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Popstars: TV does it again.

posted by Paul on 3/22/01

Most of you non-British readers won't know this, but there's a craze currently engulfing the good old UK. A craze for the fly-on-the-wall hi-jinks of "real people" acting silly in front of the cameras. The old "reality television" beast is popular all over the world, with recent US entries like "Temptation Island" moving the genre into the realm of truly absurd. Yet they still meet with great success and insane media attention. It's cheap television to produce, but the ratings confirm that we're all a bunch of voyeurs, finding pleasure in the roving microscope of the docu-soap. It's all so Orwellian: simply watching people living their lives, the little dramas and mini-crises exaggerated for the sensationalist cameras.

The recent UK edition of "Popstars" hooked millions of viewers and transformed five regular joes into stars. There had been pre-cursors: shows about airports, shows about car park attendants, shows about holiday reps, and even shows about fat women trying to pass their driving tests. No kidding. All wildly successful. All turning their characters into mini-celebs. "Popstars", however, was slightly different, for it had a purpose in mind. Originally conceived as a twelve part series about making a Pop Band, the show was always destined for success, but it surpassed the expectations of even the most enthusiastic producer.

It's a cult.

It's a regular fixture in the tabloids.

It's made its characters huge, and its eventual band ENORMOUS.

And it doesn't show any signs of letting up. The show recently ended its very lucrative run, but the tension within the show gripped the nation, and media types discussed it like it was the end of the world. In fact, fucking "Popstars" got more coverage than the threat of Y2K. Scary. You need to know that Britain isn't a very exciting place. No NYC or LA, where people have crazy social lives and active self-obsession. People's lives in Britain generally revolve around soccer/sport, going to the pub and becoming emotionally involved in manipulative TV shows. Not to stereotype too much, but that's a fair generalization. Some are even proud of that description, using it to intimidate foreigners or something equally as moronic.

The Beginning

Three judges are charged with the responsibility of selecting a five-piece Pop Band. They have to wade through thosands of people who somehow have deluded themsleves into thinking they have the necessary tools to appear in a band. Some are downright ugly, while others sound like excited seals. That's not even a joke. The sad thing is, many of these talentless wannabes had the brass to screech in front of three unimpressed judges and rooms filled with hundreds of people. Their stubborness has to be admired, at least. If you've ever seen "The King of Comedy" and found it funny, you'd be in kinks at this show.

The weeding out process occupies a few episodes of the show. And there are some hilarious moments. Like an Adam Ant lookalike and Harvey Fierstein soundalike trying to sing Britney Spears, and numerous weirdos looking like they're having epileptic fits ( but actually attempting to dance ); a ginger man quivering to Steps was THE moment of the series. The man didn't look like a Popstar. He didn't act like a Popstar. He didn't even sound human. But he was encouraged to fight his nerves and at least try to sing in an act of self-determination. Or humiliation. Truly inspiring stuff for anyone who shows up in a place they don't belong. Like Tori Spelling for an acting job, or Joey Fatone on a stage.

The Judges
Nigel was nicknamed "Nasty Nigel" by those oh-so-witty tabloid headline writers - the sort of people who need to tag everyone with an alliterative description. "Dirty Den", "Saucy Susan", "Happy Hitler". He was basically called "nasty" just because he had the decency to cut to the chase and spit out the truth. After hours spent listening to aliens trying to sing, anyone would have grown frustrated. Even the Pope. Nigel simply told these goons they had no right to breathe and were wasting time he could be spending squeezing out a greasy turd. No harm in that, eh? Exactly.

Paul is the trademark nice guy ( must run in the name ). The yin to Nigel's supposed yang. The guy has the longest face in the history of television, and he's quite possibly the reddest human ever. Not criticizing, just that I had to scramble for the remote and adjust the contrast every time he appeared on TV. He's also an emotional soul. Every time they had to dump a would-be star, Paul's head sunk into his hands and crocodile tears would well up. His hands might as well have been attached to his head, since he was either sighing into a cupped paw or wiping away another stream pouring from his eyeball.

Nicki was the snotty one. The requisite bitchy female, and since she managed buck-toothed Billie Piper, she may also be the anti-Christ. That, or a really annoying woman. I haven't quite decided. Either way, she cried only once, and that was as insincere as a Sally Field acceptance speech.

The auditions were attended by thousands of hopefuls ( and more hopeless ), and while the band was eventually whittled down to five, two of the most memorable rejects were Darius and Cheryl. Darius has taken on icon status, because despite being ditched from the auditions, he remains the world's most self-confident man. And even that is understatement. Tall and with a suave Sean Connery twang, Darius was Mr Cool. The guy could sing, he could even dance, but he just refused to believe he was not cut out for this band. And the only reason he was cut out of the band was because he had the ego of three John Travoltas. But he soldiers on, still convincing himself he'll be the next big thing. Who knows? If Mandy Moore can score a recording contract, there's hope for us all. Cheryl, on the other hand, had a different problem. Basically, she had arguably the strongest voice of any of the females, but she was jilted for "not looking right": a tactful way of saying "you're fat, unattractive and the complete opposite of what we envision a Pop Star to be". And you can't argue with that choice. Pavarroti has a great voice, but you wouldn't pay to see him bobbing around in tight khakis singing about teenage girls. And, if you would, you might be beyond therapy.

