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.


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