Wednesday, March 31, 2004


1. "RIGHT NOW 2004"
It's not uncommon for popstars to go out with a whimper rather than a bang (see also: S Club, whose 'Say Goodbye' was a tearful and fitting climax for the group, but was no 'S Club Party'). Indeed, it would have been a foolish man who would have bet against Atomic Kitten going out with a whimper, since that's what their entire musical career post-'Whole Again' has consisted of. Well, when they weren't whimpering, they were screeching. It's easy to forget that in their early days Atomic Kitten actually made bloody brilliant bubblegum pop songs like 'See Ya' and 'I Want Your Love', and what better way to piss on the only good memories we have of this musical abimbomination than by remixing their charva-tastic shining moment - debut single 'Right Now' - removing all of the fun and sass and indeed anything that was good about it, and turning it into a hideous dirge. Memo to Jenny Frost: if you really want to prove that Kerry Katona-McFadden didn't contribute anything to the group, this really is not the way to go about it.

Hideous, hideous, hideous. Someone should tell Holly and/or Schwarzkopf that blue hair colouring doesn't look good on anyone, and tag lines like "Thanks, Elton, now it's my turn to sing with Blue" aren't going to change that. I can only assume that particular tag line was approved amid thick reefer smoke on a Friday afternoon, partially because most of us are trying to repress our memories of that particular collaboration as soon as possible, and partly because use of the word "sing" in the context of Holly Valance will inspire nothing but laughter.

It would take a lot for us to feel sorry for Michelle McManus, but her new video is incredibly offensive - to her. All of the glib comments that were made during Pop Idol about how refreshing it would be to have a pop star who was overweight and what a positive role model she would be are made to look slightly ridiculous when the storyline of her video turns out to contain love scenes - for which they hired a skinny, conventionally pretty blonde girl. What a break from the old routine that turned out to be. They might as well have just taken Michelle's record contract away and given it directly to Sarah Whatmore.

They're making more singles, you know. Send your favourite methods for taking your own life on the back of a postcard or a stuck-down envelope.

Oh, who cares? Yes, they're being aggressively marketed as mini-Busted, in effect, but which new pop groups are not aggressively marketed at the very beginning? Busted certainly were, albeit in a different manner. And Westlife certainly owe a large proportion of their fame to the "Ronan is their manager" rumours. If you give a marketing person the choice between a brilliant, original, breathtaking campaign that will require weeks into months of hard graft, or a cheapass gimmick that will exploit an existing demographic with a minimum of effort, they're bound to take the latter option because they're lazy and marketing is a black art (cf. Holly Valance's Schwarzkopf adverts). McFly might be the saviours of pop, they might not, but this "they're just riding on Busted's coat tails" argument is getting incredibly tedious now. So stop it. Especially you, Deeley. We know you've got a Lolly CD hidden in the back of your cupboard.


We've just discovered that if you search for "buff hotties" on Google, this is the second site they suggest.

Now we're wondering who we'd have to sleep with to be first, and whether they're a buff hottie.

(Thanks to Adrian for pointing this out to us.)

Monday, March 29, 2004


Over the weekend we indulged in a bit of an orgy of chocolate biscuits and bubblegum pop, featuring some of the greatest hits of Rachel Stevens and Lolly (it was a comparitively short orgy). When we emerged from our stupor, with a slight headache and a vague grubby and nauseous feeling (a bit like the one you get if you read heat magazine), we remembered the rumours that both Rachel Stevens and current Panda Pops hotlister Hannah Spearitt were on the shortlist to "be" Lolly, before they got snaffled for S Club 7 and the role went to Anna Kumblé. Let's entertain the notion of parallel universes for a minute: what if Rachel Stevens hadn't been offered the S Club gig and taken the role of Lolly instead?

As things stand, Rachel's solo career doesn't look all that secure: the initial promise of 'Sweet Dreams My LA Ex' being waylaid by disappointing album sales and a relatively disastrous chart placing for follow-up single 'Funky Dory', it's generally safe not to be holding your breath for a second album. Lolly, in her Kumblé incarnation, had a string of top 20 hits and managed to last two albums before being consigned to pop's dumper and heading off to present CBBC.

Admittedly in her current incarnation, Rachel had the benefit of being in successful pop combo S Club 7, but her role in the band was largely consigned to being Jo O'Meara's backing singer on the records and playinig the slightly vapid comic foil on the TV shows. She may not have had much credibility had she become Lolly, but then similarly there's little to be gained from being the much-hyped first soloist to emerge from the ashes of a defunct pop band only to fail to live up to her initial promise. Had she been Lolly à la Stevens, she could have been the force behind several bubblegum masterpieces (oh, admit it, you love 'Per Sempre Amore' as well), forever earned a place in the hearts of The Gays, and made the segue into children's television presenting (which is probably where La Stevens is heading) far less embarrassing.

