of the French public and record labels in terms of sales - you would be hard-pushed to come up with that many.

Yes there have been exceptions - among the winners of the various shows perhaps Jenifer, Nolwenn Leroy, Matt Pakora, Julien Doré and Christophe Willem and a few "also appeared" that have managed to carve out careers such as Amel Bent and Chimène Badi.

But equally there have been an awful lot of "what on earth happened to them?" winners, such as Magalie Vaé, Cyril Cinélu, Mickels Réa, Steeve Estatof, Myriam Abel and Soan Faya, let alone those instantly forgettable "also appeared"

Don't worry if you haven't heard of, or can't remember, half of those "winners with a record deal". Chances are, neither can most French.

So D'Amico or Raymond-Barker on Tuesday evening?

Well to paraphrase Rhett Butler most French probably "don't give a damn."


Here are the two protagonists in full voice during the semi-final.














Matthew Raymond-Barker murders Coldplay's "Viva la vida"

















Marina D'Amico proving she ain't no Bjork and don't you just wish she would stay "Oh so quiet"

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