Peter York On Ads: A long road from Wales... to Kettering

Katherine Jenkins
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The Independent Online

In the midst of ostensible cool we're really in uttermost squelch. Any easy Sixties retro pop countdown would show the complete takeover of the guitar band moptops from 1963 to 1966. But behind all that there was the Celtic fringe - a completely different strand of sentimental taste in direct line of descent from, say, Ruby Murray.

This stuff - "Oi Believe" from the Bachelors was a huge hit in 1964; Val Doonican first made it in the early Sixties - sold in huge volumes to young buyers and in aggregate accounted for far more of the market than anyone writing on the smart new colour supplements ever acknowledged. The Irish and the Welsh were our very own Grand Ole Opry.

Now we have Charlotte Church, who is every which way wonderful. She looks wonderful, she says hugely funny, knowing things and she's given the world a succession of hopeless boyfriends. Before she was re-launched as Little Miss Raunch, Church was the Voice of an Angel, doing the Sentimental Selection - light classical, superior show tunes - in line of succession from Aled Jones. But there's always a market for a Welsh warbler and Katherine Jenkins completely fills the gap.

The new commercial for Jenkins's Living a Dream album shows how you translate this musical strand into a look for TV. Miss Jenkins looks rather pretty in a china shepherdessy, Living Dresden sort of way - certainly not the traditional opera build - and she wears a big, bright red satin evening dress in the midday sun in a Latin location. There she is on a hill in Tuscany or Granada or somesuch, singing her little heart out. She does Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" in Italian; that Lloyd-Webber "Music of the Night" thing, "I Vow to Thee my Country" and, of course, "Nessun Dorma". No stone unturned.

She moves from set-up to set-up in what looks like an old hill-farm in a succession of slomo' red satin flounces; she's clearly done this before.

The point about this kind of classical crossover is that you ride roughshod over all the rules of category in the repertoire and you arrange them in soft-pop ways with heavy-gauge technical production. You don't have to obey any of the unities and you absolutely don't have to worry about being cool. This stuff is never on the radar for those late thirtysomething TV commissioning editors; they're already fretful that last year's declared enthusiasm for the Kaiser Chiefs might sound a little hackneyed now. The idea that there's really a Katherine Jenkins market out there among young people is beyond their imagining.

But I'm willing to bet it's people half their age who are actually going to buy this CD, go to Jenkin's concerts and pin up her photographs. Young people who'll go on to buy new-build houses in traditional designs. Young people who might well have submitted items to Radio 4's Home Truths programme.

But does that mean - and a correlation isn't a cause - the Katherine Jenkins audience just might be... a smidge, not completely of course, but tending towards what we metro intellectuals call the Christian Right, the extreme form of Saffy Syndrome, something not 100 per cent nice in Shepherd's Bush circles?

There's an eager flow of comment about Jenkins on the BBC Wales website, most of it hugely positive, most of it young - most of it not from Neath (Jenkins's hometown). There's Tabitha from Bath saying how beautiful Katherine is, John from Kettering saying she could win any beauty contest going and Katherine from Basingstoke saying she'd seen KJ supporting Del Amici and she was "magic", "a star". Eric from Northampton had actually met KJ after a concert and found her "charming and refreshing". But, unaccountably, not a thing from London N1, NW1, NW3, W1, E4 or SE17.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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