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Hallelujah to X Factor: but Alexandra will need all the luck in the world

PUBLISHED: 09:21 24 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:44 07 September 2010

I was determined not to watch a single episode of the cringe-inducing X Factor, and almost succeeded. It was only because the people of Northern Ireland were getting themselves in such a lather about the youngest-ever finalist, Eoghan Quigg, that I felt

I was determined not to watch a single episode of the cringe-inducing X Factor, and almost succeeded. It was only because the people of Northern Ireland were getting themselves in such a lather about the youngest-ever finalist, Eoghan Quigg, that I felt compelled to tune in to Saturday night's final or risk permanent social exclusion in the very country of my birth.

"Be sure you watch young Eoghan in the final,'' said my 89-year-old mother. My 20-year-old daughter was equally enthralled. Apparently every newspaper in the country was giving Eoghan the front-page treatment and even First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (who hate each other's guts, as they say in those parts) got together in a rare show of unity to urge everyone to vote for Eoghan.

Peter Robinson doesn't do jokes, but Martin McGuinness cracked a good one. Vote Early, Vote Often, he said, echoing his party's mischievous rallying call in republican areas back in the days of rigged elections.

And so I tuned in on Saturday night, fully expecting to see the young man from Dungiven produce a trail-blazing performance that would turn him into an international star almost overnight, a Sinatra or even a George Michael in the making.

Poor lad. It was as if someone had played a cruel joke by putting him on the same stage as two other acts of immensely greater talent.

Eoghan went out at the first count, to no-one's surprise, after an insipid performance which included the most mind-numbingly boring version I've ever heard of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.

When I heard Hackney girl Alexandra Burke sing Silent Night, and later Leonard Cohen's glorious Hallelujah, I wondered how even the most liberal helping of patriotic optimism or pride could have made anyone believe that the young Ulster lad ever belonged on the same stage.

Still, Eoghan's a cocky kid from what I hear and will no doubt make a decent living from singing other people's songs in a fairly average fashion.

Alexandra won, of course, but I worry about her, too. Twice she broke down in tears in the middle of songs. It was certainly an emotional night for her, but she had plenty of time to prepare for the possibility that she would win. She was the hot favourite, after all.

She seems a fragile sort, and while she has the voice of an angel, I wonder if she's really cut out emotionally for the murky, greedy conceited pop culture world she is about to enter, riven as it is with jealousy, avarice, deceit and fathomless insincerity.

I wish her the very best of luck - she'll need it.

Geoff Martin


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