Reggie n Bollie’s (pronounced Bow-lee) unexpected popularity on the Saturday UK entertainment show X Factor has been surprisingly polarising. Just like marmite, people either love them or hate them.
It seems for many, the fact that the duo are not the best singers is of little consequence when pitched against their humility, positivity and knack for bringing high energy and the likeability factor to an otherwise flat show. But there is a camp that has decried the show’s increasing shift towards celebrating those with less vocal ability.
Stevi Ritchie who was considered to be somewhat of a novelty act in X Factor 2014, finished in sixth place surpassing other better singers. Only those naive about the politics driving the X Factor machine would be enraged by the 2015 contestant line-up. Gone are the days when fresh faced youngsters with raw talent and no training put themselves forward for such contests.
Now, many of the acts that grace our screens are groomed for the fame game and are equally astute when it comes to marketing.
Professional Talent Contests
Sister act Fourth Impact has performed in a number of talent contests in their home country of the Philippines and further afield, and have released music. Reggie ‘n’ Bollie are no different. Before they stepped on to the X Factor stage, they had already auditioned on Simon Cowell’s other TV show Britain’s Got Talent as Menn on Pointt and had been cultivating a following for their singles Turnit Up and Celebrate on YouTube since early 2014.
I’ve seen their following extend as far as Brazil where one fan posted a YouTube clip of herself dancing to Turn it Up. The fact that they had already started carving a name for themselves may explain the name switch from Menn on Pointt to Reggie ‘n’ Bollie in the early part of the show. Although a number of newspapers have quoted X Factor as saying the change was for copyright reasons.
Reggie ‘n’ Bollie are experienced entertainers. In Ghana they notched up a string of hits as solo artists and a sizeable fan base. And no doubt, they have the experience of dealing with music biz managers like Simon Cowell. So it stands to reason that knowing how cut throat the industry can be, their presence on the show is an attempt to lay some foundations for a good career in the UK.
Far more than just an entertainment act, Reggie ‘n’ Bollie have brought opportunities that Simon will no doubt exploit. There’s the attempt to tap into youth culture more, by harnessing audiences into such musical genres as dancehall and afrobeats. Remember it was X Factor judge Rita Ora who gave the duo the thumbs up when they performed their own track, and told Simon that their sound was ‘musically relevant’.
By teaming the pair’s performances with Ghanaian afrobeats singer Fuse ODG, X Factor taps into audiences that probably don’t traditionally engage in the show – let alone vote. Many influential Ghanaians in the media, such as record label owner Sway and DJ Abrantee, are galvanising support for the pair by actively encouraging people to vote. More millions for Simon! Even in Ghana, where the show is broadcast on M-net DSTV, viewers are taking advantage of smartphone technology and voting via the X Factor app.
But Ghana stands to gain from this current Reggie-‘n’-Bollie mania. Reggie – the more vocal of the two – makes a point of reminding viewers of their Ghanaian roots. This is then reinforced by their uplifting performances which have tended to incorporate Ghana’s most recent musical export Azonto – thanks to Fuse’s hits.
But unlike Fuse, Reggie ‘n’ Bollie enjoy unfettered access to our living rooms every Saturday. And with that, the duo has exposed a wider slice of X Factor’s viewing audience probably unfamiliar with Azonto. Even judge Cheryl Fernandez Versini learnt some dances moves and wasted no time showing them off during a recent Reggie ‘n’ Bollie performance
It is therefore a pity that for some people, Reggie ‘n’ Bollie’s shortcomings overshadow their achievements and potential. According to online celebrity new site ghanavibes.com, Ghanaian radio personality Don K called the duo a disgrace to Ghana’s music industry because he expected them to perform on big platforms in the UK and US and not on a talent show.
Although X Factor viewing audiences are down on previous years, weekly numbers in November averaged at 5.77 million, according to the UK’s Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB). I doubt any theatre can rival that figure…
Rather, Reggie ‘n’ Bollie have inadvertently become ambassadors for Ghana. They have helped to put the West African country, Ghanaians and Ghana’s musical exports Azonto and Alkayida on the map. Even more than that, these family-orientated men and their likeable personas, have endeared so many people to their hearts – inspite of their singing abilities.