Sunday, August 18, 2002

TONIGHT, I'M GOING TO BE: The NME used to do a pretty good job of getting popstars to dress up as other popstars for its Christmas issues - Damon Albarn as Debbie Harry, Miles Hunt as Lady Miss Kier; you might spot a trend. Last night's Stars in Their Eyes Special (ITV1) had a similar premise, but without the cross-dressy fun.
Overall winner was Jarvis Cocker, of course - he'd chosen Rolf Harris for his little bit of Pulp fiction, and it's hard to imagine anyone else doing either Rolf or the show with as much grace or love. Matthew Kelly seemed to be genuinely delighted at El Jarvo's presence on the show - suggesting that the former star of Relative Strangers may go home and kick back to This Is Hardcore of an evening; certainly, he relished the phrase "Jarvis Cocker... as Rolf Harris" so much that he begged the indulgence of being allowed to repeat it. And as for Cocker's involvement, it demonstrated again why the people who love him have taken him to their true pop hearts. Could you imagine Bobby Gillespie pitching up for a Saturday night light ent slot, winning over the studio audience, and still leaving with his cool rating enhanced, rather than destroyed? But Jarvis, clearly, was there because he knows; Not to partake in a post-modern sneer; not swallowing something hard and jagged in the interest of a few more sales. Jarvis' love of pop is something genuine and affectionate, and as such he recognises Stars In Their Eyes for what it is - the air guitar/banana-as-microphone bedroom moment writ large. Unlike it's brash Saturday night neighbour Pop Idol, the Stars format is set up to pay a quiet, personal tribute to the music that soundtracks our lives. It reflects back the way that music used to give us a chance to slip out our skins and be someone else, rather than offers singing any old thing as a stepping stone to OK covers and the chance to present an award at next year's BAFTAs. The people I want to hear singing are the people who feel about music in that way, the way that I do.
And while Jarvis did it best, most of those selected last night brought that sense of genuine attachment to the songs they performed - the Honeyz as Supremes; Kim Wilde did Doris Day (beautifully turning up the volume on the Hint of Rude under Doris' apple pie image) - even him out of East 17 doing Ali Campbell worked well (if you could leave aside the fact it was him doing him). In fact, the only duff contribution was Allstars as Steps, which not only made no sense (one bland manufactured band attempting to sound like another bland band - one who they'd toured with a couple of months before) but chose a Steps song that was lifeless anyway. Clearly tacked on to justify a 'something for everyone' billing, it was a segment that was so pointless, you wondered if it was some sort of joke on the part of the production team.
The night belonged to Jarvis, and Rolf. But I think we all grew a little.

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