During the finals of The X Factor UK’s 12th season, judge and show creator Simon Cowell caused quite a stir after choosing a 1974 Bob Dylan hit as the winner’s single. Cowell handpicked ‘Forever Young’ for the reality TV show’s eventual champion Louisa Johnson, and sparked debates from fans and music critics alike.
This rather odd song choice was a big deal, especially to The X Factor UK diehards, as its finale also coincided with the Christmas season. On one hand, Bob Dylan’s songs generally resonate to all cultures and ethical upbringings – including a younger, more appreciative generation of music fans. On the other, these tracks also stand for everything the show does not represent.
If the past suggests anything positive, then one can credit The X Factor’s success in meshing two different themes to create a viable product. Whether it is bringing together a contemporary artist and an old song like ‘Forever Young’ or seeing the success of the recently launched ‘X Factor’ game on Slingo, the brand’s appeal has no boundaries when it comes to appealing to the masses.
In essence, this isn’t the ITV hit show’s first cover track for victors, with season 5 winner Alexandra Burke and season 9’s champ James Arthur, releasing their own versions of pop music classics as winning piece. But in the unpredictable world of music sales and chart toppers, these singles highlight varying accomplishments.
Burke went the folk rock and gospel route with her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s 1984 masterpiece ‘Hallelujah’, while Arthur made a beautiful cover of ‘Impossible’ by Shontelle. Both singles reached the mark; selling more than a million singles copies during the Christmas season.
The same couldn’t be said, however, for season 6’s Joe McElderry and the aforementioned Louisa Johnson of season 12. In 2009, McElderry’s winning piece, Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’, failed to reach the top spot in the UK charts. Similarly, the latest The X Factor winner, Johnson and her single ‘Forever Young’ just peaked at the 12th spot.
Bob Dylan will forever be an icon not just in Americana and folk, but the whole music landscape as well. His lyrics integrate different political, social, and philosophical influences, which ultimately defy music conventions. Dylan’s influence also goes beyond music and into various publications and paintings. Other than being one of the best-selling artists of all-time, he’s been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. However, behind all these famous accolades in the art and music scene, only a few people can value Bob Dylan’s impact on modern pop music – more specifically reality talent searches.
It’s arguably safe to say that during this time of ghostwriters, cookie-cutter artists, and viral video sensations; true music appreciation is at an all-time-low. One can give credit to Simon Cowell, as well as other music moguls, and their hopes of re-introducing classic hits of different genres to a younger audience. But at the end of the day, numbers matter, whether in sales, or chart positions, or both, for consumers, record producers, and artists.