Monday, December 29, 2003

Story time!

We're always concerned here at Panda Pops that we need to recognise the diversity of our audience. One thing that we worried about in recent months that with all this talk of buff hotties and the sending of death threats to Evanescence, there was nothing on this blog suitable for our younger readers. So, in the aim of redressing this unfortunate oversight, we bring you what we hope will be the first of many editions of Panda Pops Story Time!

Today's story: William's Career Day

It was yet another rainy day in Hungerford. William stood on tiptoes on his bed and peered out of the window. Outside in the street, the mums and dads and boys and girls were wearing their plastic raincoats and carrying umbrellas. William sighed. He didn't want to go to school today.


William's mum Annabel was standing by the door.

"Come on William, you'll be late for school. You don't want to be late today, it's Career Day!"

William's heart sank. Now he really didn’t want to go to school. Career Day didn’t sound like much fun. William’s best friend Gareth was having career problems, no one was buying his records any more. William didn’t want to end up like that, and he didn’t want his teacher, Mr Cowell, to shout at him.

“William?” shouted his mum from downstairs. “Don’t forget to put your wellingtons on, it’s very wet outside!”

William had a brilliant idea. He ran to the cupboard and grabbed his special Wish Wellingtons. He shut his eyes and began to concentrate very hard.

“I wish…I wish…I wish my career was still really successful!”

William’s wish wellingtons sparkled as he made his wish. He quickly pulled on his plastic raincoat from behind the door, and hurried downstairs to join his mum.

The school day seemed very long for William that day. All through painting, and sums, and even through his favourite class – music – he was worried about how Career Day would go. He’d already seen Gareth looking very worried after coming back from his talk with Mr Cowell, and he didn’t like the way the new girl Michelle was looking at him.

Just after lunchtime, when William was in the middle of reading his favourite book about the animals on the riverbank, Mr Cowell called him up for his careers talk.

“You look worried, William,” said Mr Cowell. “Please, sit down. I can assure you, you have nothing to worry about. The latest sales figures are very healthy. Your new single and album have both made number one, your single sold well enough for some shops to run out, and your album sales have been faster than those of your debut. This is all very encouraging.”

William breathed a sigh of relief. Once again, his wish wellingtons had done the job.

“Can I ask you something, Mr Cowell?” said William.

“Of course you can, William,” said Mr Cowell.

“Well, that new girl, Michelle – she keeps looking at me all funny. Is she okay?” asked William.

“Oh, yes, Michelle,” said Mr Cowell. “Well, it’s funny, really. We weren’t expecting her to be here. There was a lot of competition for the empty place at this school, and she won the vote. She doesn’t seem to be coping well, though. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d left us by next Christmas.”

William smiled inwardly. His wish wellingtons had brought Michelle to the school because she posed no threat to him; the wish wellingtons had disposed of the real competition many rounds previously. His career was safe, and he could stay at the Pop Idol school in comfort and reassurance. How helpful his Wish Wellingtons were!

The End.

There’ll be more from Will Young’s Wish Wellingtons soon, if we feel like it.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Oh good God, another retrospective...

Oh, quit yer complainin'. Everyone else is doing it, I don't see why we shouldn't hop on the bandwagon. That's what pandas do best, after all. We at Panda Pops will remember 2003 as the year where a lot of things went wrong for music - lots of utter bollocks got to number one, and lots of brilliance missed out completely. But fear not, our retrospective will put this right. Something has to come out of this shambles...

Top Five Number Ones of 2003


Never underestimate the power of sass. The horns, that booty, the "uh oh uh oh uh oh" - Beyoncé's 'Crazy in Love' was as close to a perfect pop song as we're likely to get. Certainly the best song to get to number one this year, anyway. Never has a song made me shake my ass in the shower and not even care that I'm spraying water all over the walls like this has. Out of all four categories in this retrospective, this was the only category where the winner was miles ahead of the rest of the top five. The Sugas, Will, tATu and Xtina all made a valid attempt, but Beyoncé wins by an ass-mile.


