Michelle McManus

The Meaning of Love

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What makes a pop star? Or maybe the question should more accurately be "What makes a Pop Idol?" In 2002 the answer was obvious, it was Will Young the winner of the first series of Pop Idol in the U.K., or perhaps Gareth Gates who so very nearly won but despite only coming in second, still achieved several number one singles throughout the year. For the second series of Pop Idol, all the elements were back in place, the four judges, the ridiculous early auditions from people who couldn't hold a tune but believed they could, and eventually, ten singers going through to the live finals, televised every Saturday night during the final few months of 2003. Despite two good looking boys, Mark Rhodes and Sam Nixon (Will and Gareth for series two), it was Michelle McManus a 23-year-old Scottish singer with a big belting voice that won the day. It wasn't so much for her vocal abilities that Michelle (known only by her first name) received all the publicity, but for her outsized weight, which was really unfair, but that's the nature of the record business, which appears to have no room for Mama Cass types in the 21st century. Whether Michelle received public telephone votes out of sympathy or whether the public really wanted to see what 19 Entertainment, the company that was scheduled to sign the winner, would do with an overweight lady as their Pop Idol, or whether they were judging her solely on her big voice, we shall never know, but on the final evening when she was announced the winner, one of the judges, Pete Waterman stormed off the set before being asked to join in the post vote celebrations claiming that this was not his idea of a Pop Idol and he would have nothing to do with it. As expected in the New Year, the song that Michelle had sung on the final show, "All This Time" was released as a single and shot straight to number one. One month later in February 2004, her debut album was released. Called The Meaning of Love, it reached number three but soon found its way shooting down the charts and into the bargain bins. Unfortunately the album was either rushed, or badly planned because with a voice as big as Michelle McManus' she should have been given a set of songs to showcase her undoubted talent. She was not. The single "All This Time" was a sort of cross between an All Saints number and a typical charity single release while the second single, "The Meaning of Love" was a charity sounding record without the All Saints rhythm, without the multi-vocals, and without much of a tune either. And after these two opening tracks, the album went downhill further with 12 other songs, all over produced medium paced ballads with louder than necessary backing orchestration, drowning any emotional content that Michelle may have given to the songs, all sounding very bland, tuneless, and unmemorable and nearly all with the same key change for the final chorus. The most obvious example of blandness being the Nina Simone hit song "Feelin' Good" which is given a makeover here, devoid of any emotion and giving a lie to the possibility that the singer was indeed "feeling good." When the title track was released as a single, it only just scraped into the Top 20 and the writing was already on the wall for the Pop Idol career of Michelle McManus. If there is ever to be a next time, give her some decent material.

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