Dr Frankensteining Top of The Popz
I haven’t been watching The Voice; thus I have no valid opinion on it whatsoever (it would be around the level of the people who wanted The Life of Brian banned who had no idea what it was about). For what it’s worth¹, based on five minutes of it (and a video on You Tube where Will.i.am and Jesse J cried after a man sang a chorus of a John Legend song); it looked okay to me and it made me want my own personal Will.i.am to sit in a big chair and shoot the breeze with. Regardless of watching it or not Twitter and articles on The Guardian have meant that I am not shy to the success of the show. Along with the other shows where people sing songs they get watched by a lot of people.
Top of The Pops was not being watched by a lot of people when it was cancelled, the lack of success and cancellation tend to go hand-in-hand. When I have seen The X Factor it has often sold itself on having a big performance, or two, from active music artists promoting their new song. I am sure the competition aspect of the show and the human interest angle of the narratives² of each competitor, but they certainly make a big deal out of these live performances.
How has the results show for singing competition done what a 40-year-old television institution could not do? How did TOTP get it so wrong?³ I don’t know why this was playing on my mind earlier, I think I caught a bit of an old TOTP on YouTube looking for something the other day. I just think there is still a lot of interest in the performance of music by people and chart music is done by people. Also the competitive side of it? The chart is like, i.e. is, a weekly popularity contest – where by buying the song (be it on a format as archaic as a USB or as up-to-date as those cans of Coke that play a song directly into your lymphatic system as you ingest the drink) you make a vote for ‘General Election of Music’. Sure buying a song to say you like it doesn’t seem as interactive and music-focussed as texting the name of someone to a computer or phoning a premium rate hotline, but it has to count for something right?
What am I saying? Well…people like attractive young people doing the singing of a song with a mouth, then they like some background narrative for each person whose mouth has sung a song. They also like some respected music figures – and Sharon Osbourne – saying something vaguely related to what they have just sung while people boo or cheer. All TOTP needs is the drama and the judges..
So, bring a The Only Way is Chelsea fictional-reality-drama element to the show for the drama (Rizzle Kicks falling out over who is better friends with Olly Murs; the funeral of Westlife; Jesse J being embarrassed when Katy Perry swoops into town and realises Jessie J’s best songs are ones K-Pez rejected as too poor to even be the bonus track on the iTunes version of her album, etc). Add some people sat behind a table saying something slightly provocative about performances and BOOM! I’ve just given Top of The Pops the kissizzle of livizzle.
Unlike Pop Idol/X-Factor the chart is NEVER ending. Guaranteed viewers every week. People don’t even see buying their song once as the end anymore: I don’t know who the band were, they were a pop band?? But when their new single was announced in the chart rundown a DJ rang them up to tell them, “you’re in at number 8” etc, and one of the people in the band said, “thanks to all our fans for supporting this record and please carry on supporting it.” That means buy it again next week, right?
No-one would EVER get bored of it for at least 6-months and then just give the whole thing a massive makeover by changing one of the judges ensuring there is always a healthy balance of pointlessy nice people saying whatever will make the crowd cheer them, camp maniacs who like being boo-ed and Louis Walsh. My dream panel for my relaunch of Totes Topz of The @Popz (new title: catchy, young, will be out of date before the first episode has finished): Kylie Minogue (pointless), Ronan Keating (pointless), George Michael (camp maniac), Louis Walsh (Louis Walsh) and – yes, there’s an ‘and’ actually there’s two more ‘and’s: AND Andi Peters (equal parts pointles, camp and Louis Walsh).
Watch this space.
¹I have just got the sentence valued and it turns out I should insure it for 1 /700,oo0th of a pence.
²Dead dad/raised by sister/overweight by standards of pop music/good looking/overtly arrogant/over 30 seem to be the most popular story arcs over the years.
³There are probably all kinds of reasons brilliant heads at the BBC have reasoned for this but there really shouldn’t be a reason why it had to end. I think that period when the show’s producer, Chris Cowey, became the story were the beginning of the end. Sorry mate, there’s a reason why you are the producer. You should have been in a good band, or been a good solo artist, if you wanted Top of The Pops to be about you. By becoming the face of it the show became synonymous with a twat rather than where to see the latest chart music being performed. Cowey remains defiant that it is the world that is wrong and that he is the best person on it.