Pop's Ultimate Letdown?

I went into the first episode of Pop’s Ultimate Star with fairly low excitement. While it was a typically brilliant way for Julie Christie to chalk up some more zeros to the end of her bank balance, the idea of bringing together 9 contestants who have, let’s face it, pretty much been out of the spotlight and one kiwi who has done pretty well in Australia, simply scares me half to death.

Production wise, I thought the show was better than Idol and it seemed rather polished despite it kind of been thrown together at the last minute. So much so that poor Emily Williams had only been in the country a matter of hours before the show made it to air. Unlike NZ Idol 2006, there was an incredibly long list of sponsors in the credits which just goes to show that there are people who have faith in New Zealand talent.

First up, Emily showed what a true professional is like. During the ad break, she talked it up with the audience and exuded confidence often found lacking in kiwi performers. An obvious statement that she hasn’t been in New Zealand. The song choice for her was a tough ask though as we all know she’s an RnB girl. The song choice by the judges wasn’t stretching. It was plain and simply stupid. Emily has the pipes and the attitude to wipe the floor with most of the other contestants and to palm off a song that didn’t allow her to truly perform was insulting.

After his performances in Idol I was worried that Steve wouldn’t be able to stack up alongside some of these more seasoned professionals. Boy was I wrong. Although his hand still had a bit of a shake, young Steve used the stage exceptionally and rocked up a storm. The nerves might not be gone but he’s certainly tamed them and is a much better performer than he was on NZ Idol.

Camillia disappeared after the Idol tour in 2004 to look after her son. While many had hoped for an album, it was never to eventuate. Her performance tonight of a classic kiwi song added a nice new touch to it and could well make for a good single on Classic Hits. I’m not going to hold my breath for her to get a record contract though.

With an attitude filled song like You Oughta Know you’d think that the mouthy Jo Cotton would be able to do something with it. By the time she got to the chorus I was telling Rachel what her next dance move would be. She basically spent the whole song slowly moving forward 5 metres to where she finally spoke to the judges. Seriously. There’s a whole stage, a rocking band and a lively audience – not to mention the attitude in the song – and it was just plain ordinary. She certainly could have learnt a thing or two from the brown girl who performed the socks off it last year on Idol.

Nik Carlson still has a smooth voice. Didn’t really do anything for me tonight though. It was too much like his NZ Idol performances. Laid back and performing like he doesn’t really care whether he is around next week. If only the boy would show a little spirit when he performs then he’d be more than a pretty face with a nice voice.

Last year’s Idol winner was quite possibly the dullest performer of the night. Unlike the last time he was on TV (This is your life Jonah Lomu) this time he had his hands out of his pockets. Matt has a smooth voice but he is just so bland to watch.

Unfortunately, Rosita – or whoever came up with that dreadful arrangement – absolutely killed the song. The audience were really up for it and just didn’t get anything from Rosita to get excited about. Don’t get me wrong. The girl can sing. But that nearly sang me to sleep.

Our first NZ Idol had a tough ask on his hands tonight. A song that relies heavily on falsetto which in Ben’s case was considerably lacking. It was a tough song for him and I felt a little sorry as I think Ben possibly has the most to lose from being on this show.

Out of all the contestants on the show, Keri Harper has been gone the longest. In fact, out of all the TrueBliss girls, she is the one with the least amount of media time since the band vanished. As an unknown to many, Keri really showed her fellow “blister” up by storming the stage and commanding the audience’s attention. I was suitably impressed.

Lastly was ex Shorty Streeter David. Let’s face it. The guy has a weak voice at the best of times but when faced with a challenge like singing rock when you’re an RnB/Slow Jams kinda guy then what can you do but charge at it head on. The vocal was pretty average and pitchy but his performance was totally gutsy. He reminded of a Maori version of Michael Murphy with all his pointing and looked like he was about to bust into a haka at one point. I doubt he’ll win but his performance sure was entertaining.

As for the sound guys. Once again it was painful. Can anyone tell me if there are any decent sound engineers in TV in New Zealand? I think there’s a few awards for them aren’t there? I bet none of them work near a show like this.

Finally, what is up with those judges? Isn’t this format supposed to be similar in style to RockStar? If so, what is with all the namby pamby pandering by the judges. I mean, honestly! Where was the constructive criticism?! I have never in my life heard such spineless retort from a group of people who are supposed to be finding “Pop’s Ultimate Star”. According to the judges, they were all wonderful. Obviously this is why we have such a painfully pathetic pop industry in New Zealand when we have so called “professionals” who refuse to tell it like it actually is.

This show is likely to pull in better ratings than NZ Idol three but unfortunately the result will be the same. Nine of these contestants will fade away into oblivion and Emily will head back to her successful career in Australia where the industry there is nuturing and supporting her.

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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