At the turn of the Millennium a new show hit our TV screens that introduced us to an original format to find budding talent. It was a long way from previous talent shows that gave anyone a chance, from pop to opera, comedy to conjurors, dance to… musical muscles. This new concept was aimed at the young and was to find a new pop group… the programme was called Popstars. The first series was a sensation and delivered the breathtaking boy/girl group Hear Say. Who? I hear some of you say… but let me remind you that their first single release ‘Pure and Simple’ broke a number of music industry records, easily racking up sales of a million and becoming the fastest selling non-charity single up until that moment.
After another series, which produced two manufactured groups – one all boy (One True Voice) and one all girl (Girls Aloud) a slightly different show came along called Pop Idol that really set the TV schedules alight. As Pop Idol’s popularity grew, Popstars and the interest in the groups that the show had created dwindled but the new breed of solo singers, pitted against each other together with the combination of celebrity judges, caustic comments and public telephone votes… all proved to be a winning formula.
However, Girls Aloud re-emerged after the fuss of Popstars and have gone on to do incredibly well… some members of the group more than others.
The end of the first series brought excitement never quite experienced either by the public or indeed in the TV corridors of power, with the final dragging in an unprecedented number of viewers and the most eagerly awaited duel to find a winner between the cute, stammering, voice of an angel ex choir boy Gareth Gates and the more sophisticated singing of the older, and someone equally as cute, university graduate, Will Young. In the public’s mind Gareth was already a winner but in that final push, it was Will who surprisingly scooped the top spot. His first release ‘Evergreen’ even outstripping the speedy and high volume sales of Hear Say’s debut single, by shipping out discs in massive numbers (selling over a million in the first week), taking the top spot, and to this day maintains its position in the all time top ten British best selling singles chart.
A second series of Pop Idol produced a very unlikely winner in the form of the rotund, but none-the-less talented, Scottish singer Michelle McManus but already the TV companies were looking for a more exciting show to fill their Saturday night slot.
X Factor fitted the bill and it has to be said that the majority of winners from the six series so far, have gone on to be very successful recording artists. Steve Brookstein, who won the first series had a huge hit but then disappeared after having, ‘artistic differences’ with the show’s creator Simon Cowell. The second series winner was Shayne Ward who gained a huge fan following successfully releasing a couple of hit albums and toured to sell out crowds. The third winner Leona Lewis disappeared after her initial win, only returning a year or so later, reinvented and having a single that literally took the world by storm. Her return single, “Bleeding Love“, reached number one position in over thirty singles charts around the globe. The next winner Leon Jackson has yet to show any real superstar quality although he seems to be touring in shows with a good deal of success. 2008 winner Alexandra Burke continues to have chart hits and last year’s winner Joe McElderry has just had his first album released to huge acclaim.