Saturday, December 29, 2007

today : the erosion of culture.

J'accuse Simon Cowell. I don't care about his talent shows, record labels, Rolls Royces or even his trousers. In fact if he has found a way to be rich and successful then in many ways good luck to him.

What I care about is the fact that he has cynically stolen a little piece of my childhood.

In days past the Christmas number one WAS special. Okay, not as earth shattering as Santa Claus forgetting your house but as part of the cultural traditions of Christmas it was fun. People would release songs to try and get to be the Christmas Number One. Radio stations and TV would speculate on which song would make it and children like me would enjoy the slight excitement of it all.

Some of the blame does not lie at Mr Cowell's door. 20 years ago the Christmas Number One was special because it was number one for two whole weeks, due to the fact that the people who counted the chart returns were on holiday. After computerised counting came along, this was all done automatically and the week long gap in counting disappeared.

But still there was a race to be Number One at Christmas. And somehow reaching that goal inferred a kind of pop immortality on the artist that achieved it. For anyone who enjoys and follows pop music this created a national narrative that everyone could join in with.

But Cowell has destroyed that. We know now that the Christmas no.1 will always be a reality TV star winner singing the kind of bland schlocky megaballad that people like Celine Dion churn out.

This cynical corporatisation of culture is emblematic. Everyone who grew up eating Opal Fruits or Marathon Bars, using Oil of Ulay or Jif cleaner has suffered the same erosion of their traditions by the money-makers. Everyone who can no longer shop at a local greengrocer, milliner or one-town department store suffers too. These are, in themselves, microscopic changes, but important. They eat away at the individual nature of culture and memory, gradual corporatising and homogenising the world at the behest of profit.

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