Phixx – Relentless
If Into the Popvoid ever creates it’s very own ‘Hall of Fame’ – please Niall, can we have a ‘Hall of Fame’ – my first nomination would go to Roseann McBride. One of the music industry’s all-but forgotten ‘foot-soldiers’, Roseann spent much of the early 2000s working at Concept Records, tirelessly promoting the type of pop stars whose very existence proves that if you wish hard enough, talented or not, all your pop dreams can come true. We’re talking Lisa Scott-Lee, Jennifer Ellison and Upper Street…folks, this woman almost single-handedly filled a whole wing of Into the Popvoid’s ‘memory palace’.
Roseann achieved a certain degree of notoriety and mainstream media attention when Concept signed Lisa Scott-Lee in 2005 after she’d been dropped from her major record label (Mercury) and a reality TV show – Totally Scott-Lee – was commissioned by MTV to follow multiple members of the Scott-Lee dynasty as they tried to re-ignite their pop careers. In the end, it wasn’t so much like witnessing ‘a phoenix rise from the ashes’, more a case of watching someone screaming, “fire-damaged sale – everything must go!”
Roseann, however, seemed to go from strength to strength. As the breakout star of the show, MTV were keen to make her a central component in their next act of terrorism against music.
Seemingly intent on maintaining their position as reality TV’s answer to Victor Frankenstein, MTV’s next foray into the genre was Totally Boyband, a completely against nature attempt to create a group, which resulted in the unspeakable pop chimera that was Upper Street – a boyband made from stitching together off-cuts from Steps, Another Level, 911, New Kids on the Block and S Club 7. From this lofty perch, Roseann once again re-claimed her position as the most forthright woman on television, with the Sloppy Dog website branding her, “deafeningly loud, pushy beyond comprehension and downright frightening,” while Popjustice went as far as calling her “the pop industry’s answer to Blanche Hunt”, and running a ‘Win a night with Roseann McBride competition’.
In 2007, Popjustice’s love of this woman even prompted them to try (and obviously fail) to whip up public support for McBride to replace the departing Sharon Osbourne as a judge on The X Factor. It was a sentiment echoed by columnist Grace Dent, who added weight to the campaign by saying Roseann deserved the job merely for making Lisa Scott-Lee cry in every single episode of ‘Totally Scott-Lee’, simply by telling her the truth.
I was lucky enough to meet the formidable Roseann McBride a couple of times back in 2005, just as her work with another Concept act, Phixx, was coming to an end. She was everything and more of what I’d expect from a pop svengali; breathtakingly honest, unashamedly sweary and hilariously dismissive of all the artists she represented; steadfastly referring to each and every one of them as ‘the turn’.
My ‘Evening Out with Phixx’ story is one of my favourite memories from my old ‘music industry adjacent’ job – the type of night where you’re constantly pinching yourself because you know it can’t possibly be happening but it feels completely real, as if Into the Popvoid had its own Jurassic World style theme park and one of the rides involved a totally immersive experience which gave you the chance to mingle with popstars in their natural environment – a popstar petting zoo no less.
While – as far as I recall – no members of Phixx attempted to tear me limb from limb, swoop down and carry me away to feed to their young or spray noxious toxins in my face, they did become my ‘new favourite band’ for about fifteen minutes.
Phixx was created from the pile of rejected boys who didn’t make it into One True Voice, the boyband who famously failed to beat Girls Aloud to the Christmas no.1 spot following Popstars: The Rivals. But like Liberty X before them, Phixx somehow managed to outlive their victorious rivals. Their frenetic, synth-heavy, electro-pop style helped them score four top 20 singles and allowed them to succeed wholeheartedly in their mission to be seen only in rubber, leather or stripped to the waist. Imagine Magic Mike: The Early Years with a score written and produced by Howard Jones and you’re almost on the right track.
Hidden away amongst the tracks intended for their album was Relentless, a song which could have easily gifted the boys a fifth top 20 single (and another excuse to flash those abs). Heavy on electronic washes and bubbly synth riffs (as was most of their output), Relentless is a mid-paced, stately affair, giving each of the boys a chance to show off their vocals at their, ‘I’ve just finished doing something sweaty’, breathless best. While the song covers much of the same ground as a typical Westlife-esque ballad – uncontrollable attraction, lives forever changed and undying devotion – you know that when it comes to the middle-eight key change, the Phixx boys wouldn’t be able to stand up because they’d be handcuffed to their chairs, enjoying a bit of light bondage.
While the boys did get as far as completing their album, Electrophonic Revolution, sadly, with falling singles sales (and the band’s line-up in flux), things conspired against them to ensure it was never officially released in the UK. It’s a shame because with the same sort of guiding influence Xenomania exerted on Girls Aloud’s career, Phixx could have easily become the anti-Westlife – the natural progression of Take That’s earliest incarnation as kinkily attired, gay-baiting, pop tarts.
Phixx may just have been living proof of Roseann McBride’s theory that ANYONE can become a successful popstar; as long as you never indulge them by listening to any ideas or opinions they might have about what path their own careers should take and rule them with an unflinching iron fist. Perhaps if Roseann was in charge of today’s biggest artists, things would be a tad less self-indulgent and a few of their recent releases might have been sent back to the studio with a stern, ‘Must try harder,’ scrawled across the cover. Would Florence Welsh, as Twop Twips described in a recent tweet, be allowed to make an album which sounds like it was created by “locking an owl in a wind chime shop” instead of something which fully represents her immense talent and originality or would Kylie really be able to deliver an album with (at most) two decent tracks before she pops off to rake in the money playing dress-up on round-the-world tours? I don’t think so. They wouldn’t dare.
If Into the Popvoid ever manages to start its very own Popstars Training Academy – please Niall, can we have our own Popstars Training Academy – I vote that at least one wing should be named after Roseann McBride. If we don’t, I have a horrible feeling she might shout at us until we cry.
Entered chart: was not released
Who could sing this today and have a hit? – I’m torn. In some respects this doesn’t sound a million miles away from something Robyn might release as a third or fourth single from an album, but I’d also like to hear (the so far hitless and former Popvoid entrants) Prides have a crack at it as a potential ‘Plan B’ if anthemic, Celtic pop continues to not work out for them.