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Monday, 2 April, 2001, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Near'Say: Cloning the Popstars
Five Myleene lookalikes
Many 'Myleenes' are vying for the final line-up
By BBC News Online's Tim Masters

There was a time when tribute bands only got together when their heroes had died, retired or turned into wrinkly rockers.

It's a very dirty industry where everybody wants to get somewhere

Nicky Farmer, Myleene lookalike
That all ended when the Spice Girls spawned a plethora of lookalike acts such as the Spicey Girls, Nice'n'Spicy and the even Spicier Girls.

But a new milestone has been reached with the birth of the first Hear'Say tribute act - in the same week that the debut Popstars album hit the shops and rocketed to the top of the charts.

It was like being present at a bizarre (and undoubtedly illegal) experiment in human cloning.

Wall-to-wall wannabes

In front of me, in a basement dance studio in London's Covent Garden, half a dozen blonde Suzanne Shaws bounced and jiggled to a deafening beat.

Noel lookalike
It's Popstar 'Noel'
Outside in the corridor it was wall-to-wall Myleenes.

Nicky Farmer, 20, from Harrow was still breathless from the dancing audition.

"I'm a Myleene because of my long brown hair," she puffed enthusiastically.

"I'm always looking in The Stage newspaper to see if there's work. I'm very much one of the hopefuls - it's a very dirty industry where everybody wants to get somewhere."

But she's not a big fan of the real Hear'Say.

"I have to say that their music is not to my taste. But I do support them because they made it through millions and millions of people - I wish them good luck."

Popstars Hear'Say
Will the real Hear'Say please stand up?
Nicky, who works part-time in a hospital kitchen so she can remain available for auditions, would really like to be a solo artist.

"I write my own songs - I'm working on material for an album with another singer - so hopefully somebody will be interested in us."

Kym lookalike Chloe Field, 21, from Kent added: "I'm absolutely obsessed with Hear'Say - I've got the album and the video - I've followed the programme and I love them."

Early bookings

Suzanne lookalike
'Suzanne': Uncanny likeness
The Hear'Say lookalikes are being put together by Danny Barney of Showbusters UK.

Already on his books he has True Britney, The Saints, Be*Witched and BoyzOnly.

"We had about 100 turn up for the Hear'Say auditions," he says, "a lot of Myleenes, not so many Kyms. Some of them took part in the original Popstars programme."

Danny lookalike
Danny lookalikes were harder to find
Amazingly, the Hear'Say tribute band has its first booking only two weeks away. And more dates are planned at nightclubs and universities after the official launch in May.

"We've had such a good response I'm planning to form two Popstars tribute bands," says Danny, watching the next set of wannabe Kyms and Noels being put through their dance paces.

And their names?

"Hear2Stay and Near'Say."

So even if the original Hear'Say split up before the release of their second single, they can rest assured that their clones will be out there, holding aloft the flame of manufactured pop.

See also:

29 Feb 00 | Brit Awards
Tribute bands: The next best thing
14 Feb 01 | Entertainment
007: Licence to lookalike
27 Mar 01 | Wales
Stereophonics attack TV popstar
26 Mar 01 | Reviews
Hear'Say play it safe
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