Top Five Inexcusable Number Ones of 2003


Oh, what a shitshow, as Ché nearly sings in Evita. We've had a lot of utter crap at number one this year, but this was the stinkiest piece of sewage that we had to endure. Everything about this record is wrong - the histrionic vocals, the hilariously melodramatic video, the pompous lyrics, and most of all the fact that the general public seem to think that a woman fronting a grunge band qualifies as originality. Well, hopefully they're disabused of that notion now that Evanesence have released two other singles which sound exactly the same. A little part of me wanted to put Ozzy and Kelly at number one, but at least that one will let us enjoy Kelly Osbourne's future dismay when she can't understand why none of her other records will make the top ten again.


Top Five Inexcusable Non-Number Ones of 2003


This is Beyoncé's only real rival for single of the year. Go here for a full examination of why Girls Aloud's single is technically superior. Personally, we love it because the thumping surf guitar picks up right from where 'Sound of the Underground' left off, and because the lyrics to this song are yet another example of how you can write a pop song about growing up that isn't patronising and is recognisable. Obviously, it gets bonus points for getting the word "anaesthetise" into its chorus, and for having Nicola speak the final talky line. And the bit in the video where they all flicker and turn into each other is rather fab too - okay, it's a cheap video, but it has aspirations of greater things, and who can blame it for that? The fact that the "Great" British Public chose R Kelly's 'Ignition (Remix)' as the superior single in 'No Good Advice's week of release just goes to show how much the average British IQ decreased during 2003. For further examples of this, look at the results of Pop Idol.


Top Five Albums of 2003


This was an interesting category, since I found it really hard to choose between the top three, and then I found it hard to find two other albums to fill up the top five. Sophie pipped it in the end, just for being the most innovative, lyrically fascinating, aurally stimulating and moving album I've heard this year. My favourite song on this album has changed so many times, but I can really recommend 'The Walls Keep Saying Your Name', 'I Am Not Good At Not Getting What I Want', 'You Get Yours' and 'Making Music' as some of the tracks that everyone should listen to. Again, the Great British Public in their eternal wisdom decided to buy five couple of Dido's ultra-bland offering and leave this on the shelves, but if you own this album you can rejoice in knowing that you're approximately 98 times more intelligent than someone who bought Life for Rent. Hurrah!


Well, that's our retrospective over and done with. And if you disagree with us? Botherd.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Let's party like it's 2002...

Hands up if you think this year's Christmas number one, 'Mad World' by Gary Jules, is far too depressing? Yup, me too. We want jollity and warmth at this time of year, not maudlin suicide music.

So, as a special Christmas treat, we at Panda Pops have done a quick crash course in manipulating the space-time continuum, and with the help of some fairy dust, a magic gourd and Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we've managed to move the world back one year and make it so that 'Sound of the Underground' by Girls Aloud is the Christmas number one again! Hooray!

Now if you'll excuse us, the neighbour's banging on the bathroom wall...

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Seasons greetings, etc.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all those who read this site. Hell, since I'm feeling charitable, the same to those who don't read this site, even though they're clearly twats.

Whatever religious festival you may be celebrating, I hope it's ace for you. And, to remind you all what Christmas is really all about, here's a picture of Nicola Roberts finding out she's made it into the final ten of Popstars: The Rivals:

Have a Nicola Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

The obligatory post-Pop Idol comment

Hmmm. What are we to say about the conclusion of Pop Idol for another year, possibly longer? Obviously on the one hand we're quite glad that Michelle won and not Mark, since Mark is so utterly bland and boring. But that's a bit like saying you're glad you only got glandular fever when you could have ended up with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It would have been nice to have cared about at least one of the finalists, but my overriding emotion when watching the show last night was one of just wanting it to be over and done with.

I'm sure Cowell and co are pleased with the result (Pete Waterman obviously isn't, judging by his absence on ITV2 after the result was announced), especially since they broke phone voting and interactive texting records last night and received over 10 million votes. I'm personally quite surprised that the general public managed to get so hysterical over what were effectively two disappointingly average contenders.

