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Survivor, Game Theory, and John NashUK Popstars 2, Weeks 14-16: The Endby Phil Lewin -- 12/24/2002
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Due to a period of ill-health, I haven't been able to update you upon the thrilling developments on Popstars - the Rivals for a couple of weeks. As much as I'd like to blame my incapacitation on having to endure the increasingly deranged nature of the show, that was not the cause unfortunately, although seeing Geri Halliwell still leering into the camera after all these weeks did not help my recovery at all.
Anyway, I last left you with the final five members of the rival boy and girl bands having been decided and the band names chosen. This left two weeks to record the singles and accompanying videos and to hit the promotional trail before their official release on 16 December and the announcement on which one (if either) would be the Christmas number one single on 22 December.
Most people reading this review in the UK and Ireland have almost certainly heard and are probably already heartily sick of both bands' songs. Readers anywhere else in the world can consider themselves very fortunate not to have heard them and I would estimate the chances of both acts crossing over into the American market as roughly zero. For the uninitiated, here is a brief review.
The boys (One True Voice)
"Sacred Trust." A twee track written by the Bee Gees, who have provided much source of inspiration for unimaginative boy band covers in the past. Pete Waterman, who produced the track, is of course still best known for his twiddly synthesised disco hits in the latter half of the eighties by the likes of Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue, Bananarama and many others long forgotten. This tune could almost be a throwback with its cheesy melodies and annoyingly catchy hook. Like his eighties tunes, you might thoroughly hate it but you can't get it out of your head. The chorus sounds remarkably similar to an old Pete Waterman-produced Christmas track by Aussie soap star Jason Donovan, 'When you come back to me,' but slowed down a bit. Ominously for Pete, that track only reached number two in the charts back in 1989.
"After You're Gone." A sweeter and far less cheesy R Kelly-like ballad, co-written by Pete and Daniel. This is by far a better song and proof that there is actually genuine talent in the band, but unfortunately this one was not promoted as the 'A' track.
The girls (Girls Aloud)
"Sound of the Underground." There is an obvious irony of a blatantly manufactured pop act praising the virtues of the 'underground', but putting that aside, there is some nice edgy guitar work starting off this track accompanied by a banging drum 'n' bass baseline. Unfortunately the girls then start singing and it descends into what sounds like a filler track from the Spice Girls' second album. The stylist for the accompanying video also manages to ruin the girls' fresh natural look and makes them look like hookers writhing in a cage, although arguably this worked for Christina Aguilera.
"Stay Another Day." A big Christmas number one for Brit boy band East 17 back in 1994. The girls' version is melodic enough but it drifts in one ear and out the other and is instantly forgettable once it's gone.
In keeping with the tone of the series, as soon as the bands performed their songs on TV for the first time, the two managers, Pete Waterman and Louis Walsh, promptly started to slag each other's proteges off, casting aside all the praise that they had showered during the eliminations. "The girls have the style and look but not great voices," moaned Pete. "The boys are like a tribute Westlife act - they don't have the X-factor," countered Louis. "People criticise reality TV but there is no reality here," answered Pete, pointing at Louis. And so on. The childish spats of course gave Geri Halliwell the ideal opportunity, not for the first time, to be completely condescending. "It makes me laugh watching the silly boys," she sniffed. "It's all so really personal for the pair." Geri of course is the voice of maturity and has never had any cause for ego-fuelled arguments with anyone, least of all when she walked out of the Spice Girls.
Yet the rivalry between the judges sank to a whole new level when Pete went as far as to accuse Louis of using session singers on 'Sound of the Underground' instead of the girls themselves, claiming that he had heard a demo version of the track several weeks previously which sounded exactly the same. Louis angrily counter-accused Pete of lying and has threatened legal action if he continued to repeat this story. To add to the confusion, a newspaper also revealed that the girls' song was originally written for and recorded by another now defunct girl band called Orchid and their voices can still be heard as backing on Girls Aloud's recording. As both Pete and Louis have proved increasingly schizophrenic in their dealings with each other, it remains to be seen whether they shake hands and make up or whether this particular disagreement does make it into the courts. I doubt whether it will, but it would probably make more interesting viewing than Popstars - The Rivals.
The week immediately before the single releases saw an intense round of video and photo shoots and media appearances as both OTV and GA (to which both bands will be henceforth abbreviated) shuttled around dozens of obscure local radio stations. Both bands got very excited to hear their songs on the radio for the first time and both spent a lot of time slagging off their rivals' song. All stuff which we had largely seen before on the first and seemingly never to be referred to again series of Popstars, presumably due to the subsequent rapid demise of its final band.
And then the two rival singles hit the shops and everyone waited with baited breath for Sunday and the big announcement of which one would be the Christmas number one. Except that the tabloids and pop-related websites conveniently kept a day by day update on how sales were going and by Sunday it had already become clear that one of the two singles had built up a substantial sales lead and would, bar a near-impossible last-minute turnaround, be number one. Indeed the successful band had performed as the Christmas number one act on ITV's pop show the day before.
But this minor technicality was not going to stop Davina McCall hosting a suitably overdramatic live show. "The Christmas number one is what everyone wants - this year's number one will join some real classics," she yelled. Without any apparent irony, we then saw a montage of shame comprising the UK's Christmas number one singles from the last ten years which included the mighty talents of the Spice Girls (three times), Westlife (thankfully just the once), Whitney Houston's and Michael Jackson's most nauseous songs ever and, to cap it all off, Mr Blobby (who for readers outside the UK was a big ugly pink creature, like Barney for the intellectually-challenged) and Bob the Builder, who has probably still sold more copies of his CD worldwide than either of the two bands will ever do.
The judges then somewhat over-dramatically walked on through a fog of dry ice. Louis and Pete were reminded that they had once worked together on Westlife's Christmas single and Louis made a shock announcement. "We'll both work together again!" Although after the show, he was again demanding that Pete should retire, so I hope he makes his mind up soon.
And, at long last, the boys and girls both came on stage, all dressed in white and, very seasonally, sang 'Winter Wonderland' together. It sounded like a number from an old Andy Williams Christmas special, but Davina was impressed (which admittedly never takes much). Davina then decided that she was going to play matchmaker. "Matt has no girlfriend," she cried. "This is a crime! If there are any interested girls out there, send your details to me!" Aaaaargh! This is not Blind Date! However, Matt may not have to wait long for love as Britney Spears (who just coincidentally happens to be on the same record label) mysteriously stated this week that she finds Matt 'cute'. And if you believe that…
"This week's battle of the sexes has caused outrage, controversy and major bust-ups around the country," continued Davina (where?) before introducing a montage of not very famous (except for Britney) celebrities passing on their support to the boys or girls (or sometimes both).1 2 Next-->
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