Pop Idol talents "throw down gauntlet", threatening long
The first Czech series of Pop Idol brought instant fame to Aneta Langerova.
Now hugely popular among the younger generation and respected for the
impression she gives of being a woman of principle, she has had the
opportunity to perform with Czech musical legends. In short, a dream come
true story for a girl who at the age of eighteen shook the Czech music
scene to its foundations, proving that there is space for new talents.
The second Pop Idol competition was a bit different. Czechs had got used
to it and did not pay as much attention to the second batch of finalists.
Being on average ten years older and having experience with performing
they were much more relaxed and professional; one reason perhaps, why
people didn't warm to them so much.
Both the winner Vlasta Horvath and his runner-up Petr Bende have just
released their first albums and although their popularity is not as big as
Aneta's they have become a threat to the icon of the Czech music scene for
the last 40 years, Karel Gott.
"For the second series of Pop Idol people say 'Oh you are a product.
You have been around for five years and you have never made it. Now you
went on television and you have made a record. But maybe you would have
never have produced a record if you had not been a face on the TV show.'
This might be very true but it is up to them. People still have to like
the music and the artist."
Says Romana Paskova, the marketing director of Sony BMG which is in charge
of producing Pop Idol. There were no doubts about Aneta's success,
concludes Romana but this year's finalists remain a mystery. It is likely
that they would have made it with their bands even without the competition
"Maybe it would not be so massive. But I never know if they want to
be massive. When you work with these guys, for example Vlasta, you don't
know if he is happy that his face is everywhere that the city is plastered
with posters. They did not have big thoughts. There is not much planning
from their side. It is just a game; there is this element of
Petr Vizina prepares the cultural section of the Czech daily Lidove
Noviny. He followed both the first and the second Pop Idol competition.
When I asked for his view about Pop Idol as such he was not excited at all
and refused to talk to me. Luckily he changed his mind but his greeting
when we met was ironic. "How on earth did you end up with a feature
about Pop Idol?" he asked, and I replied with another question. So
there was not a single person you liked?
"My favourite was Vlasta Horvath. Plus being a Roma it makes a
difference. When he won it was interesting because he is such a normal
guy. He has got a girlfriend. He used to have a job, an ordinary job. They
are very good musicians, they play the kind of music that would be played
on TV. They had the attitude 'We will send Vlasta and he will do something
for the band.' I like it, it is a good story."
The best singer of the first Pop Idol competition was without a doubt
Martina Balogova but she came out fifth. Czechs came down for a lot of
criticism for being racists mainly from British press. Martina as well as
Vlasta is a Roma. Was it just a coincidence?
"What you are trying to say is that people have made up for what they
had messed up in terms of Gypsies in the first round? No, I don't think so.
I think he was quite good."
While Petr Vizina disagreed with my suspicion that Vlasta's origin might
have helped him to win, Romana Paskova was of a different opinion.
"Maybe yes, maybe people felt ashamed of themselves. She was not
supposed to come out of the competition as the number five. So she kind of
prepared the way for him, for Vlasta Horvath to become the superstar."
And what does the second Petr Bende think? After all he would be the one
"I think that Vlastik did not come across as a Gypsy and nor did
Martina. The population might have changed their opinion about Gypsies in
the last year. I am pleased about it. I think racism is quite big here and
I think it should not be like that."
The second Pop Idol competition was crowded with solo or band lead
singers. But Petr Bende was the only one who was also a composer. The vast
majority of the songs on his new album were written by him. Romana Paskova
from Sony BMG says
"I think it is very brave and it is the only way you can be trusted
by people. The public really needs someone they can trust in times when
everybody is consuming music like chocolate. You have to present yourself
in the way when you really can explain 'This is me if you don't like it
leave it, if you like it, then great. This is his attitude. The set-up was
really perfect for him. He is not the winner so he is not in the spotlight
as the winner. So he took material that he had and rerecorded it. What
came out of the studio is unbelievable. We just could not believe it. The
album is so good."
The album is titled simply PB, short for Petr Bende.
"I think it is all going to fade out. The only thing I have ever
wanted was to play music so I don't mind the lack of free time. I have
always dreamed about concerts and I don't even have to play in big concert
halls. I like smaller concerts in bars. It fulfils me and I definitely
don't want to give it up. I think I should first of all prove that I know
something and then people will follow me."
Says Petr who is not concerned about the negative association Czechs get
when you mention the Pop Idol competitions. If it hadn't been for the
show, his first album, that he had already been working on, would have
been a bit different and definitely wouldn't have got so much attention.
But it would have been released anyway.
"I am not the kind of person who kisses up. I don't want to become
successful at any expense. I do my best and I want to be satisfied with my
music. The people who know me longer know how much I like music and how
enthusiastic I am about it. I don't think I am going to lose them just
because of Pop Idol. My audience has already widened. There is a fun club
that follows us around the country. We have been playing at various
Christmas concerts for about eight years and the audience is amazing. The
youngest are five, the oldest about eighty and they all like the kind of
rock we play."
Petr's success brought many offers of "corporate concerts" but
he refuses to play for people stuffing their faces with ham in front of
the stage. He agrees that there is a price to be paid for becoming famous
but his concerts are about music not the fifteen minutes of fame.
"The situation here in the Czech Republics has changed. People expect
more, it takes longer to get them going, to persuade them. I have
experienced a few concerts where people are standing and think 'So show
what you have got.' They don't believe me; they think that I can hardly
sing. It takes some time to persuade them that I know how to hold the
instrument and even how to play it."