We’re only half-way through the first episode proper of Sky 1’s talent search and national sweetheart Fearne Cotton’s already welling up over an emotional piano ballad.
How is our hostess going to keep it together as Must Be The Music, a “credible” response to the X Factor et al, steams on towards a live Wembley Arena final next month, where the winner will walk off with a £100,000 prize?
Talent show addicts should breathe easy though. The audition show, which airs on Sunday night, is not an hour of techno-goth hopefuls trying the panel’s patience.
The Princess Productions show follows the same cues as X Factor, from the opening titles, audition shots, consoling host for the acts and “Yes” or “No” judging trio.
The difference is the quality of the acts and those judges. Dizzee Rascal, Sharleen Spiteri of Texas and Jamie Cullum have sold 17 million albums between them, and they are there to be helpful, not destroy the talent.
The acts are the kind that would get turfed out of X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent etc early on for pursuing their own musical vision and performing their own material, rather than submit to the SyCo moulding machine.
So although there’s Flow Dem, a slick JLS-type pop-rap teenage quintet from Wales, it’s the quality of their rhymes and beats that impresses Dizzee. The judges never comment on the acts’ physical appearance or dancing skills – so far, it really is the music. Dizzee rejects one act because “you look more packaged than your music.”
Sharleen has the most acidic judging potential, telling a wannabe boyband “you blew it” whilst Cullum generally looks for positives and evidence that he’s “feeling it”.
Fearne is filmed sitting on flight cases backstage to ram the point home that “here be real musicians”. Her emotional moment comes when she meets Katie & Emma, who deliver an X Factor style back-story but through their music.
Performing under the unfortunate name Pepper & Piano, Katie sings pianist Emma’s power ballad about her earlier drug problems and “chaotic” life. Cut to Fearne tearing up, saying: “I’ve not cried on camera before, I feel exposed.”
Will there be a cute kid who charms the panel? In this show its Hero, an 11 year-old harpist from North Wales. She accompanies herself singing a frighteningly mature composition called Swept Away, in what Cullum understandably describes as an “amazing performance”.
There’s a comedy interlude from an oddly satanic band of Christian grunge teenagers and an Irish fiddler Daithi, who does something quite hypnotic with loops.
The real incentive for the acts who go through to the live semi-finals later this month is that their performances will be available to download instantly via iTunes etc so they can start earning money, without signing a constrictive record deal.
Sky viewers though will want to see some conflict and controversy after their Sunday afternoon footie though and the all-round “nice” atmosphere might grate after a bit.
A clip of the second episode, where the audition audience turn on the judges for rejecting their favourites, looks more likely to deliver on that score.
After Channel Five’s ”Do Stop Believing” disaster, Must Be The Music looks like it’s found a way to push at the boundaries of the talent show format and give some genuinely talented artists the opportunity to get a break without sacrificing their musical vision to the cynical TV gods.
Must Be The Music, Sky 1HD, Sunday 7pm.
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