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I feel quite ashamed to admit that a pop magazine has become my favourite magazine. I'm 28 and I'm sure that X Factor magazine is meant to be aimed at teenagers. However, it's actually really good!
When I was a teenager, there were loads of music magazines with Smash Hits being the undisputed king of them all. Every week i'd buy Smash Hits, read it from cover to cover, learn the songs on the song lyrics pages and carefully remove the staples from a poster of Mark Owen to blue-tac him to my bedroom wall. It was a ritual that had to be carried out and nobody dared intervene. It was the same in millions of households up and down the country...
Then I grew up, started buying Smash Hits less frequently and was upset to discover a few years ago that it had been taken off sale.
Fast forward to the end of last year and i'm being gripped by X-factor fever (as I always am when the live auditions start on X-Factor) and I see the show's magazine being advertised.
I decided to give it a go because I was desperate for X-factor contestant gossip, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that not only did it have load of stuff about the X-factor show, it also included reviews, interviews and info on loads of established artists too. In short, it was what was great about Smash Hits and TOTP magazine in the mid 90s.
The magazine covers all types of music - pop, RnB, rock, dance etc and each issue has a HUGE amount of stuff in it. It's great for a train journey - if you read it cover to cover you can easily get an hour out of it! (Although I suggest you don't do what I do and turn to your husband and say "Do you know what Tinie Tempah has for breakfast?", as people on on the train start to think you're a bit mad. Or possibly a stalker!
It's out every Wednesday and costs £1.95. Available from all good news agents!
Back when I was a 14, in the year of our Lord 1978, a magazine entitled "Smash Hits" was launched on unsuspecting adolescents.
The magazine was the brainchild of publisher Nick Logan, who was also responsible for "The Face" a magazine that was integral part of any stylish youngster in the 1980s, and using a roster of staff which included David Hepworth, Mark Ellen and Neil Tennant the existing "song sheet" pop magazines found themselves on stony ground.
"Smash Hits" took the song lyrics found in these "song sheets" such as "Disco 45" (I can hear the younger generation asking what a 45 would be, never mind a disco) and combined them with colour, light hearted interviews and a lot of humour.
Sadly "Smash Hits" went the same way as "Disco 45" in 2006, leaving a huge hole in the music publishing world for a magazine which in its early days was read by as many twenty somethings as teens due to the level of wit and humour it displayed.
Of course the internet did for "Smash Hits" - websites such as Pop Justice took over as the voice of pop and teenagers these days seem to prefer to get their information online as opposed to in a magazine.
One thing that seems to join people in debate in 2010 however is the ITV1 show "The X Factor" and someone has had what I consider a very bright idea - let's bring out an X Factor magazine to cash in on the success.
Yes, I appreciate it's a bright, yet obvious idea. Less bright was the initial idea to only sell it in Tesco, but I would say that as a Tesco hater. The bright, but not so obvious idea, is to pick up some of the elements that made ""Smash Hits" a must read for any pop music fan, and thus turn X magazine into something that will appeal to today's youth but also bring out a nostalgic glow in middle aged parents like myself.
X Magazine is published every Wednesday and costs £1.95, which is a bit steep for a weekly magazine but to be fair it is a glossy and printed on a decent quality of paper. One also has to consider the fact that a Mr S Cowell will be getting paid handsomely for licensing the X on the title of the magazine. It was initially a Tesco exclusive product but you can now get it, as they say, "in all good newsagents". Or supermarkets for that matter.
I have always found Simon Cowell to be a strange man. For years he had an appealing common touch - on TV he has managed to grow into a superstar due to this, but he also seems to struggle with the art of self deprecation and at times comes across as a humourless git - his reaction to the Peter Kay spoof Britain's Got the Pop Factor was churlish, and he was equally unamused when Calvin Harris joined in on a Jedward performance last year, banning Harris from his scheduled appearance on The Xtra Factor on ITV2.
So when I heard there was going to be a magazine which contained lots of "X Factor" gossip I was concerned it would be akin to the coverage one gets in some of the red tops - basically a mouthpiece for Cowell and another opportunity for him to tell us who we should vote for.
