Album: Various Artists

Fame Academy, Mercury

Leaving aside more interesting conundrums raised by the BBC's Fame Academy – such as: is teaching a handful of children the rudiments of popular music an appropriate way of spending my licence fee? – the question remains as to whom this album is aimed at, apart from friends and relatives of the hopefuls. Stuffed with barely-adequate covers of chestnuts such as "Perfect", "I Can See Clearly Now", "Vincent" and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine", the impression is of a karaoke party at which all the turns on the mic have already been taken. Most show the way in which "soul" vocal delivery has become formalised, begging further questions about what these people are being taught. Surely someone should tell Marli that "The Tracks of My Tears" is generally considered a cause for sadness, rather than celebration? And why have Lemar and Sinead do "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" as cabaret soft-soul, perhaps the form least expressive of the song's massive yearning? Ainslie and David's "With a Little Help From My Friends"lacks the quirky individuality of both Ringo's and Joe Cocker's versions. When the Kids From Fame Academy are more closely involved in songwriting, however, they include lines such as "Oh let it rain droplets of sunshine in her life" – although Lemar manages a passable Seal impression on their "Back to You". I tip him as the probable winner (despite having no idea who he is).

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