Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Geraldine 'The Winners Song'

Chart Peak: 2

Funnyman Peter Kay's reality TV show parody Britain's Got The Pop Factor... And Possibly A New Celebrity Jesus Christ Superstar Strictly On Ice spawned the victorious Geraldine McQueen... Her single 'The Winner's Song' reached No. 2 in the UK chart in October 2008.
The notes are evidently too polite to mention this but the single was intentionally scheduled for the week when the 2007 X-Factor winner Leon Jackson released his first proper single (the follow-up to his own winner's song, featured on Now 69 of course). Presumably there was hope of provoking a media-friendly battle for the Number One single, but it didn't turn out that way: "Geraldine" entered at Number 2 behind P!nk with Jackson a not especially close third. Simon Cowell might have been disappointed by that outcome, though it seems unlikely that he cared that much about Jackson in the first place - as the wise businessman that he is, Cowell evidently invests in winners based on his faith in their future prospects. In any case, Kay's satire seems a bit of an inside job; the original TV broadcast featured people from real talent and reality shows as themselves, whilst this song was written by Kay and Gary Barlow (not yet the X-Factor judge he now is, but already an associate of the show). It was even produced by Syco collaborator Steve Mac, who did a lot of the real winners' songs. And the tabloids did do their best by trying to manufacture outrage over the fact that this wasn't a charity single - not that he'd ever said it was, but supposedly some people had assumed it was like Kay's previous (and subsequent) musical endeavours.

By 2008, Peter Kay hadn't done real new work for a while, attracting criticism for releasing DVDs of the same jokes repeatedly. So there was a lot of anticipation about the TV special, although I didn't watch it and can't comment much on how funny or satirical it was; I believe there was some controversy about the fact that the Geraldine McQueen character was supposed to be transsexual and that this was arguably the butt of some of the humour (particularly given the size and shape of Kay himself even in character). As to the song itself, it's a fairly effective shot at a very easy target, though it's a little dated now because X-Factor winners no longer seem to be given songs that refer directly to the talent-show struggle narrative: whatever 'When We Collide', 'Cannonball' and 'Impossible' have in common, they don't really talk about striving in the way that 'That's My Goal' and 'A Moment Like This' did. Actually, that's quite an interesting digression in itself, but a bit beyond the scope of this post, so I'll save the speculation for another time. Meanwhile Kay's lyric talks about striving and success in a way that's slightly ambiguous and also a bit clod-hopping, presumably patterned after 'A Moment Like This' in particular (which would also fit with when he'd most likely have written it). Barlow produces a very exact pastiche of the slow-build by-numbers ballad for show-off singers, complete with key-change. In fact it's so close to the real thing I have to wonder whether he might just have dusted off something he'd already written rather than coming up with this for the occasion. I'm not sure whether it's more or less funny in retrospect now that Barlow's written very similar songs in earnest for Westlife and Matt Cardle - though I for one find it hilarious that neither of those singles was as successful as this one.

Also appearing on: Now 78 (with Susan Boyle)
Available on: The Winners Song

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