By Various Artists
Right, before you stop reading, this album, surprisingly, isn't all bad, so stick around for a bit eh?
The BBC had a chance to really break the mould with their reality TV show Fame Academy. Unfortunately they bottled it and we got the same old brand of pop star wannabes. Where were the death metal vocalists? The rappers? The jazz singers?
The most notable downside to this collection is that rather than spend the money and effort in getting a good band to perform the backing tracks we get programmed drums and, on the majority of tracks, a one man band taking on all other instruments. A lot of the character is lost in the computerised delivery we get where a real band could have generated real warmth, even in the studio.
It's hard to forget the complimentary toothy grins flashed around for an hour that we were subjected to each Friday night as another young hopeful had their dreams cut down in front of a national audience. It's also hard to forget just how annoying that Ainslie character was, but I promise to try and take an objective musical view.
Opening with the Scots duo of Ainslie and David covering "With A Little Help From My Friends" (it sounds like they thought Wet Wet Wet did it originally - Joe Cocker has done the definitive version if you're gonna cover it, cover his cover !!) it's only a short 'fast forward to "Back To You", penned by the students and a certain Lionel Ritchie. With Lemar on lead vocals this is a damn fine piece of pop that I guarantee you'll start dancing to when it comes on the jukebox, until your mates point out who it is. Don't be ashamed though, it's classic Lionel all over, a "Dancing On The Ceiling" style party anthem. Lemar's voice has a wonderful husk in amongst it's smoothness and he elevates the track to a higher plain than if one of the other students had taken centre stage.
There's plenty of throwaway stuff here, some really bad choices of covers (David doing "Goodnight Girl", Chris' version of "Brown Eyed Girl" and Ashley's "I Can See Clearly" the biggest culprits) but Lemar and Sinead manage to salvage something out of the whole event. The latter's take on No Doubt's "Don't Speak" is above impressive. She takes control of the song and gives a performance that soon has you in awe of her voice rather than concentrate on comparing it to the original track. In fact it was a clever soul who got these two to duet on U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For".
There are two other student penned tracks on the album; "Lullaby" is perhaps a bit too sickly sweet, again though, Lemar sucks you into the track with an impassioned and impressive delivery. Your mum will like this one. Ainslie and Lemar should let Backstreet Boys record it and watch the money roll in.
Ainslie, Sinead and Malachi really come up trumps though with "Keep Me A Secret". If not for the naff backing track and Ainslie's sometimes 'try too hard angsty' vocals this track could really go places. It could almost be an Idlewild type tune if done correctly. The chorus is a great hook that repeats around and around like a Waltzer ride you're having too much fun to get off. Don't be surprised if Travis give it a make over in their live sets!
On the whole it's a pretty poor album to say there are 18 tracks here, however Sinead and Lemar are huge plus points and if Ainslie can concentrate on writing more tunes like "Keep Me A Secret" rather than being an arrogant poser then Fame Academy may actually have succeeded after all.