If you’re sick of music competition shows where mediocre performers are exalted by a system that manufactures success, be assured that you are not alone and that America is not the only country that suffers from this aural plague. Like the U.S., Europe has become increasingly infested with American Idol and X Factor spin-offs. Ryan Seacrest recently made the statement that he could not imagine life without American Idol. Thankfully, many of us can.
When I interviewed Lacuna Coil frontman Andrea Ferro last month, I asked him about Italian music competition shows. “We have a show called X Factor, which has people of all different ages competing with each other doing cover versions of songs, and the winner gets a major label deal, produces a record and becomes very popular,” he explained. “The talent shows are really big everywhere in Europe. Funny, in a country close to Italy, part of the ex-Yugoslavia, there was this girl that won the local X Factor. She sang one of our songs, ‘Swamped’ from Comalies. It was weird. She had a guest singer who did my part, and she won the competition and became the idol. I thought it was funny. To be honest, I haven’t heard her album, I just know that she did that. There’s a video on YouTube if you look for it. I think it was Estonian Idol.”
While groups like Lacuna Coil spent years building up their repertoire and developing a live reputation, many contest winners simply jump out there with no history or experience. Some can handle it, but many do not. And most do not have much of interest to sing about. “I think most of the time what is missing from these people is the background,” concurred Ferro. “I’m not a superficial listener, I’m more of a specific listener that likes to listen to music and to know the history of the artist. For me, an artist has to walk his history. They have to do the little gigs to open for somebody and to understand where they want to go as an artist and be influenced by different bands. When we started, we were heavily influenced by the European Gothic metal bands and even the American ones like Type O Negative or Anathema, and we started because we loved those bands and wanted to play that sound. From there we evolved into something else and incorporated other elements and had time to learn through the process. It’s not that we came out of nowhere and were this original band. We built what we are, and I think most of the time these people don’t. Maybe some of them did, but a lot of them are just young kids with no experience. Why do I want to listen to somebody with no experience, with nothing to tell me, with nothing to represent as an artist?”