No doubt many of you will be delighted to see the end of this year’s X Factor on Sunday, but – if the rumours are true – the hobbling talent show has one more sting in its tail. News leaked last week that the winner’s song will be Damien Rice’s ‘Cannonball’. It was as if a million fey indie voices cried out at once and were suddenly silenced. By Darth Cowell.
The flat-topped enemy of pop has previous here. Last year, he managed the admirable feat of making Biffy Clyro’s ‘Many Of Horror’ sound even more dreary by sticking it in the mouth of Matt Cardle, the once and future painter-decorator now positioning himself as the lozenge in rock’s throat. Whatever the merits of Biffy’s unashamed anthem, this was a canny strike by Cowell at indie’s breast. Still smarting from Rage Against The Machine’s bullying victory over wee Joe McElderry, he had made rock his own.
It’s been a terrible few weeks for indie republicans, with John Lewis – never knowingly selling out – pissing all over The Smiths’ ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ in the name of making us all cry. Not only has Morrissey/Marr’s signature iron fist/velvet glove ballad been hijacked for commerce, it’s also been coffee-tabled of all meaning by Slow Moving Millie. The outcry was so fierce, Twitter almost forgot to get Jeremy Clarkson sacked.
But why all the whining? The problem seems to be twofold: snobbery and ownership. The “wrong” people are recording these versions of YOUR songs. YOU’VE been the biggest fan of ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ ever since you first heard it a dozen years after its release. It shouldn’t just fall into the hands of the public, for Christ’s sake. They wouldn’t know what to do with it.
This larceny has gone on forever. In 2004 Pink Floyd fans nearly fell out of their MGs when they heard what Scissor Sisters had done to ‘Comfortably Numb’. Jake Shears and Babydaddy had found the hitherto undetected gay disco element to Roger Waters’ psychiatric moan, forming an inspired meld of Frankie Knuckles house and Bee Gees squawk. In the process they made one of the singles of the year, a version even its writer appreciated. If Waters dug it, it couldn’t be all bad, could it? Maybe don’t answer that.
The point is, it isn’t up to you, and it doesn’t matter. Let’s face it, Morrissey probably isn’t turning his nose up at the royalties – although he might be a little less enthusiastic if Charlie Brooker’s right and there’s a dog’s head in that box. But if you prefer the originals of these songs, they still exist don’t they? And what’s more, Damien Rice can now eat again.