Then again, this could mean that Anna Kumblé would have released 'Sweet Dreams My LA Ex' and dated Jeremy Edwards, and that makes this parallel universe distinctly unsettling.

Friday, March 26, 2004


You could hear the gay shrilling at Panda Pops towers across the land yesterday, as we secured our much-desired seats for Will Young's forthcoming UK tour at the decidedly fancy-schmancy Royal Festival Hall. We quite wanted to try and get Madonna tickets as well, but - much as we're convinced that no price is too high to see Our Glorious Leader in full concert throttle - we just can't stretch our finances further. We're hoping, however, that if we take up prostitution now, we might just have enough to see her by the next time she tours, assuming no one asks us for a refund.

But back to Will - we're very excited at the thought of seeing him live in concert, and we're probably lucky that our seats are too far from the stage to legitimately plan to throw ourselves at his feet and babble marriage proposals. Once we'd stopped screaming "EEEEE!", we started to turn our thoughts to what treats may lie ahead at this concert. And then we started thinking how it's not uncommon for bands and artists to do a cover version of a favourite song specifically for their tour (this, after all, was what led to No Doubt covering 'It's My Life', which may be a good or bad thing depending on your appreciation of their version - we're just disappointed they decided against doing Depeche Mode's 'A Question of Lust'). We're fairly certain that after Pop Idol and his first album, Will probably wants to get away from doing covers. Nonetheless, we thought we'd draw up a little shortlist of songs he could choose from, just in case he changes his mind.

SONG: The Crystals, 'And Then He Kissed Me'
SAMPLE LYRIC: "All the stars were shining bright / And then he kissed me."
WHY THIS SONG IS AN EXCELLENT CHOICE: It's a very sixties-sounding song (possibly because that's when it was recorded, we're not entirely sure), which is a style that would suit Will's voice rather nicely. We think this song has ample opportunities for some "business" (nb. official showbiz term) with the microphone when performing (à la the 'Your Game' video). Plus it would finally silence all the militant gayers who want to hear Will sing songs about macking on boys.

SONG: Lene, 'It's Your Duty'
SAMPLE LYRIC: "Handcuff up your boss, yeah be rough, he might like it like it / He'll get a rise, you'll get a raise, don't tell his wife about it."
WHY THIS SONG IS AN EXCELLENT CHOICE: This was one of the most lyrically accomplished songs of last year, and Will performing it might just give it the exposure that Lene, sadly, didn't manage. It requires a lot of character and gusto in the vocals, which would give Will a chance to use his musical theatre background for skill. And let's face it, who doesn't want to hear Will sing the words "it's your duty, duty / To shake that booty, booty / Small fat or round or juicy"? Who? Only mad people, that's who.

SONG: Alisha's Attic, 'Pretender Got My Heart'
SAMPLE LYRIC: "Love can be strange when you're open and naïve / Love got a hold, got a gun / And then shot me."
WHY THIS SONG IS AN EXCELLENT CHOICE: Again, it's an ace song that deserved far more exposure than it got. It's all moody and mournful, which is a tone that Will does extremely well. And it would be a great excuse to get Karen Poole in to do backing vocals (and Shelly too, that would be even better), which might just be enough to cause us to die from sheer overexcitement. Hmm, on second thoughts, perhaps it's not such an excellent choice.

SONG: Girls Aloud, 'White Lies'
SAMPLE LYRIC: "I don't wanna hear you say I'm sorry, babe / Cause now it's already too late / Don't take the easy way ou-ou-ouuuut."
WHY THIS SONG IS AN EXCELLENT CHOICE: We want to hear Will do some proper angry songs, rather than quiet polite determination songs. This was quite possibly the best unreleased album track of last year, and would add some ever-welcome sass to the set list. And any excuse to hear the best middle eight in the history of pop music, really: "No way ou-ou-ouuutt! No way ou-ou-ouuutt! No way ou-ou-ouuutt! No way ou-ou-ouuutt!"

SONG: Allure featuring 112, 'All Cried Out'
SAMPLE LYRIC: "Don't you know my tears will cause an inferno / Romance of these flames, why should I take the blame? / You were the one who left me neglected / Apology not accepted, add me to the broken hearts you've collected."
WHY THIS SONG IS AN EXCELLENT CHOICE: Because it's a duet about a relationship break-up, and they're always good. Plus this song screams "Duet with Andrew from Phixx" from its very soul.

