A recipe for success: take our current voracious appetite for pop star reality TV - an appetite which shows no sign of waning in the near future. Combine it with the option of practising your off-key warbling in the comfort of your own home and without fear of public ridicule, and you are onto a winner.
With sales for the series recently topping 2 million, Sony's SingStar franchise was always destined for greatness and Singstar Pop is another welcome addition to the ever-expanding family. While squarely and shamelessly aimed at 'tweens' (pre-teens), it offers something for their older siblings and for their parents, too.
The first indication of Singstar Pop's target audience is given at the start-up video clip, where the participants are all in their early teens. No need for the more mature wannabes to fear a tracklist loaded with unfamiliar faces and songs though; in addition to some original classics (Steppenwolf - Born to be Wild, Manfred Mann - Do Wa Diddy Diddy), there is a couple of excellent covers (Jamelia - Stop, Ronan Keating - Father and Son), plus at least one track guaranteed to get your grandmother singing (Tom Jones - It's not Unusual).
SingStar Pop plays exactly like its predecessors, which makes it very easy to get into: from the carousel screen you select a track to sing and grab your mic. With the music video playing in the background the lyrics are displayed on screen and your pitch, tone and rhythm are analysed throughout, to produce an overall score at the end. The single-player career option which featured in the original SingStar but was removed from SingParty, is still notably absent. Sure, it was a little cheesy and superficial, but for those times when you couldn't persuade a friend or three to sing along with you, it was quite entertaining.
The option to utilise the Eye Toy is still present, as are the duet, pass the mic and cross-disc compatability features - by swapping discs at the carousel screen you can sing tracks from the earlier versions as duets. New features include medley mode, where you sing snippets from multiple tracks; rap scoring, which marks you on your rapping skill, rather than your ability to carry a tune; and voice filters, which can be used in playback mode to enhance or distort your voice.
A welcome innovation for Australasian customers is the inclusion of some local talent, such as Bic Runga, Savage Garden, INXS and Natasha Bedingfield. The European version features artists popular in the Northern Hemisphere, and both versions have a core set of tracks which have international popularity and recognition.
Sound quality is limited only by the capabilities of your TV speakers or stereo, and blame for the only disappointing video clip (Sisters Sledge - We Are Family) can be placed squarely on the technology of the day.
Overall, it's another polished product and a highly entertaining foray into the world of DIY karaoke, where undiscovered idols - both young and old - and sing-in-the-shower stars can really strut their stuff.
The Spazzys - My Boyfriend's Back
Shannon Noll - What About Me
Missy Higgins - Scar
INXS - New Sensation
Delta Goodrem - Born to Try
Evermore - It's too Late
Natasha Bedingfield - These Words
Savage Garden - To the Moon & Back
Bic Runga - Sway
Kylie Minogue - In Your Eye
Ashlee Simpson - Pieces Of Me
Avril Lavigne - Sk8er Boi
Beyonce - Crazy in Love
Black Eyed Peas - Shut Up
Good Charlotte - I Just Wanna Live
Hoobastank - The Reason
Jamelia - Stop
Manfred Man - Do Wah Diddy
Robbie Williams - Let Me Entertain You
Ronan Keating & Ysuf Islam - Father and Son
Sister Sledge - We Are Family
Steppenwolf - Born to be Wild
The Clash - Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Tom Jones - It's Not Unusual
Dandy Warhols - Bohemian Like You
Fountains of Wayne - Stacy's Mom
Erik B. and Rakim - Paid in Full
Blink 182 - What's My Age Again
Outkast - Roses
Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue - Kid