Pop politics

We’re always trying to protect our kids from the news so they can go believing just a little bit longer that this world we live in is actually safe and not corrupt. On the news is a story about a murder – quick, turn it off. Then there’s one about all those people who were shot in the cinema during a Batman movie – hmm, that was a tricky one to explain to my worried little boy as we were on our way to see Ice Age 4 at the time. Not to mention the cabinet reshuffle this week where people were promoted when they probably didn’t deserve to be.

But as Jeremy Hunt was possibly deleting all his ‘it’s in the bag, boys’ type texts to his mates at GlaxoSmithKline, another story of corruption and manipulation was emerging that we may struggle to protect from our kids.

Little Mix are No.1. Hooray! The teen girl band, no doubt role models for many young kids, won the X Factor last year and have proved their worth by scoring another number one, unlike the last two winners Joe McElderry and, er, that other fella managed to do with their follow-ups. Girl power indeed.

Except their victory isn’t quite as clear cut as you may think, according to newspaper reports. The Saturday before Little Mix’s song was released, 20-year-old Lucy Spraggan appeared on the X Factor auditions singing a self-penned quirky number called Last Night (Beer Fear) all about the embarrassing things you do after consuming too much alcohol. OK, not exactly the best material for young ears, but that is not the point here.

Anyway the judges lapped it up. They loved Lucy and put her through. The audience watching at home loved her too and very quickly discovered that Lucy had released Last Night (Beer Fear) as a single (and indeed an album to accompany it) long before she qualified to appear on the TV show. Fans of the song were able to download it instantly. In four hours between the show ending and the chart qualification period ending for the chart the next day, she’d sold enough to make No.70. Word spread and by Monday she was already No.2 in the ITunes chart, clearly on course for the top the following week. What a success story, the sort that could actually justify the continued existence of shows like The X Factor.

Except Little Mix’s song was coming out and was clearly about to be eclipsed by this unknown artist. Weeks, nay months, of build-up and publicity had gone into this one song. It had to make the top or else, well, humiliation for Simon Cowell at the failure of yet another X Factor winner to make No.1. What to do?

I think you can guess…

The order came for the Lucy Spraggan song to pulled from all MP3 stores. By the end of Tuesday, as the story of this new artist and her quirky song was reaching its peak, it could no longer be downloaded. Little Mix may have made number one anyway, but now there was absolutely no risk of this not being the case.

And so what was looking like being a wildcard of a chart topper eventually only made No.11. Still impressive, but heartbreaking to think what might have been. Just as the charts were getting exciting, Simon Cowell decides to go and rig it. Makes Rod Stewart beating the Sex Pistols to the top in Silver Jubilee week look small fry.

OK, Lucy shouldn’t really have had a song available when she went on The X Factor – it was no doubt stipulated in her contract – but would Cowell have been so quick to pull it from release had there only been a non-X Factor release in the running for number one? Of course not.

My kids are too young to be bothered by this, but I daresay there are some older ones who might get wind of this and experience their first wake-up call that the world isn’t quite as honest as it should be.

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