I'm suddenly having a Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up flashback. I'm half tempted to put this to the vote.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Sometimes goodbye - though it hurts in your heart - is the only way for destiny. Some profound words there from S Club, who presumably knew a fair bit about goodbye, having waved cheerio to Paul Cattermole some months before. We've always wanted good things for the various members of S Club after their split - we still live in hope of Tina's much-touted solo R 'n' B material - and we admit to shedding a tear for Rachel's poor sales, and wondering whether Jon was okay after Les Misérables was moved to a less prominent West End theatre. In particular, we've always had a soft spot for the lovely Hannah Spearitt (pictured, left), largely because a friend of ours went to school with her, and we love any opportunity for a good old-fashioned name-drop.

Our delight is therefore incomparable that news reaches us of Hannah making an appearance in two Hollywood movies. We've known about Agent Cody Banks 2 for some time now (posing the question: can Hannah prove an adequate replacement for likewise Panda Pops favourite Hilary Duff?), and now we hear that she will have a role in the latest instalment in the Chucky franchise, Seeds of Chucky (whether or not Hannah will become an evil doll à la Jennifer Tilly we are as yet unsure). Obviously we're overjoyed to see Hannah's movie career taking off, but we have some concerns: largely that both of these movies are sequels, and while this is not in itself a danger, we fear that Hannah may end up teetering on the edge of straight-to-video if she's not careful. With this in mind, we made a call to her publicist to find out if Hannah had any other, non-sequel, film projects in the pipeline. We were thrilled to receive for our efforts a number of press releases about Hannah's forthcoming material, and even more excited when her publicist kindly agreed to let us share the details with you. So, without further ado, here are the next few steps in Hannah's movie career:

Bring It All Gack: In this gritty and true-to-life low-budget Britflick, Hannah plays Elizabeth Farquhar, the girlfriend of drug-smuggling Glaswegian Harry McNally. When Harry runs into trouble with local ganglord Jock McSneer, Elizabeth is forced to prostitute herself in an LA Lakers cheerleader outfit in some of the more salubrious districts of the Scottish city. In a departure from her glamorous roles in Seeing Double and Miami 7, Hannah dresses down for this role in drab clothes and little make-up.

Teach! (For The Stars): In this smash-hit crossover comedy, Hannah plays Sarah-Anne Poppycock, newly appointed Head of Music at a Hollywood prep school for the children of celebrities. At first her eccentric English ways cause clashes with the spoiled students used to a privileged lifestyle, but hilarity and heartwarming moments abound as they learn to work together to defend the school from an evil British property developer.

Don't Stop Movin': In a hilarious British comedy about the perils that occur when moving house, Hannah appears as Fiona Birchtree, who finds that moving house can never be simple when there's a property chain involved. Over the course of 48 hours she finds herself moving to five different houses in five different counties, only to be forced to rethink her plans as she is thwarted yet again by incompetent estate agent Hugo Dipson. Add a pesky monkey into the mix, and you have a recipe for hilarity!

Alive: In this harrowing remake of the classic movie, Hannah stars as Gwendolyn Wilde, captain of the East Anglian championship ladies' netball team. On their way to a World Cup qualifying match in Kuala Lumpur, the East Anglian ladies' team crashes in the Andes, and as rations begin to run out, the players must make the ultimate decision: whether they should turn to cannibalism to stay alive.

Seeing Trouble: Hannah stars as Lydia Babbage, a maverick detective with a complicated personal life. After a seemingly commonplace domestic accident with a hairdrier and an organic face mask, Lydia discovers that she can see crimes before they happen. This seemingly fortuitous gift takes a dark side when Lydia realises she cannot possibly prevent all the crimes she sees, and must make the pressing and uncomfortable decision of which crimes require her help the most. But can she foresee the consequences of her own actions?

Well, I'm buying some shares in Butterkist and reserving myself an extra-comfy double seat in the multiplex, because these sound fantastic. Join us next week for another Movie Special focusing on Nicola from Girls Aloud's attempts to become the next Julia Roberts.*

*Content subject to change.

Sunday, March 21, 2004


...just to see this film.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


I'm appalled by the people out there who are utterly unable to classify a song into the correct genre. For the uninitiated, I'm pointing my finger squarely at the TV advert for the latest New Woman compilation CD. The announcer glibly states that the CD contains "some of the greatest modern love songs", in between clips of Katie Melua's 'Closest Thing To Crazy', Blue's 'Guilty' (I could also rally against the thoughtless deployment of the word "greatest" here, but I'll grind that axe another time) and 'Thank You' by Jamelia.