I found the magazine in a Tesco Express when I was in London several weeks ago - well I say I did - it was actually my daughter who spotted it, and thinking it would be more fitting for that teenage demographic I picked it up for her. The surprising thing was that we were both keen to read it however.
Every cover thus far has featured people associated with "The X Factor" - obviously Cheryl Cole, in her Cowell appointed position of "nation's sweetheart" has featured prominently, and so has Dannii Minogue and Leona Lewis. I would imagine this will continue at least until the show finishes just before Christmas.
Much of the magazine is devoted entirely to the TV show, with gossip on auditions, the finalists, the judges and even the choreographer and vocal coaches. There are articles on the live shows and there are interviews with the contestants after they leave the show.
The style is fun however - there isn't anything that suggests pop music should be taken seriously and the light hearted mocking which "Smash Hits" was so good at returns in some of the interviews with some utterly random questions thrown into interviews, along with slightly more serious stuff along the lines of asking vegetarian animal lover Leona Lewis if she would wear a meat dress like Lady Gaga did at the MTV Awards. No prizes for guessing her answer.
The writing style isn't completely infantile however - whilst there is no denying this is the epitome of "light reading", it isn't done in such a way that you feel you are reading a comic. I am talking to you, editors of "Now" and "Heat" magazines. The editor has managed to strike a balance between what teenagers would enjoy reading and also what older pop fans will be entertained by, so you have, in effect, the magazine world equivalent of a Pixar movie which has something on different levels to please everyone.
Over the past few weeks the magazine has introduced us to the twelve finalists and the four wildcard entries the judges chose for this year's show too - and is a good way for X Factor fans to get to know the acts a little better.
The magazine also features competitions - every week there's been one to get tickets to the live shows for instance - and there is an obligatory "style" section for fashionistas but like the rest of the magazine this is pretty lighthearted. I particularly like how they ask popstars for their fashion rules. Ellie from La Roux gave answers that took me straight back to 1981 and the early days of the New Romantics. Of course my daughter thought her answers were incredibly edgy and made her unique. Ah - the innocence of youth...
There's also one of those "take pictures of stylish girls out in the street" features which has become popular in magazines, but they do ask these girls who their style icon is and why. Most of the girls seem a tad too styled to my cynical eyes, but I can see why the section would appeal to young girls looking for a fashion identity.
The best part of the magazine for me is the back section, called The Final 50 and this is a whimsical, amusing and at times completely irreverent look at the week ahead, including concerts, tickets on sale for concerts, movies, albums, singles and many things you didn't really think you needed to know some of which will make you groan (the picture of Cauli Murs is a groaner) or make you laugh out loud (pointing out the striking similarities between Eoghan Quigg and a polar bear).
"Big Brother" psychologist Judi James does a light hearted analysis of song lyrics, getting to grips in the latest issue with "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga, pop stars are asked to list their favourite songs in the Playlist section and gadgets and apps are featured in here too. The section ends with a celebrity talking about their Life in Music which probes Z Listers about their taste in music, concerts attended and other complete fluff which somehow appeals to me.
The photo captions are the icing on the cake for me - lots of completely random and very funny comments which "Smash Hits" was famous for. It's nice to see that brought right up to date.
If you don't like pop music, or even if you take music pretty seriously, you may well struggle with X Magazine. You also have to put a degree of cynicsm to one side with this magazine - it's clearly another part of "The X Factor" juggernaut and if you don't like the show, you probably won't be interested in the magazine - however it's worth mentioning that none of the judges have regular columns and the coverage isn't quite as fawning as that I have seen in "The Sun" and other Murdoch publications, which surprised me as the magazine is published by Freemantle Media and Simco Ltd (prop. Mr S Cowell).
So if you like a light hearted read about the show and other pop acts, with the emphasis firmly on chart music, this could well be up your street. The fashion side of things suggests the magazine is targeting a predominantly female readership - and this is perhaps the only thing which stops the magazine being as utterly poptastic as "Smash Hits" was in its heydey - the failure to successfully target both genders.
That's a small caveat however. If you like to read something that will take you away from the grind of the nine to five for a while and is actually written in such a way that it's enjoyed by both teenagers and the middle aged then X Magazine could well be for you.