Popstars, the ITV reality TV singing contest which ultimately led to the creation of The X Factor, was on 15 years ago, I was 15 at the time it was broadcast, and here’s 15 random memories I have about it, in no particular order.
1.Obviously, despite trying to forget it, THAT performance of Britney Spears’ ‘… Baby One More Time’ that Darius did.
2. The nervous shaking ginger Glasweigan guy who I think I fancied a bit at the time.
3. I think I fancied Noel Sullivan a bit as well.
4. Poor Danny Foster. What terrible timing that he was in Popstars the same year Shrek came out.
5. How people at school always referred to Suzanne Shaw as “the one who looks like Hannah from S Club 7”.
6. Myleene Klass playing Coldplay’s ‘Trouble’ on the piano.
7. I really liked Kym Marsh, she was one of my favourites despite how temperamental she could be.
8. My favourite contestant though was Claire Freeland. I think she wore a pink cowgirl hat. She was by far the best singer, but was overweight and yes all the usual tedious things on both ‘sides’ that get said whenever weight issues come up on TV were said then. She released a solo single, a dance track called ‘Free’, but sadly it only got to number 44 in the charts.
9. I vaguely remember Warren Stacey’s Craig David-ish 2002 single ‘My Girl, My Girl’ which got to number 26, but I have very little recollection of his time on Popstars. But he went on to be signed to Def Jam, and has one top 40 single and a Wikipedia page to show for it, which is better than nowt I suppose.
10. The 30-year-old woman who they thought was a teenager, and then had to ask her to leave because it was only 18-24. She lamented that it such a small window of opportunity. “Everywhere you look it’s just for 18-24”. When Nicki Chapman said “Look at Tom Jones” she replied “Yeah, those people are already established”. Yes, unfortunately I think that’s still true today. Just look at how unsuccessful the Overs category is on The X Factor. Even the ones that have won from that category have a bad track record.
11. Nigel Lythgoe as a kind of proto-Simon Cowell, dubbed Nasty Nigel by the press after Nasty Nick from the first Big Brother. Nick Bateman- Nigel Lythgoe – Simon Cowell. What a weird evolutionary chain that is.
12. Unlike future reality TV pop star searches, they showed us the marketing/packaging/image side that goes into creating pop stars too. Big mistake, it’s a bit like a magician revealing the secrets behind his tricks and then performing them and expecting the audience to still be impressed. You can see why this aspect was dropped.
13. Fire motifs weren’t good for Hear’Say. People said the official poster of them looked like Myleene’s hair had been set on fire, and then there was the ‘Pure & Simple’ video which people said it looked like they were lighting their farts.
14. Those of us who thought they’d picked the wrong five were quite pleased that Liberty X (as they were eventually named) went on to be more successful. Then there was the irony of Hear’Say releasing as their last roll of the dice ‘Lovin’ Is Easy’, which sounded like it was trying to be a Liberty X track.
15. ‘Pure & Simple’ is a bit of an oddity in pop history really. It wasn’t regarded as particularly good at the time, and you never hear it played these days (well, other than Kayleigh dedicating it to John in Peter Kay’s Car Share), but it is one of the best selling singles in UK chart history, even if it was just off the back of the TV show, and everyone seems to know it. At least some effort had gone into making that single, unlike all The X Factor winners songs.
As a bonus, because I love an excuse to talk about obscure pop music trivia, former Fame Accademy contestant Lemar had a big hit with ‘If There’s Any Justice’ in 2004, and that song was originally offered to Hear’Say! So in a parallel universe where Hear’Say were successful, that might have been a hit for them. Wonder if it’s the same universe where Girl Thing were successful (what do you mean you’ve never heard of them? Jodi Albert out of Hollyoaks was in it and everything!), as they recorded ‘Pure & Simple’ before Hear’Say.