Originally published in The Edge
Though the rest of the non-Adele world has moved on, The X Factor seems determined to churn out merchants of meandering vanilla pop. Bob Dylan’s 1974 track ‘Forever Young’ is the latest song with connotations of youthful exuberance and defiance of adversity to receive an agonising balladisation for the festive charts, as 17-year-old Louisa Johnson warbles on the subject of fulfilling dreams and growing up and all that nonsense, with the word “may” appearing every 10 seconds and the title repeated so often it loses meaning.
As anyone who endured the show’s final will testify, Johnson is far from a bad singer, though her competition consisted of a man so forgettable they named him twice and an entertaining duo who couldn’t sing in tune if their record deal depended on it. We must also remember that she’ll have a proper album of glittering new clichés in time for promotion the next series, penned by an army of songwriters stolen from the studio sessions of Ella Henderson.
This single, though, is dreary tedium. It doesn’t exactly remain stagnant, as each chorus introduces some added subtlety like a piano piano, a feather falling atop a bass drum, or a token choir performing first aid on the procession. None of it, however captures any imagination, as it spends three and a half minutes creeping up out of the shadows only to extinguish itself without a joule of energy.
Inoffensive and sterile, yes, and potentially more exhilarating a decade ago, but ‘Forever Young’ refuses to provide any incentive for the consumer to persist with. In that respect, it’s a splendid metaphor for The X Factor itself.
Out now via Syco