The Final Choice

This was a closely guarded secret for many weeks, and when the "revelation" show aired, the nation went into collective hysterics. Such fulfilling lives we lead. Would it be the obviously gay guy or the Irish smoothie? Would it be the ballsy ladette or the token black girl? Oh, the tension. Kept me awake for days. And after lots of onscreen histrionics and staged tension ( not to mention the obligatory blubbing - snots and all ), the final five were unveiled. Hear'say:

Danny is the quiet member of Hear'say. Smiles a lot, talks about his Mom and has a damn strong voice. He also has a fat girlfriend, who worries that all the teenage girls might steal her man. In fact, if she has any sense at all, she'd be more worried about the teenage boys, since it's obvious Danny is as camp as...* insert something very camp here *. For a long time, it looked like Danny wasn't getting into the band. Laid back and emotional, he lacked the sneakiness of the other contenders. But his big grin and enormous penis helped him through.

Talent Rating: 3 out of 5. With a fine young cannibal voice like that, he's sure to go far.

Noel is easily the most popular, since he has the Pacey factor - that indefinable "it". He just acts like himself, doesn't seem to overly care about his appearance and girls love him for his rugged charisma. Strong vocals and a good sense of humor made him a hit, but he's the most likely to venture into other areas of the media. He has a good personality, a laid back attitude and he adores his Mom. Look for him on TV in two years.

Talent Rating: 4 out of 5. The Robbie Williams of the group. Take that for what's it worth.

Kym was always destined to be in the group. That much was clear. One of those characters you either love or hate, depending on how you view people constantly hogging the camera and never shutting the hell up about their viewpoints. Talks and acts a lot like Scary Spice, and her dominance shines through. Wouldn't mess with her, even if she is only 4'10. She also has two kids, which is not surprising, since she can't exactly pull off the Britney Spears act. But then, if you read the papers, Britney can't even pull off that act. Constantly worries about her weight and looks like the sort of girl who'd enjoy a few pints and a quick shag. Oops.

Talent Rating: 4 out of 5. Very strong voice and a natural leader. She'll probably marry one of her dancers, before realizing he's gay. Then she'll give birth, divorce and release some covers. Sure to make a play for a solo gig in the future. Or end up with five more sprogs in a council flat. Toss the coin and find out.

Myleene is despised by many of the more vigilant fans ( read: bitchy fans ). Rumored to be in the band only through association, Myleene is all-in-all the smuggest in the group. And probably the most talented. She was scarcely featured on the show until the "revelation" episode. That alone is fishier than Madonna's underwear. However, she's justified her role in the group with a strong voice, bubbly personality and excellent oral skills.

Talent Rating: 5 out of 5. Well, she's trained and can actually play an instrument. That means a lot. Like I can judge musical talent.

Suzanne fills out the "cute girl" quota. Small and energetic, you could fit her in your back pocket. Ok, so I lie, but it's still a pleasing thought. She looks very similar to Hannah from S Club 7, but..yeah. Just had to be said. Smiles a lot, used to fuck a footballer on a regular basis and is obsessed with her weight. Hmm, sounds suspiciously like Baby Spice. Except Suzanne doesn't have teeth that are three inches long.

Talent Rating: 3 out of 5. Not a bad singer, but definitely not the best - in the group or from the auditions. You sense she's only really there for her looks, but she definitely has talent. Just pales in comparison to the rest of the group. But, who cares?

The Song

Wherever you go, whatever you do

It's pure and simple,

I'll be there for you

You've been saying that I'm driving you crazy,

And I haven't been around for you lately,

But I've had a few things on my mind.

When I'm with you I am filled with emotion,

Can't you see that I'm giving you devotion,

And a love like this is hard to find.

I know I've been walking around in a daze,

Baby, baby

You gotta believe me when I say,

Oooh, oooh

Wherever you go (I'll always be there)

Whatever you do (I know I'm gonna be there)

It's pure and simple (Yeah yeah yeah)

I'll be there for you (Pure and simple gonna be there)

It may not look like much on the page, but this song is a catchy treat, baby. I'm no music meister, so don't hold me to it, but "Pure and Simple" is one of those pleasant numbers that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Like Marilyn Manson. I'm sure that'll fade with time, since I change my musical favor as much as I change my underwear ( once a month ).

This song will go down in history as the fastest selling UK debut single of all time. No mean feat, since the UK Top 40 is one of the most credible in the world. Why, just at Christmas, a song about a kid's tv show character called "Bob the builder" hit number one. In fact, this track is just trailing a song about starving kids and a tribute to a dead princess in terms of sales. Beggars belief, no?

The Future

Now, the big test is here. The show is over and the crutch of twelve million viewers is gone, but Hear'say have reached the pinnacle of pop success: yet questions remain. They can sing live, they're well-liked and unlike the majority of bands, they're household names. Viewers were rooting for their success, but time will tell if this is the fourteenth minute of their fame, or whether their sugar pop is here to stay.

Britain has had a veritable mountain of one-hit wonders and few of the reality show icons have gone on to enjoy lasting success. Although few of them appeared live at the Brit Awards or had multi-million pounds record deals. Nevertheless, these five young stars are in a better place now than they've ever been. It could all disappear tomorrow, but has it been worthwhile?

Pure and simple.



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