Saturday, 19 October 2013

Pop Corner: Luke Friend - One Day Like This

X Factor has produced some of the most unbearable exports in the past decade. It came to the point where music fans took a stance against Simon Cowell's creation by having Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" become Christmas number one, back in 2009. It didn't enrage Cowell and co on the outside, but deep down you could tell there was hidden hate, not just towards "Killing in the Name", but to the people of UK who raged against X Factor, and have been ever since. The year before the successful "Killing in the Name" campaign, the public failed to keep Alexandra Burke from the number one spot with her vocal rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Jeff Buckley's cover ended up at number two, sparking the traditional 'keep X Factor off of the number one spot'.

There's always been an expectation of hate associated with X Factor, it's become 'cool' to dislike the entire process, and it's easy to see why. Now I dislike X Factor as much as the next critic, but there are elements of the show which are successful. On rare occasions do real grassroots talent seep through the pop process and achieve enough popularity with looks or words - none are remembered, but that might change. 

Luke Friend, with a bit of help from his friends, may be in contention to win The X Factor this year. Not that winning actually matters, because Friend has a vocal and soulful talent only the best of singer-songwriters have. It would be interesting to hear some of Friend's own recordings, as his covers seem faultless at times. The above cover of Elbow's "One Day Like This" shows the listener how simple a song can be when sung with dignity and with a heart, Friend gives Guy Garvey a run for his Mercury Prize money with this cover. It's not just the high hitting vocals, but the flow of the chords. Friend's picked a relatively easy song to cover, but without the correct heart and soul behind it, "One Day Like This" can come across as weak. 

Thankfully, Friend doesn’t ruin the song. His ability to both perform and play is justified by his covers with Ontsofa. He may go on and win X Factor, which is fine, but getting far only raises the bar for singer-songwriters who want to take the easy route to success. Passing over self-expression and creative ideas at the production door may be an issue for most respectful singer-songwriters, but Friend is a living model, for popularity and success within the genre. The most important thing to remember here is, Friend isn't that great - he's not. There's a missing aspect to his sound, and he almost ticks all the boxes, but his voice is a like a weak Paulo Nutini. There's strength, but not stature. Take a look around Ontsofa's YouTube channel, and you will see why Friend isn't all that great, and why X Factor's rush is completely ridiculous at finding 'talented voices' when many voices just aren’t being heard because they’re not taking the bullet train to fame. Going on X Factor can be justifiable; it's what you do after that makes you an artist, or someone punching above your weight. More often than not, pop artists are miles lower than the standard set by The Ronettes and The Walker Brothers... It's up to the fan to realise how X Factor takes someone’s name and makes it shine.
~Eddie Gibson