Thursday, July 15, 2004


It's not been a good few weeks for the finalists of Popstars: The Rivals. First Chloe decides she's had enough and hotfoots it right out of Clea (leaving them just Lea, presumably?), then Girls Aloud miss out on a number one placing for their "comeback" single 'The Show', then shortly after that we learned that Peter had decided to take on Chloe in Band Leavers: The Rivals and go his separate way from Phixx.

We're not entirely surprised that Peter and Chloe were getting fed up of their day jobs; after all, both had been plugging away with their groups for over a year and with not a lot to show for it. One True Voice gave up a lot quicker than that, and they'd been comparitively successful. What has impressed us is that the remaining members of (C)Lea and Phixx have vowed to carry on as a trio/foursome when quitting may well have seemed like the most favourable option.

We think, however, that the obvious solution to their mutual problem has been overlooked by both parties. Rather than both carrying on one member short and forever looking like there's a conspicuous Chloe/Peter-shaped hole in the group, why not pool their efforts and form a boy-girl supergroup? Ever since Paul decided not to renew his membership of the S Club, there's a gap in the market for a seven piece co-ed band, after all.

The benefits to both parties are obvious, too: no longer would the boys have to hire busty female extras to gyrate suggestively in their videos wearing not very much - ever since the 'Download It' video and that Maxim shoot, Clea don't appear to be afraid of disrobing to sell a few more copies; the girls could use Andrew's influence to get a bigger slice of the pink pound - as we all know, the gays provide a pension for divas when they're old and past it, so this way they get in early.

As for a comeback single, they need something feisty to remind the world they're taking no prisoners. Since both groups aren't exactly overwhelmed with public attention right now, we suggest a cover of Geri Halliwell's 'Look At Me', perhaps as a double A-side with the Spice Girls' 'Never Give Up On The Good Times'.

Now all that's needed is a name. First of all we decided to honour the tradition that gave Clea their name: using the group's initials. We've played around with them, and so far we've come up with Malenac (as above), Nale Cam, Lame Can, Lean Mac, Canal Me and Maclean (potentially encompassing a lucrative sponsorship deal with a popular brand of toothpaste). But then we thought that the name perhaps ought to pay homage to the way in which they were assembled from the pieces of their former existences and glued together inelegantly but rigidly.

So, ladies and gentlemen, say hello to...Airphixx.

Monday, July 12, 2004


Never let it be said that we at Panda Pops are always able to predict the future accurately. Six months ago, if you'd have told us we'd have been banging on the door of the record shop this morning in desperation to get our hands on the new Rachel Stevens single, we'd've put our red gloves on and pointed you to the door. If there's one thing we love about the pop world, it's the fact that some people never say die, even when the dumper is tilting forwards ready to receive them and glinting invitingly in the sunlight.

Something we were sure had been consigned to the dumper was any possibility of a third series of Popstars. While the first series was a mammoth hit, it's no secret that Hear'Say weren't exactly blessed with a fortunate and decade-spanning career. Add to this the fact that ratings for the second series were disappointing, and Girls Aloud, despite having made some of the finest pop songs in the known universe, are still floating about in pop limbo, still needing to acquire a comfortable niche and a sizeable, shop-happy fanbase to shift some units and secure their future.

Imagine our surprise, then, to hear that Granada are planning a third series, provisionally entitled, we hear, Popstars: Boy Meets Girl. Rumours abound that the third series' gimmick will be the formation of a boy-girl duo set on chart domination. We can only assume that Jemini were consigned to pop oblivion so swiftly that their legacy remains unheard of in Granada's boardrooms.

A new series of Popstars is exciting no matter how ill-fated it sounds. We thought at first that The Rivals was flogging a somewhat comatose horse, and although the level of talent to present itself, and indeed the audience response, was underwhelming, it did manage to achieve the impossible: the voting public put together a girlband that liked each other, worked well together, looked like a proper band, and went on to make the sort of debut album that even made dyed-in-the-wool music snobs sit up and go "they might be onto something here".

That said, we'd be lying if we said we weren't slightly concerned. There appears to be definite evidence of the public's waning interest in reality TV acts: only Will Young remains in a strong position, critically and commercially, Girls Aloud are just about managing to stay afloat, Lemar has established a relatively sound fanbase, but it's a foolish person that tries to claim that (deep breath) Hear'Say, Liberty X, Gareth Gates, Darius, Rosie Ribbons, David Sneddon, Sinead Quinn, Ainslie Henderson, One True Voice, Phixx, Clea, Alex Parks, Alistair Griffin, Michelle McManus or Sam & Mark made any kind of lasting impact. For every success story, there are an awful lot of also-rans.

We're keeping our minds open, of course. With any luck, Mania could spark all kinds of, well, mania for duos, and this programme could prove to have been pitched with almost psychic skill. We just hope that the industry remains interested enough in this sort of project to lend it the sort of behind the scenes talent that served Girls Aloud so well, otherwise the dumper might start getting hungry again.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


We're not going to pretend we didn't see it coming, but we did feel a twinge of sorrow for Girls Aloud when they failed to hit the number one spot yet again with their electropop masterpiece new single 'The Show'. We sensed that, brilliant piece of retro-yet-futuristic pop that it is, it might just be too quirky for an audience who enabled Atomic Kitten to get to the stage where they could release a Greatest Hits, or Dido to become one of the world's biggest selling artists.

We're beginning to wonder just what it will take to get Girls Aloud back to number one where they belong (we're fearful that it will involve dumbing-down somewhere along the line), but more than anything we're disappointed at what beat them this time. We had thought that if anyone kept them off the top spot, it would have been McFly, and while we'd have been disappointed, there would have been some relief in the fact that the Girls had been kept off by one of the year's three decent number ones so far (the other's being McFly's previous single '5 Colours In Her Hair' and Britney's 'Toxic'). The fact that it was Usher's 'Burn' that kept them at number two is significantly more galling.

It's not that we have anything in particular against Usher. We just don't really understand the appeal. He's already made a name for himself in America by having three singles in the top ten at the same time, or something equally ridiculous, but we really don't consider his current output to be his best work. His last single 'Yeah' was generic R & B by numbers, and current single 'Burn' is just plain poor.

So why number one? The reason seems to be that R&B is a far more marketable genre than pop at the moment, getting more radio play and more underground exposure, and also appealing to the teenage demographic that are likely to be buying singles as well as albums.

This leads us to a problem for pop. Where is the space for pop in all of this? The only pop that seems to succeed in the current climate is pop that pretends it isn't pop; either by pretending it's adult-oriented Radio 2 fodder (Will Young) or by pretending it's punky, grungy rock (Busted and their ilk). We're not saying that there's anything wrong with this (we're big fans of Mr Young and Busted, clearly), but it's worrying that pop that just wants to be pop (Girls Aloud) doesn't seem to have found its niche in the market yet.

We don't really want to live in a world where brilliant pop songs like 'No Good Advice' and 'The Show' are kept from number one by awful, uninspired fare like 'Ignition' and 'Burn', and even good urban music like Jentina's 'Bad Ass Strippa' is relegated to the lower echelons of the top 40.

We're keeping our fingers crossed for the breakthrough that will make everything right for pop again. It might be Mania. God, we hope it is.