I’m both disturbed and intrigued by the news that Simon Cowell is preparing an “X Factor”-style TV talent show for DJs. I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised that Cowell wants to extent his already excessive influence over another area of the music industry – and funnel more money into his bank account along the way – but he’s a wee bit late in his assertion that “DJs are the new rock stars”. Err, Simon, people have been saying that for well over 20 years.
I don’t feel any better about Cowell’s new show – I hope he calls it “Double Deckers” – knowing he’s joining forces with Overbrook Entertainment, a US production firm founded by Will Smith. By rights, Smith ought to have a solid understanding of the noble art of turntablism. When he first adopted the name The Fresh Prince, he was a rapper not a fictional TV character, and his partner was Jazzy Jeff, one of the finest hip hop scratch DJs of his day. As it goes, I interviewed Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince once. Lovely blokes they were too. The trouble is, Will Smith won’t be involved in the development of Cowell’s DJ show. Overbrook’s input will instead be directed by Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. And she’s a singer in a heavy metal band.
However dismayed I might be at the notion of “Double Deckers” (please call it that, Simon), it’ll be fascinating to see how this pans out. Who will the judges be and what will they be judging? Beat matching and scratching skills, that’s for sure, but what about the use of effects and samples? Will contestants be judged on their choice of tunes? How will they be able to demonstrate building a set and steering a crowd? Will any spinner who’s got any sense want to join what will inevitably be a circus freak show? If it’s not a circus freak show, it won’t be watchable telly. If they’re actually any good, wouldn’t they rather take a stab at the highly respected DMC DJ Championships, which have been running in the UK and the US since 1985?
Thinking about it, there are still lots of mobile disco jocks out there, so perhaps these are the guys who will be queueing round the block when the auditions roll into town. In which case, you can forget mixing and scratching. The winner of Simon Cowell’s DJ show will be based on the ability to suddenly fade a track out and breathe unnaturally heavily into a microphone while saying, “Will the owner of the green Nissan Almera please move it because you’re blocking in the hall caretaker and she wants to get off home because she’s got the doctors first thing tomorrow. I’ll play some slow ones in a minute, but first off here’s an old favourite by The Dooleys…”