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EDITIONS
Monday, 9 December, 2002, 10:32 GMT
Fame CD reaches for stars
Fame Academy students
The original line-up of students: Now in tune

The BBC was roundly lambasted for its expensive attempt at a reality TV show, Fame Academy, in the face of more successful shows from ITV1 and Channel 4. But it has steadily added viewers as it approaches its finale.

I confess - I am one of the few to have watched this show from the beginning, in the spirit of: "It's my job."

Now the students have become my little friends as my husband has been working nights and - erm - I have no other excuse.

Lemar
Lemar Obika: Sings a Lionel Richie original
In listening to this end-of-term offering I feel like I'm an auntie going to the Christmas panto and let's face it, they don't need too big a hall for it either.

But more and more people are admitting to watching this show, which has shown valid credentials by following the fates of young people developing in wildly different musical genres.

This CD is really for those who will be bereft without the show (although of course many others will be waiting for that day - I certainly won't miss the hamfisted presenting of Pat Kielty and Cat Deeley).

But it has had a shipment of 200,000 copies and will be followed up in April with a UK-wide tour.

A mix of covers and tracks written by the students, it is a relief that, after a few disastrous performances, there are no bum notes - the songs were re-recorded in the studio.

Ainslie
Ainslie Henderson: Songs evoke his performances

There are several dull drum machine-led fillers, mainly from the students evicted early in the show, a lazy bit of production that gives the songs a karaoke feel.

Nevertheless the voices are a pleasant surprise, and a few songs have genuine wider appeal.

Lemar Obika is a stand-out on Back to You and Lullaby and Marli Buck's uniquely expressive voice is a treat on Fields of Gold, Make Me Smile and The Tracks of My Tears.

Sinead Quinn, David Sneddon and Ainslie Henderson also come across as the better performers on the album.

David is a surprise, better on CD than in performance with his mature voice separated from his very young stage image.

And Ainslie's quirky vocals are clearly recognisable, despite his teachers' fears to the contrary.

Sinead
Sinead Quinn: Last-minute student showcases powerful voice

Personality

Academy original Lullaby is a memorable and pretty ballad that could even have been a Fame Academy Christmas single.

Keep Me a Secret, written by Ainslie, Sinead and Malachi Cush, is a heartfelt tune that demonstrates how the songwriting is one of the delights of a show that started out so unpromisingly.

Back to You, written by Lionel Richie, sung by Lemar, is the one that you (might) find yourself humming at the bus-stop - one of the too few up-to-the-minute tracks.

Placed at the start of the CD, it raises expectations that are met, in part, of fresh talent - but those expecting production and pizazz over personality will stick with Popstars.

The Fame Academy CD is released on Monday on Mercury Records.


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