Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Friday, April 08, 2005

Thoughts of the Popes 

It's Friday! And the BBC have taken us completely by surprise by relaunching Top of the Pops with a completely new format. The first sign that things weren't going to be as they were used to be was when we turned on our telly not to see Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates grinning inanely at us, but instead BBC newsreader Huw Edwards was taking on hosting duties. We're not sure about this choice, certainly 'serious' seems to be the watchword for the new format, but we feel that Huw is unlikely to be able to match Fearne's girlish enthusiasm for the latest pop acts. Also, we can't help but feel that his black tie and jacket outfit would be more suited for fronting the coverage of the funeral of a major world figure, rather than fronting the BBC's flagship music show. While we're not expecting him to ape Reggie's street style - or Fearne's fallen-asleep-in-a-dressing-up-box vibe for that matter - he could at least have tried to look less like an accountant and more like someone who knows one end of the chart from the other.

To launch the new format, they followed up their al-fresco event in Gateshead by coming live from Rome with an audience that seemed to stretch for miles, all eager to hear the latest pop hits. We're not sure where the bulk of the members came from, possibly a goth convention, as black clothing was very much the dominant fashion statement. Also, the dressing up as a Priest/Nun fashion thing which was very much in evidence had entirely passed us by. However, showing the high esteem in which the show is held, it was gratifying to see a number of world leaders in the audience for the relaunch, though we feel that inviting disgraced Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe may well have been a mistake. Prince Charles was also in attendance, having moved his wedding to the Saturday, presumably realising that he could never compete with the media attention that the brand new Top of the Pops would garner.

Musically, the 'serious' style that Huw embodied was very much in evidence, with the charts being pretty much ignored in favour of choral singing with a simplistic organ backing. We're as fond of minimalist music as the next man, but we feel that cutting out the chart in this manner will be seen as a mistake, certainly the chanting nature of most of the vast majority of performers became very repetitive after a while and we were practically crying out for Rachel to come on to the stage and perform her latest single while wearing a racey little outfit, something which we feel the vast majority of those there would have appreciated. Indeed, it seemed that large sections of the audience were not impressed with the new show, many were openly weeping, upset at the blatant destruction of a national institution and the loss of Fearne Cotton's career. Also, many of the acts performed in a foreign language, which may well help international sales, but is likely to do little more than alienate the domestic audience.

It wasn't all about the music though, bizarrely the BBC seem keen to revive variety programming on a Friday night as a magic interlude appeared half way through the show. For some reason, possibly down to an inexperienced director, the conclusion of the trick was never shown, but it seemed to involve participants drinking some wine and eating some bread, which was then supposed to transform into actual blood and flesh. To be honest, this was all a bit quite Penn and Teller/Jim Rose Circus esque and seemed very inappropriate for this time of night.

While musically the show did seem to be very much stuck in the past, at least it has moved on in one respect. When tATu appeared on the show, the BBC declined to show their lesbian kiss, coyly cutting away to an audience shot instead, nowadays however, things have changed and they were quite happy to broadcast some boy on boy kissing, even if it did appear to be somewhat more chaste than that of the Russian ladies.

Overall we were quite disappointed with the new show. While we liked the touch of having a coffin on stage throughout the show to signify the death of the old format, we feel they shouldn't be too quick to bury it as they may find they need to dig it up slightly quicker than they may have hoped. We're not about to say that newer and more obscure bands shouldn't be allowed the limelight they received tonight, but it should be done in tandem with the music that people are buying and wanting to hear. Tonight's show was very one track and somber, lacking the party atmosphere that should be a part of the show. It was almost like someone had... What's that? ... Pope dead... Top of the Pops cancelled to show highlights of his funeral... Oh, uh, never mind.