Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Honking Box Preview: Must Be The Music

For years, we've been quacking about how The X Factor should rejig its categories, returning to the initial groupings of 16-24s, Over 25s and Groups, with a fourth category for Bands. But alas, another show has gotten there first (also meaning we don't get to pitch it to Talkback Thames and enjoy a dip in Simon Cowell's Scrooge McDuck-style money vault).

Sky 1's fearless foray into the world of shiny primetime entertainment takes a sizeable step forward with Must Be The Music, a talent show which shuns the manufactured approach and reality cliches to allow true musicians to shine. A far healthier outlook than The X Factor or its forerunners, the openness to celebrate any and every genre, in any package, is commendable (particularly when you consider the logistical nightmare of setting up live band after live band during the audition process).

Sat behind the judging table is a rather impressive rollcall of artists - Jamie Cullum, whose likeability and unquestionable talent and musicianship make him a good choice; Dizzee Rascal, who not only adds a credible slant but whose current stellar profile will surely garner attention; and Sharleen Spiteri, who... um... well, let's face it, she's no Dannii Minogue. But hey, Summer Son was a good song, wasn't it?

Sadly, the presence of Fearne Cotton makes the whole thing a far less appealing prospect. It's all well and good being sniffy about her presenting style and enjoying a pantomine dislike of the woman, but her clumsy, sycophantic gushing is now approaching unbearable, whilst her dead, empty gaze has become a thing of true horror. Someone who actually has a genuine passion for music might've been a wiser choice, not someone whose USP amounts to bookending the name of her interviewee with "The" and "-ster".

But the chance to uncover an exciting new artist - be that a soul singer, metal band, classical pianist, folky guitarist or jazz girl group - is an intriguing new prospect, particularly from this type of outlet, and hopefully enough to transcend the God-awful gobshite of a host. Must Be The Music takes the artist-focused objective of Fame Academy, widens it enormously, and dresses the whole thing up in a high-gloss format. Not much wrong with that.

Whether it'll provide any true competition for The X Factor's bejewelled crown is, on the surface, unlikely, but with very different ideals and very different aims, it's not necessarily the intention. Though let's not forget that Sky 1's hugely entertaining Got To Dance absolutely wiped the floor with its BBC contemporary So You Think You Can Dance - if not in terms of ratings, certainly in terms of acclaim, relevance, talent, and the profiles of both the judges and the contestants. It's safe to assume a certain high-waistbanded music mogul is keeping a very close eye on this one.

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