A quick lesson for the hard of thinking. 'Thank You' is not a love song. Even the most cursory of glances at the lyrics would make it very obvious that 'Thank You' is not a love song. 'Thank You' is pretty much the exact opposite of a love song. 'Thank You' is not a love song. Are we all clear on that?

It's not as if there was a shortage of love songs released over the past 12 months (if they wanted a love song by Jamelia, 'Superstar' would have at least been in the right ballpark), or as if there is any need to bill the CD as a collection of love songs (why not a collection of anthems for the modern woman?). It may be petty of me, but this assumption that any song that stands downtempo of 'Me Against The Music' must be a love song is absolutely brainless.

Perhaps we can look forward to more CDs of modern love songs, including DJ Casper's 'Cha Cha Slide', the Black-Eyed Peas' 'Shut Up' and 'Iodine' by Siobhan Donaghy. And perhaps that can be followed by a CD of modern rock, including 'Toxic', 'Red Blooded Woman' and the 'Fast Food Song'. Or perhaps we're heading for a future where we have to abandon the whole concept of genre because no one could be bothered to use it properly. I'll book its funeral straight after the ceremonies for correct grammar and punctuation, shall I?

Monday, March 15, 2004


Yes, folks: we're armed with software and we're not afraid to use it. In other words, we've finally got our hands on some decent photoshop software and a copy of Dreamweaver, and we've decided it's high time for a makeover. We're going to try and iron out some of the design glitches on this site that have been bothering us more or less since its conception, and we're hoping to generally funk it up a bit, possibly with a brand new URL and stuff.

So, there may be fewer updates over the next couple of weeks while we battle with modern technology (just picture Steve banging his head against the keyboard, that's almost certainly going to happen daily) in the hope of bringing you a new, improved Panda Pops, or whatever it's called when we're finished with it (possibly something that won't get us sued by soft drinks manufacturers). We're going to try and keep up our winning* brand of pop-related banter and conjecture in the meantime, but if we're slower than usual, please forgive us. And stay tuned for updates on the new improved site!

*DISCLAIMER: Total number of awards won: nil.

Friday, March 12, 2004


An occasional series wherein Mystical Panda looks into his crystal ball to discover what Bryan McFadden did after leaving Westlife...

He wrote more songs for Girls Aloud that were even better than 'Girls Allowed', gaining them their second, third and fourth UK number ones, securing their place as the UK's top girl band and cementing his role as Ireland's answer to Cathy Dennis.

Hang on, this isn't a crystal ball. This is a marble. That can't be right...


There are a great many people in this world who find Sarah Cawood intensely irritating, but we've always tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. She was always well-meaning, we thought. Sadly, we're beginning to lose our patience. La Cawood was on This Morning, erm, this morning, doing a sort of showbiz-news feature. There was a piece about Britney Spears and the general brilliance of 'Toxic', which is all fair enough. This segued into a discussion on the godlikeness of Cathy Dennis (again, I like where this is going). Sadly, it all came rather unstuck when Ms Cawood opined the following: "If you want a number one hit, you go to Cathy Dennis. She wrote 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' for Kylie, she wrote 'Come Into My World' for Kylie, she wrote 'Sweet Dreams My LA-Ex', which is incredibly catchy..."

Spot the deliberate mistake? Only one of those songs actually made it to number one. Not really the best way to reinforce your argument, is it?

*An offshoot from "The Wisdom of Tim Kash"

Wednesday, March 10, 2004


There were many reasons why we wanted Will Young to win Pop Idol all those many moons ago, one of which being that we found him generally rather charming. We're not going to use this as an opportunity to make fun of Gareth Gates, but let's face it: in interviews, Will's always far more entertaining.

This morning, like most mornings, we were passing the bleary-eyed time between the alarm going off and actual waking up by watching the telly, and as we flicked across the channels we noticed that Will Young was on GMTV, so we stopped to watch. Fiona Phillips was asking him lots of bland and uninteresting questions, as is her wont ("Do you have more control of your career now?" "Do you think Gareth's finished?" "Is it nice writing your own songs?") and Will was doing his best to answer in a diplomatic yet entertaining fashion.

So far, so blah. But then they decided to go to a weather report (if I'd know what was coming, I'd've tried to find out who the weather presenter was, but sadly I was still too bleary-eyed), which continued in a bland workmanlike GMTV fashion until halfway through, when Will clearly got a bit bored and decided he wanted to do the weather forecast instead. He invaded the set and stood in front of the weather presenter, made it perfectly obvious that he didn't know where to point on the map and couldn't read the autocue, and ended up having her work his arms in a puppet-like fashion and whisper the forecast into his ear (and even then he still got it a bit muddled, bless him.)

