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27 May 2011

Will Cheryl Cole return to British X-Factor? We need to know

Thank heavens for the broadsheets, asking the questions to which the British public needs answers.

By Steven Baxter

Cheryl Cole, our dimple-cheeked Queen of Talent Show Hearts, has been dumped. Dumped, I tell you. And a nation mourns. Our transatlantic cousins, we are told, struggle to get their ears around her Geordie diphthongs, and fail to see the attraction of the Cornetto-legged former Girls Aloud warbler.

First, they threw away our tea – now, they throw away our talent show judges! How could the Yanks reject our big-haired Princess of Pop? How could they? How could they eschew the breezy charm of the nation’s favourite much-misunderstood songstress?

Well, this means war. No more shirtsleeve barbecues for our great leaders. No more speeches from Barack Obama of such great historical resonance that they cause Ken Clarke to drift into a gentle slumber. (Though, to be fair to him, it wasn’t “classic” sleep, where one goes to bed in pyjamas and a nightcap, and therefore shouldn’t really be considered sleep at all.) No. We are now at war with the United States. This is Colegate. This is serious.

You might say to me, “Oh come now, Baxter, you and your so-called words in your so-called blog, what are you on about? This isn’t a serious business, is it? This isn’t worthy of discussion.” You might be one of those people who decides that certain subjects are not fit to be talked about beneath certain mastheads, deeming them somehow low culture and unworthy of inspection.

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But I am not alone in recognising the seriousness of this event, the magnitude of Ms Cole’s ejection from the US X-Factor, the true enormity of the tossing aside of this once-great talent of our fair shores by those ignorant folks on the other side of the Pond.

As ever, the broadsheets take apart the real issues of the day, wondering if she should return to the British X Factor as a nation comes to terms with its grief. But we have moved from denial to anger swiftly, and the highbrow news outlets want to howl over the corpse of Cole’s Stateside career. This isn’t just a story for Daybreak viewers, but Radio 4 listeners. This is a big deal.

Catherine Gee in the Telegraph wondered: “How could the Americans do this to our national heroine? Was it her hair (too large)? Her voice (too Geordie)? Her personality (too boring)?” Stuart Heritage in the Guardian had similar fears: “Maybe it was the accent, maybe it was the colossal hair, maybe it was the time she wore a dress that was quite similar to Paula Abdul’s.”

The Independent‘s Adam Sherwin pointed the finger at Simon Cowell, saying: “When the ruthless music mogul decides the show must go on, but without one of his star protégés, the end is usually swift.” But the BBC’s Fiona Bailey added a sinister note to proceedings: “As the news spreads across the pond, back home in the UK, some fans are wondering whether her role on the show was a glorified PR stunt.”

Rejoice, rejoice!

A PR stunt, you say? Good God. Next you’ll be telling me that Denmark hasn’t banned Marmite, despite all the acres of newsprint devoted to Denmark having apparently banned Marmite earlier this week, which entirely coincidentally gave a shedload of free publicity to the yeast spread.

Would Simon Cowell really be that sly? Would Cheryl – our Cheryl, the harem-panted angel of our hearts – really be willing to be part of such subterfuge, or is she just a pawn in Cowell’s devious masterplan? Oh, Cheryl. Are you merely a tiny cog in Uncle Simon’s big machine, or are you his cackling sidekick? We must know. We have to know.

Of course, you see what’s happened here. I started off with every intention of avoiding the “why did Cheryl Cole get dumped by America, you heartless brutes?” article, and snidely making fun of people who churned out such pieces for the broadsheets, as if I am somehow better than them even though I’m considerably less successful than they are, yet I’ve ended up doing it myself. I could try and climb on to a high horse and say that news should just be about Libya or Ratko Mladic, but I know that’s not sensible – I’m just as interested in this as everyone else.

So what’s my theory? Do I adopt the tinfoil hat and see Cowell twirling his villainous moustache? No, I don’t think so. Some people just don’t travel well. It’s probably not the accent, or the hair, or the dimples, or anything like that; she’s just not famous enough, or popular enough, to be as well liked over there as she is here.

Sad, but their loss is our gain. We get to have our Cheryl back. The tabloids (and the broadsheets) rejoice.