For what felt like an eternity, televised talent shows had a stranglehold on popular culture, and the emphasis on ‘talent’ was a loose one. Nobody felt more disgusted by American Idol and The X-Factor than the Foo Fighters’ uncompromising frontman Dave Grohl.
While this breed of programming wasn’t a new invention to this century, the infiltration and power that Simon Cowell’s creations had on music were briefly suffocating. Every Christmas, there’d be a new one-hit-wonder that would enjoy their fleeting taste of fame, and although a select few have carved out fine careers, they are the anomalies.
Much to the disdain of true muso’s like Grohl, the focus of these programmes was never to discover the next Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell, but, instead, to create entertaining television often at the expense of contestants who’d been sold a dream by snake oil salesmen.
It’s hard to imagine this toxic brand of television thriving again as it did in the mid-2000s due to the current climate, and that’s undoubtedly a cause for celebration. The Disneyfication of the music industry at the hands of Cowell and other suited businessmen incensed Grohl. At the height of the success of these shows, he told CBS that emerging artists should stay as far away from them as humanly possible.
He pleaded, “Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. Who’s to say who’s good or not? Imagine Bob Dylan standing there, singing ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ in front of those judges. ‘Sorry, it’s a little nasally and a little flat. Next. I would never make it. People need to appreciate their voice. I don’t wanna sing like someone else, I wanna sing like me.”
Grohl reiterated his point to NME and added, “I think people should feel encouraged to be themselves. That’s what bums me out about those shows where people are judged so harshly by fucking musicians that hardly even play an instrument on their own fucking albums. It makes me really mad.
“I swear to God, if my daughter walked up on stage and sang her heart out and some fucking billionaire looked at her and said, ‘No, I’m sorry you’re not any good,’ I’d fucking throttle that person, I swear to God. Who the fuck are you to say what’s good or bad?”.
Grohl makes a convincing argument about art being subjective, and simply because one creation might not be to one person’s taste doesn’t mean it is necessarily bad. However, mainstream talent shows attempted to create a binary definition of popular music, and maverick innovators such as Bob Dylan are the last thing they’d want on their search for vanilla robots who they could sculpt whichever way they pleased.