We then returned to Eamonn and Fiona on the sofa, as a dour Eamonn remarked, "The last person to do that was Michael Barrymore. Look what happened to him." Cut back to Will in the weather corner, looking a combination of horrendously embarrassed and completely hysterical with laughter.

Admittedly, this won't win any awards for comic ingenuity, but it certainly got me off to work this morning with a smile on my face. Will should get an OBE for services to morning television, though we'd prefer it if the Michael Barrymore comparisons ended where they began, please.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Two of our favourite things have come together in an unsuspected yet welcome twist of events this week. Gareth McLean wrote the Radio Times 'Soap and Flannel' column. Eee!

Steve has been ill this week. Normal service will be resumed soon.

Thursday, March 04, 2004


A memo to Kylie Minogue: you might not have noticed this, but 'Red Blooded Woman' is meant to be a sexy song. This song is about a woman who knows that she's damned good in bed and she sees no reason why every right-thinking heterosexual man in the vicinity wouldn't want to do the mattress mambo with her.

So why, Kylie, do you insist on giving stilted live performances of this song where you elicit about as much rampant sexuality as a Pot Noodle? Performances where your voice and body language (ha!) imply that you're thinking more about what time to pick up your dry-cleaning than what time you scheduled that bootie call for are ruining what was once quite a good song. If you can't actually emote any kind of feeling (we know that your cheekbones seized up three years ago, but surely your voice is capable of showing emotion even if your face isn't), then stop trying to be cool by singing live and mime along to the goddamned radio edit instead. At least that version has some degree of sexuality to it. I never thought I'd say this, but if you want tips on what sexy looks like, you might want to look at what Britney's doing.

Pull yourself together, Kyles. 'Slow' was shit and your album's not much better. Any more of this and even the gays will give up on you. Please stop turning into a complete caricature of yourself, for the sake of those of us who loved you once.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


We love portentous song lyrics here at Panda Pops, whether it be Gareth Gates releasing 'Say It Isn't So' just as we all began to realise he wasn't selling many singles any more, or Lisa Scott-Lee releasing 'Too Far Gone' (I'll let you work out your own comedy snark to accompany that one, it's just too easy). So it's no surprise that our attention was drawn to the line 'I need a hit, baby give me it' in Britney Spears' new single, 'Toxic'.

Poor old Britters. The knives have been sharpened for her ever since...actually, when weren't the knives sharpened for Britney? Such is the penance for releasing one of the greatest pop songs known to mankind as your first single, I suppose. You'd think people would have the decency for thanking her (or at least Max Martin) for bringing three and a half minutes of unsullied joy into their lives, rather than going "what a lovely song, now let's see how long it takes her to fuck it all up nicely."

"Comeback" single 'Me Against The Music' was unfairly maligned, we thought. Admittedly it took a few listens to get into, and perhaps it was foolish of some people to suggest it would be able to hold a candle to '...Baby One More Time', but we're still listening to it months after it went out of the charts. Besides, we still maintain that it was far superior to Kylie's electronica snoozefest 'Slow' that was released around the same time and was a thoroughly undeserving number one.

This anti-Britney silliness should not be allowed to infect (geddit?) 'Toxic', which is the finest pop song we've heard this year, and possibly the only thing Britney will ever release to even come close to the brilliance of '...Baby One More Time'. 'Toxic' has everything required of a stellar pop song - shrieking sound effects, irrhythmic guitars (fast becoming Cathy Dennis's trademark), a Tales of the Unexpected bit, a video that is effortlessly cool without even trying, a split-second silence, and an admirable vocabulary. In the same way that we applauded Girls Aloud for using the word "anaesthetise" in 'No Good Advice', Britney and Cathy have our utmost respect for including the world "intoxicate" in a pop song.

To ensure that 'Toxic' is the big hit it deserves to be, we've formed an undercover pop vigilante breakout group, known as Britney's Released Effortlessly Another Stupendously Top Song (BREASTS for short), and we will be parading along the length and breadth of Great Britain in red wigs that we stole from the set of Alias, pushing hostess trolleys and wiggling our bottoms with the song blaring from a loudspeaker, just so that everyone knows it's out this week to go and buy it. Honk if you love Britney, kids.

*Erm, having just written this article, we popped across for our daily visit to and found that they'd already posted a pro-Britney announcement and used this line as their focus. We'd just like to reassure them (and indeed everyone else) that we didn't intend to rip them off, and we're sorry if this looks a bit like plagiarism. We've been planning to write this for a week, honest...