Popstars all about cosmetics

By Paul Margach

It’s coming. Less than three short months from now Popstars will take over our night time viewing. I know I can hardly contain my excitement either.

For any of you who haven’t seen the ad on Global, the premise behind the series is to document the formation of an all-female, Canadian singing group from auditions all the way to the brink of stardom. Beginning with about 3,000 girls, the numbers have now shrunk to the desired five. Now it’s time to begin perfecting their image. Oh, and yes, record a single too.

I nearly forgot about that wretched little business of actually making music. It seems as though musical quality will not be a major priority of this project. According to a Web site detailing the grueling auditions, girls were given only 15 seconds in which to actually sing. Such brevity begs the question: how accurate could a couple of bars of "I Will Survive" possibly be in assessing someone’s talent? But for them, 15 seconds is probably more than enough time–if a girl’s looks and charisma are excellent then the singing only really needs to be good enough, not spectacular.

The music is sure to lose out. Manufactured groups almost always place a heavier emphasis upon looks rather than ability. The auditions for the Monkees, pop music’s most notorious manufactured group, famously turned down a young Stephen Stills, purportedly because his teeth were too crooked. When Stills subsequently emerged in the late ’60s with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, he made the Monkees and their producers look silly.

Sex Pistols svengali Malcolm McLaren sacked original bassist Glen Matlock in favour of Sid Vicious despite the former’s considerable skill and the latter’s ineptitude. Sid, it was said, suited the image better. You can bet that for the girls on Popstars image will be everything.

To be fair, the show’s producers had a lot of girls to audition in a very short period of time. And they have priorities. This being television, they picked girls with the right kind of look. One A & R man present at the auditions expressed his astonishment that so many actually possessed talent above and beyond singing and dancing. It shows just how shortsighted so-called talent scouts are when they don’t consider "songwriting skills and a vision for the band’s future" of much importance to the scheme of a group.

I can only hope that one day a member of the group, made famous by the Popstars series, will break through with some decent songs and musical skill. Everyone in her entourage will surely take her aside and scream, "You’ve changed! It used to be about the cosmetics!"

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