The show itself also kind of left me cold. The original Pop Idol final between Will Young and Gareth Gates had a real sense of occasion to it, everyone had picked a side and we all sat down to watch our representatives do battle. This year we were "treated" to a three hour programme, an alarming chunk of which was filler of the direst variety. When I saw Kate Thornton visiting a call centre to show us how our votes are recorded, I'm sure I heard the sound of a barrel being scraped into splinters somewhere at 19TV. I was also alarmed that Daniel, the famous "stalker" contestant who won the right to sing on the final while the votes were being counted, somehow managed to get more performance time than most of the people who made the final 50. Somehow I think that's not really going to discourage the truly talentless from applying for the third series.

There were only really two moments that made the final for me: one was Mark's "gormless" (you're hardly one to talk, Thornton) cousin revealing on live television that he's "always putting things in his mouth", prompting Ant and Dec to dissolve into giggles and make a series of innuendos not entirely suitable for a pre-Watershed audience. The other was Michelle's victory speech:

"I'll kill everyone in this town who was ever mean to me!"

Obviously no residual bitterness there.

I think the most worrying part of last night for me was the amount of bum notes that were hit. Mark and Michelle being flat, I can understand, since they are both competent singers at best. Will Young popping in to sing an album track and singing flat, that bothers me. There must be some kind of toxic talent-remover in the studio, that's the only explanation I can come up with.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

I forgot to record Peep Show last night.


I don't suppose there are any rich benefactors reading this who want to buy me a Sky+ Box for Christmas?

Monday, December 15, 2003

Things that have amused me today

On The Idols' version of Happy Xmas (War Is Over), Chris gets two lines. Throughout these two lines, he only hits about two notes correctly, so preoccupied is he with showing off by warbling. Thus, he stands out as being the worst singer in the competition - which is what we suspected all along. Hurrah!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

The time to state an allegiance...

Now, we gave up watching Pop Idol when Susanne left. Frankly, any voting public who thought that she was only fifth-best of all the contenders this year doesn't deserve a Pop Idol. Although we were quite pleased when Chris made his (long overdue) exit last week. And we were also pleased to learn that Sam went this week. So, although we won't be watching the final, here's a reminder of our feelings:

It's hilarious in the extreme that Mark made the final twelve, let alone the final two. He's a competent enough singer, but he's no pop star. A pub singer at best, we feel. No offence to pub singers or anything, but it's a completely different art. So, a hilarious joke, good for him etc. But he can't be allowed to win, that would just be silly.

Michelle, if you'll recall, wasn't our favourite. In fact she was our third-favourite, behind Susanne and Roxanne. But since all the boys apart from Andy have been rubbish this year, we're backing Michelle to win. Go on, you can see how much she wants it. Vote for Michelle.

Just out of interest, why are people voting for Mark? He's so generally rubbish. The only thing I can think of is that all along people have been confusing him with the other Marc, who may not have been a brilliant contender either, but was at least very pretty. See?

Yum. Come to papa.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

And the Panda cried: "This madness must be stopped!"

Okay, I've got as much of a sense of humour as the next person, but this is just trying my patience now. I have tolerated the fact that 2003 has been in many ways a disastrous year for chart music, with excellent singles like Sweet Dreams My LA Ex and No Good Advice being held off the top spot, while utter bilge such as Evanescence's Bring Me To Life, the Black Eyed Peas' Where Is The Love? and Westlife's godawful cover of Mandy have triumphed. But enough is enough and this must end now.

Apparently Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne are to be number one this week with Changes. This song is possibly the greatest aberration against music since Simon Cowell said "Rosie, are you okay to do The Winner Takes It All this Saturday?" and I cannot understand how anyone could manage to listen to it all the way through, even once, even as a test of determination. This nonsense must be stopped, so I beg and plead with you, if you have even entertained the thought of buying this awful, awful record, repent now before it is too late, and instead go to the shops and buy two or three copies of Funky Dory by Rachel Stevens, which, despite not really being a patch on her debut, is still infinitely superior to Caterwauling Kelly.

