Men, What Do They Know?

BATD ON Dec 03, 2008 AT 2:16 pm

Ant and Seb audition

Ant and Seb audition

This week Iain Laurie has his say on reality TV featuring the good the bad and the out right ugly.

Of all of the contestants on all of the talent contests this year, my favourite was the Welsh song/rap duo Ant & Seb ( – it’s worth reminding yourselves). Ant sang Peter Andre’s beautiful ‘Mysterious Girl’ while his brother provided all of the mystery with his strange ‘rapped’ ad-libs. When they were rejected they couldn’t believe it, they were sure that they were good enough. Mind you, their little trainee Hitler moustaches should have given us a clue as to the quality of their judgement. However, to my memory Seb is the best rapper I have ever seen on The X Factor. It is a genre which is woefully underrepresented on the show.

This seems strange to me as hip-hop tends to throw up the most deluded of characters – I’m thinking of you Tim Westwood – and more than talent or factors X or otherwise, self-delusion would seem to be the single most important characteristic required to appear on the show. You could reason that X-Factor isn’t ‘street’ enough for any self-respecting rapper to appear on but again if there is a genre that caters for the self-respectless it is hip-hop. And Lemar was in the Fame Academy and he still seems to think he’s pretty hard.

As a disciple of hip-hop and its history, I’m sure Seb will be aware of the breakbeat scene of the early 1980s. Back then DJs used to mix records together, using only the instrumental parts, and create a tapestry of disparate songs. It became a challenge amongst the DJing fraternity to mix in the geekiest, most point-dexterly records they could. The Sugar Hill Gang managed it and earned a great deal of admiration for having a hit which sampled the song ‘Apache’ by Cliff Richard’s backing band ‘The Shadows.’ The attraction was in the incongruity of it – making something slick and fashionable from something awkward and fuddy-duddy.

This attraction to incongruity has recently been resurrected in the lumbering shape of John Sergeant on Strictly Come Dancing. At first I thought that Jo Brand was back for another stab at winning the show. Maybe she’d felt hard done by last time and decided to try her luck again and disguised herself with a bald wig. Her face, body and voice appear to be identical to Sergeant’s. It must have been to dispel these doubts that John started making witty comments. But the thirst for incongruity on ‘Strictly’ doesn’t end with John Sergeant and dancing, there’s Brucie and delivering scripted jokes, Arlene Phillips and opinions, Tess and TV presenting. Indeed there’s even Tess’s dubiously mis-shapen breasts and the rest of her body. We the viewers seem to enjoy this sledge-hammering of square pegs into round holes.

I’m sure back in Wales Ant & Seb are still rapping their way around the valleys, convinced of their gift for spitting rhyme. But maybe they’re missing a trick. Since we all know them as a pair of badass motherf***ahz, if they came back on X Factor next year singing operatic arias or jazz standards, Simon would surely appreciate the incongruity and put them through.

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