Sunday, December 24, 2006

It takes two to make a thing go shite

It’s the night before Christmas and I wish that nothing was stirring. Instead, surfing through the channels on TV I stumbled upon the equivalent of aural rape. I wish I could have changed the channel or turned off the TV completely but it was so hypnotically bad. I think my will to live drained so fast that I couldn’t summon the strength to escape its clutches.

Welcome to the world of ‘Duet Impossible’.

No doubt conceived by some coked up TV executive after seeing the Radio 2 advert starring Elvis, Keith Moon, Stevie Wonder et al, current ‘stars’ get to duet with dead ones. I’m not sure if the impossible part of the title is for the incredulity that this ever got past the first pitch meeting or for the implausibility that stars of the past would ever deign to share a stage with these pretenders. With Vernon Kay presenting, you knew that it would always be nylon on offer rather than silk, with little spark, static or otherwise.

The Sugar Babes continued to make me suspect that there’s a chip shop short of 3 staff somewhere as they took on Dusty Springfield with a version of ‘Dancing in the Streets’. As soon as Springfield opened her mouth, completely blowing the ‘Babes’ off the stage, I was left wishing that they would go back to the fish suppers and leave Dusty to sing. It was like being in a nightclub, hearing your favourite song and the DJ cutting out the best bits to sing over the top.

McFly announced that they were going to duet with Lulu, which made me wonder when she died. They appeared with a 15 year old version of Lulu which, they claimed was the impossible part, while attempting a predictable version of ‘Shout’. It looked like performing was the real impossible part as their contribution resembled miming to the original with a bit of extra shouting. Lo and behold the real Lulu appeared at the very end of the song and again I was left wondering when she died.

As McFly were out of their depth with Lulu, so too was she as she performed with Marvin Gaye. Simon Ward (I have no idea either) mumbled over Peggy Lee’s classic ‘Fever’ and for the grand finale, Boy George showed that there’s no greater love than self-love by dueting with himself. By this stage I nearly performed a ‘Duet Impossible’ myself with Mama Cass as I choked on my sandwich.

Choosing such obvious, classic songs was the first mistake. How anyone can think that altering the near perfection of ‘Heard it through the Grapevine’ will result in anything but disaster needs help. The second problem was the gulf in talent between the current and past acts. It highlights just how far good marketing and PR will get bands these days compared to acts of the past relying on pure talent.

The only person to come out of this with merit was Katie Meluah. Her duet with Eva Cassidy on ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ was understated, restrained and touching. Her voice and guitar complimenting both the song and Cassidy’s vocals, surely the most important quality of any duet. The fact that Meluah is a talented artist rather than from the conveyor belt that churned out the other acts is telling.

A truly terrible Christmas offering from the BBC and I’m only grateful that I didn’t catch all of the acts. If this is the best of the Christmas TV treats this year I only hope that someone has kept the receipt.

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