Be warned: there are those who say that Rachel's failure to make the top twenty means an end to talentless no hopers trying to make it in the music industry. These people are fools, for Kelly Osbourne is the most talentless chancer there ever was, and it has been prophesied in at least three ancient documents that if Kelly Osbourne ever has a number one single, the world will end at midnight.

And if you need any further convincing/punishment, watch The Osbournes on Friday. Come on, does that kind of bratty behaviour merit rewarding with a number one? No, it merits suffocation with a kingsize duvet.

DISCLAIMER: Panda Pops does not condone murder of any kind. Though if you were hatching a plot to rid the world of Kelly Osbourne, we'd look the other way and pretend we hadn't seen anything.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Just don't say a bloody word...

Which Muskehound are you?

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Not Funky, and of questionable Doriness

I have to admit, I haven't always spoken fondly of Rachel Stevens. I don't doubt for a second that Sweet Dreams My LA Ex was one of the best pop songs of this year, but the other track on the CD, Little Secret, was a big disappointment. And lovely as Rachel is (when I went to see Top of the Pops being filmed a few years back, Rachel was the only S Clubber to look cheerful and actually acknowledge the audience), I wasn't convinced that she had sufficient charisma to carry a solo career.

But all this talk of her second single Funky Dory not even making the top twenty causes me great distress, because it's fucking ace. First of all, the line into the chorus goes "BAM! SLAM!" - which is something that doesn't happen nearly enough in modern music. Second of all, it contains one of the best long "woah-oah-oah-oah-oah-oah-oah-oah-oah-oah-oah-oah-oah" notes in history as Rachel works her way down several octaves.

It doesn't matter that Rachel probably doesn't even get the David Bowie references in this song. It doesn't matter that Rachel is a rubbish ad-libber. It doesn't matter that the lyrics to the chorus are a bit duff. This song is still fucking brilliant in my book, and it will be joining Overrated by Siobhan Donaghy on my list of genius songs that people just didn't appreciate when they had the chance. Bah.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Natalie Bassingthwgreat!

One good thing about having spent a week at home with my parents is the fact that I've been able to catch up on the goings-on Ramsey Street way. As you may have noticed, I have expressed huge appreciation of the addition of Natalie Bassingthwaighte to the cast, because she has the Best Surname Ever (it has at least three superfluous letters, how ace is that?). Now I have had time to see how Izzy Hoyland actually fits in to the story, and it's ace. It's been ages since Neighbours had a good new-character-is-clearly-evil-but-only-one-regular-character-can-spot-it-and-no-one-believes-them storyline, and I will be taking bets shortly on who will triumph out of Izzy and Susan. I sense handbags at dawn. Hurrah!

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

What's the big Deal? (Part Two)

First of all, I'd like to apologise for not having updated the Blog over the past few days, for I have been stricken with a foul illness that rendered me incapable of getting out of bed for the most part. But luckily my mum was around to wait on me hand and foot, and worry about me as mothers do.

Since my brief holiday in my home town is coming to an end on Friday, I'm afraid my guide to Deal for the discerning pop fan may be a little incomplete. But I shall soldier on and talk to you today about the lovely Deal Castle, which is managed by the lovely people at English Heritage. Please excuse the gaps in my history, I'm a little rusty. Deal Castle was originally part of the Cinque Ports castles, commissioned by King Henry VIII to protect the south-east's coastline from a French invasion. Sadly, not all of the Cinque Ports are still standing today (Sandown Castle is long gone), but I can confirm that Deal, Walmer and Dover Castles are still standing tall and proud.

Deal Castle is ace because you can play in the moat, or go and sit astride a cannon on the ramparts and look out to sea. It is also very popular with local/touring theatre companies who like to put on Shakespeare and similar plays in the evenings. It's really nice to grow up somewhere with a castle because it develops your imagination and sense of adventure. So, if you ever find yourself in Deal (God help you), then the Castle is well worth a visit, because history isn't always lame.