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Belle Amie - not so sisterly

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    Posted: 22 Oct 2010 at 10:23

Not so sisterly: Behind the scenes with X Factor's squabbling girlband Belle Amie as we look at the fortunes of previous groups on the show

Last updated at 7:47 AM on 22nd October 2010

How predictable was that? Belle Amie, the X-Factor girl group, are squabbling already.

'I don't want to be "Oh she's pretty, don't make her sing, let's just look at her"' said  blonde Sophia Wardman with breathtaking self-confidence in the video shown before the band's appearance on last Saturday's show. Sophia was complaining she didn't have enough solo lines to sing. 

Belle Amie, a band of four made up of solo auditionees who were rejected at the bootcamp stage then given a second chance as a group, don't seem to have grasped the fact that they aren't in competition with each other.


Show of unity: But behind the scenes, Belle Amie, seen here at last weekend's X Factor results show, are sniping at each other

Not only are they clearly not gelling, but the battling egos, as they argue over who sings what part of a song, seem better suited to an episode of The Apprentice.

Louis Walsh said they needed to stop whining. Cheryl Cole  thought they had no chemistry on their first live performance. 

Not suprisingly they found themselves in the bottom two for the sing-off. They survived, with fellow Team Cowell band Diva Fever going home. 


The week before, another Cowell group, FYD, were sent packing. If Belle Amie need a reminder of just how vulnerable they are they should take a look at the statistics which make sober  reading. 

The odds are strongly against groups surviving into the final rounds. No group has ever won, though you could argue – and Louis Walsh does – that G4 and JLS, both runners-up, were real winners with the success they achieved after the show.

For Belle Amie there’s an added hurdle; they’re girls. As females are believed to vote more and tend to vote for  boys, the odds are further stacked against them.


Off duty: The girls smile but the grins are beginning to look strained

They can take heart however. For despite his criticisms, Walsh told me this week that he is a supporter. 'I think they are really good. That’s why I saved them. I think they have the potential to be great. I like them a lot ' he said.

The most successful girl band in X Factor were five-piece Hope from series three  in 2007. Also mentored by Simon Cowell, they too had been rejected in the solo auditions and stuck together as a band.

Singing Rihanna’s Umbrella and Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, Louis said they were better than the Spice Girls and Simon predicted they would be Britain’s answer to the Pussycat Dolls. They weren't of course and came fifth.

This is the seventh series of the X Factor and in five of them a group has been eliminated in the first week – three of them girl bands, one boy band and one mixed.

So far just four groups have ever made it through to the top three.


Voted off: FYD were sent packing in the first week of the live shows

Louis admits that it was in an effort to get the public to like the groups that the judges decided to create bands out of  failed bootcamp contestants.

Hope in 2007 were their first. This year, as well as Belle Amie there is also the boy's group One Direction, who seem to get on well both personally and onstage and, as a result, are being tipped as the first possible band to break through and win the show.

'I’m better than anyone else at forming a band,' says Louis. 'I told Simon to put the two bands together. He takes all the credit but I had more to do with it than he had. It’s just a natural instinct you have that they’ll work together.

'We’re giving them a lifeline after they’ve been rejected as solo artists. They have got to know each other from the auditions, rehearsals and bootcamp but they have to   gel themselves. They have to become part of the gang. We cannot make   them gel. We can’t teach people how to become popular. They either   are or they aren’t.
'My advice for the girls is to be less tarty. They have to be   girls next door. People have to be able to identify with them. It’s   the likeability thing.  But I have done very well with bands. I had G4 and JLS.   Both of them did incredibly well. JLS are one of the biggest groups   now. G4 sold a million and a half albums, and Jedward haven’t stopped   working and are booked up until next year. Who’d have thought?'


Winners: JLS, seen here winning a Mobo this week, may have only come second on the X Factor, but they've gone on to have more success than most winners

The major issue with groups seems clear: they may be   able to sing but fail to make an emotional impact as individuals, so  the public find it hard to connect with them.

JLS came as a well-disciplined, well-defined package, right down to creating a   distinctive look for themselves. But  groups who are formed on the  show have trouble bonding and creating that unified look and feel.

Graziella Affinita of Miss Frank, put together last year and eliminated in week three of the live shows says   they found it hard to find a following on X Factor.   

'Sometimes you have to use a certain language for a part of   England to understand you and be a certain sort of character. I’m naturally one of those people who might not be understood by Ian and Jane from Gloucestershire. I think the people who would vote for us   probably didn’t have enough credit on their phone.'

But she’s eternally grateful to the show for putting her together with fellow Miss Frank member Shar Alexandra. 'She’s a true sister of mine now. At the beginning when you’re interviewed they ask how close you are and you have to say "we're really close" when you are feeling the opposite. Because you want the same things you feel you must like each other. But when everything was finished and the dark clouds of leaving the show had lifted, Shar was still there and now I feel we literally share the same brain.'     

Miss Frank lasted for three months after the show until third member Shaniece Davis left. There was a brief hiatus before Graziella and Shar decided the name Miss Frank had acquired value and that the opportunity was too good to pass up. Cherelle Basquin, who Graziella admired at X Factor bootcamp, was brought in. They have recently changed  to a more feminine image.

