It is appropriate that Orff's O Fortuna from Carmina Burana should be used as an X-Factor theme tune.
O Fortune, variable as the moon, always dost thou wax and wane.
Detestable life, first dost thou mistreat us, and then, whimsically, thou heedest our desire.
As the sun melts the ice, so dost thou dissolve both poverty and power …
… To thy cruel pleasure I bare my back …
We all of us have to sometimes bare our backs to fortune (nothing ventured, nothing gained) but there is a difference between taking a chance whilst nurturing and building up a solid career over the years and leaping up to catch a chance with nothing solid to break your fall. X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent turn the curve of an artistic career on its head: the fame and applause comes first, then you have to either consolidate, find your feet and take root outside the talent contest sphere, or wither away. It works as a launch pad for some, not for others. 'That's show business', you could say.
BBC2 caught up with the finalists of New Faces 1986 this week: I Had the X-Factor… 25 Years Ago. The stories weren't all bleak; fortune had brought each contestent their own measure of regret and consolation and some were still doing what they loved. Some had tears to shed and the camera was there to catch them, just as they collect the tears of today's overwhelmed X-Factor contestants. The camera has no use for restraint, which won't hold an audience's attention. Just as there is no merit in art that is without heart and soul, so an audience won't watch someone (whether fictional or real) who isn't in the grip of extreme joy, anger, sorrow, or fear. There has always been a fine line between being an audience and a voyeur.