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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Faces of the week
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are CRAZY FROG (main picture), with RAFAEL BENITEZ, KATHERINE JENKINS, KIM WILDE and ISMAIL MERCHANT.

CRAZY FROG

He started out as a joke; to many, he remains one. He drives people crazy in railway carriages, makes some afraid to turn on their TVs, yet he gives endless fun to raniphile youngsters.

He is Crazy Frog, the ringtone that, in case you've been away visiting relatives on Jupiter recently, starts to the tune of a ding ding ding ding, dididing ding bing, bing pscht, and concludes with a wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

What's more, a single, on which these "annoying noises" are spliced together with Axel F, the (equally irritating, some might say) theme tune to Beverly Hills Cop, is outselling the new Coldplay release by four to one, and is destined to be number one on Sunday.

"This is a novelty record in the British tradition. Pop music should be about fun and this is good, summery fun," says showbiz columnist Rick Sky.

While it's true that Crazy Frog follows a path already beaten by such luminaries as Bob the Builder, singing hamsters and birdies, and Italian-Australians telling you to "'shaddapaya face", this is the first time a ringtone-inspired tune has made it to the top of the charts.

Crazy Frog's Axel F
The CD is set to top the charts
The "song" was originally the idea of a teenage Swede, whose efforts at imitating a two-stroke motor scooter reduced his friends to tears of laughter.

It was posted on a website where it was discovered by another Swede with time on his hands - a graphic designer no less - who drew a cartoon to match the sound.

A group of Germans had the idea to set it to music, and the whole kit and caboodle was bought up by some other Germans from the ringtone company, Jamster, whose tills have gone ring ding a ding as a result.

The company has accomplished this by blitzing mostly cable and digital TV channels with their Crazy Frog commercial, so much so that the Advertising Standards Authority has received more than 400 complaints.

But the authority's brief covers content, not frequency, and is therefore powerless to act.

However, it was able to insist that the cartoon's genitalia be covered up, the sight of which had offended some viewers.

Decreasing music sales

But the success of Crazy Frog also reflects the growing trend among young people to spend more of their money (and a lot of their parents' money) on mobile phones and computer games instead of music.


According to Peter Webb, a sociologist from the University of Birmingham, Crazy Frog's success is a clear example of how different markets are competing for young people's time and money.

"This is the situation the music industry has to contend with in a climate of decreasing sales - especially within the singles market - significant free downloading practices and many demands on time, resources and creative practice of consumers in general," he says.

Worldwide spending on ringtones and their accompanying logos in general is estimated to rise seven-fold from 348m in 2003 to 2.5bn by 2007.

On the other hand, youngsters, surveys suggest, still largely download their music for free via illegal websites.

Pop music should be about fun and this is good, summery fun
Rick Sky
The fragmentation of the media, with increasing numbers of digital radio and TV channels, MP3 downloads and so on, has made the job of promoting music by record companies much more difficult.

Shops like WH Smith and Walmart have even stopped selling CD singles.

So, ringtones are the football cards and Care Bear stickers of the modern age. Crazy Frog is very much here today but will be gone in five minutes and replaced by something equally addictive.

Sweetie Chick, for example, is waiting in the wings. You have been warned.


Triumph: Rafael Benitez
RAFAEL BENITEZ

Even the normally stony-faced Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, broke into the broadest of smiles on Wednesday night when his team snatched the European Champions League trophy in the most dramatic fashion. Having got his tactics all wrong in the first half when Liverpool found themselves 3-nil down, he changed his team's formation and inspired a sensational comeback ending in victory after a penalty shoot-out. A million people lined Liverpool's streets to welcome Benitez's heroes back home.

Katherine Jenkins: More awards
KATHERINE JENKINS

It's proving to be a fruitful year for the glamorous Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins. The 24-year-old's best-selling CD, Second Nature, was voted album of the year at the Classical Brits. The award caps an amazing 12 months which saw her debut album, Premiere, spend eight weeks at the top of the charts. And earlier this month, Jenkins - the voice of Welsh rugby, and an ex-comprehensive school music teacher - sang at the VE Day party in Trafalgar Square.

Green fingers: Kim Wilde
KIM WILDE

The pop star-turned-gardener, Kim Wilde, has topped the charts at the Chelsea Flower Show. Wilde, who enjoyed hits with songs like Kids in America, became interested in gardening while growing organic vegetables for her young family. Now she has won a gold medal for best courtyard garden with co-designer, Richard Lucas. Her Cumbrian Fellside Garden features elements of the landscape and natural resources of the Lake District, such as green Cumbrian slate and local flowers. Seems like gardening is, for Wilde at least, the new rock 'n' roll.

Ismail Merchant: Stylish film-maker mourned
ISMAIL MERCHANT

The Indian-born international film producer, Ismail Merchant, died on Wednesday at a London hospital at the age of 68. Together with James Ivory, Ismail Merchant became synonymous with genteel period dramas set among the English upper classes. Three of them, A Room with a View, Howard's End and The Remains of the Day were Oscar-nominated. Film-maker Lord Puttnam said of Merchant, "He was the one true independent film producer in Britain."

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy.


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