Financially they have survived by playing over 100 gigs in bars and clubs. They are currently writing and recording songs, looking for publishers and finance so they can release their first album and have just launched their own website Missfrankuk.com. For Graziella it means she hasn't had to return to bar work. 

It seems that if you make it through to the live shows and are distinctive enough, being sent home doesn't have to be the end of the road.

Six years since the first series in 2004, Voices With Soul are still making a living. Hildia, (CORRECT) Campbell, her sister Grace and Grace’s daughter Corene,   formed a group six months before entering the show while singing in their church choir in Luton.

In the end their own mentor, Louis Walsh, voted them off after they had come in the bottom two in two previous weeks, saying they were not popular with the public.

But they have proved to have lasting popularity, working constantly ever since. They've performed in America and Europe and plan to release an album of gospel hymns next year.

They have also set up a vocal academy, which has charitable status, in Luton, to teach singing to the underpriviledged, and hope to expand it into a fully-fledged academy of performing arts.

The quickest band to split after being booted out  of the competition were Girlband -  who  were eliminated in week two in 2008 and broke up the following night. Formed just two weeks before the auditions, they included Marisa Billitteri, who had been singing since she was ten. In between working in recruitment advertising for a newspaper in Bristol she still takes time off to pursue her dream of becoming  a solo recording artist.

She has toured backing Laura White, another finalist she befriended on the show,  and  supporting Peter Andre. Tomorrow, she starts a week’s run in  Blackpool as a backing singer on Kyran Bracken’s Ice Party.

Marisa admits, 'We looked like four girls chucked together  not like a girl band.' Even their non-name was a result   of them not being able to think up anything better she says.

'The whole experience was immense and I would never change anything that the show did for us. But from a band point of view, maybe we could have been dressed a lot better and come up with a sound that had more of an edge.'

If Girlband were bland, The Conway Sisters divided opinion creating one of the show’s biggest controversies. Louis was accused of voting for the Irish band with his passport when he kept them in instead of bookies' favourite Maria Lawson. But according to Sinead Conway it was Simon, their mentor in 2005, who struggled to know what to do with them.

'Every act that gets on to the show is given a kind of  role to play and Simon didn’t really know how to market us' says Sinead. 'Each week he was struggling with what songs to give us and how to portray us as a band.

'When we’d finish performing he’d say "Oh I’m not sure if that song is right for you", live on TV. The whole audience goes with Simon's criticism. He has that kind of  hold on the show. Simon always told us he thought we were very good singers, but that he just didn’t know where we fitted into the market.

'At one point he said he’d like us to be the type of girls you’d want your brother to marry - a non-threatening nice girls next door vibe. The week we got kicked off he picked Chico over us. At that point we were relieved. We knew from the beginning we weren’t going to win and I do think girls have a tougher time.'

The Conway Sisters left the show in week seven after being in the bottom two for the two previous weeks. They came sixth overall and had previously been a successful band in Ireland  with one Top 10 and two Top 20 singles and an album. They lasted 18 months after the show.

'The main reason we don’t sing together now is that we were all into very different styles of music,' says Sinead who is studying for a degree in classical music in Dublin, sings in an Irish wedding band and is creating a stage show based on The   Beatles' Sgt Pepper.

In the same year as The Conway Sisters another band mentored by Cowell also protested he didn't understand them. Boyband 4Tune, went home in the second week of the live finals.

'I think Simon had a vision of us like a mixed race Westlife,' says band member Phil Kamesh. 'In the second week he had us in white shirts singing The Jackson Five’s I’ll Be There. We were four vocalists coming on to a show already knowing what to do, but then battling against their model of how a boy band should work and talk and sing.   Now they they know what the public wants and how to put the bands together.'

As well as Phil, 4tune consisted of two brothers and their cousin. The four were lifelong friends. 'It didn’t help when Louis asked on live TV if Simon could name us individually. He couldn’t.'

It was 4tune's second attempt. The year before they had got through to the judges' houses stage but were eliminated by Louis when they were found to already have a management  contract which is against the show's rules.

By the second year the boys had been released from their management deal. 'We got a call from the programme makers saying, "Do you want to come back on the show? We really   liked you last year. Louis should have put you through."'

Which just goes to show nothing has changed. As far back as the second series X Factor was desperately short of good groups. And as recently as last Sunday the just-eliminated Diva Fever claimed mentor Cowell didn't undertand them and had chosen the wrong song.

But 4tune did find some form of fame and fortune.  'We became one of the highest   booked X Factor groups and toured for two years afterwards' says Phil. With their earnings 4tune invested in a studio.

Phil now works in online marketing for acts, has his own events company and with former band members Mikeand Anthony Hannides is starting a management company. Mike and Anthony are now among the country’s top songwriters scoring their first Top 10 this year with My Name for McLean.

They have written for Alesha Dixon and Jay Sean, and  have now been invited by the X Factor team to submit a song for this year’s winner. How ironic will it be if that turns out to be Cowell's manufactured band One Direction?

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1322733/X-FACTOR-2010-Behind-scenes-girlband-Belle-Amie.html#ixzz134t7X0xe

Edited by Bren - 22 Oct 2010 at 12:08
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  Quote killersbee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Oct 2010 at 11:35
That was a long read, just goes to show that with a few exceptions, groups don't tend to last long
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