The history of number ones is a history of answers to the question – “Who has the power to make hit records happen?” The labels? Radio stations? TV? The fans? Balances shift this way and that, but some constants remain, and one of them is light entertainment. British pop is a body in a long, irregular orbit around the sun of BBC Light Entertainment and its commercial imitators.A documentary series in 2006 sketched out the elements whose fusion created ‘Light Ent’ in its British form – comics, double acts, “all-round entertainers”, pop and easy listening stars, radio personalities, impressionists. To which you might later add chat show hosts, game show hosts, kids’ TV presenters, reality TV stars, YouTubers and more. It adds up to an Establishment. And like the British political and business Establishments, once you were in, it took a high level of failure – often no level was high enough –  to throw you out again.  In all these networks, the ability to slide easily between roles was highly prized. The befogged sensation you got watching Blankety Blank and get watching I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here – the persistent inability to work out exactly what people are famous for – is a feature of the system.

Pop’s role in this variety-industrial complex shifts around: sometimes pop music feels like a site of resistance to the complacency of light entertainment, sometimes you think the energy of the music is shifting norms and setting tones, and then sometimes pop feels utterly subsumed by the rest of it. And so you get a situation like “Mysterious Girl”, where a former pop star can have their career resurrected – briefly – by a reality TV show and see one of their old hits go to number 1 as, essentially, a flex.

Not Peter Andre’s flex, though. The revival of “Mysterious Girl” is as much down to Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles. Moyles was a radio revanchist – nostalgic for the old 70s and 80s model where the DJs, not the music, were the draw for radio listeners. The Radio 1 DJs of that not-very-bygone era were prototypical Light Entertainment figures – unhindered by taste or passion, able to slip easily into a myriad of presenting roles. Moyles’ drive, his aggressively jovial persona, seemed to me born partly of resentment that he’d missed out on those times. You can imagine him bitterly watching Enfield and Whitehouse’s Smashie and Nicey characters, angry that the giants they represented had been laid low by sneering hipsters and marketing men.

One thing those old school DJs did was bestow their patronage on records and turn them into a cause. Moyles, newly promoted to the Radio 1 Breakfast Show, saw an opportunity in Peter Andre, who’d returned to public attention with his antics on I’m A Celebrity. Andre came over well on TV – a likable dimwit with a can-do attitude towards the snake-wrangling and bug-eating tasks he was set, whose romance with fellow contestant Katie Price kept audiences gawping. He didn’t win the reality show, but he left it as a popular figure in a way he’d never truly managed during his first stardom. People were on his side.

“Mysterious Girl” was the perfect song to catch that moment, and Moyes pushed it hard. It wasn’t just Peter Andre’s signature hit, it was the one that captured the give-it-an-honest-try side which won him fans in the jungle. A jollified bit of featherweight pop-reggae, “Mysterious Girl” has that fortunate quality some bad but catchy songs do – the performance in your head is better than what actually exists. The hook of “Mysterious Girl” is strong enough that even Peter Andre’s ironically scrawny voice can’t ruin it, and besides Bubbler Ranx is there to fortify it with competence.

One precedent here is Scritti Politti’s brace of early 90s singles with Shabba Ranks and Sweetie Irie, which proved that this formula – pop reggae with one singer breathy and one singer rough – could be gorgeous. Andre isn’t as good a singer as Green Gartside (and Bubbler is no Shabba either) but there’s enough of that sweetness to make “Mysterious Girl” easier to stomach than any of Andre’s other stuff.

Its almost-goodness was something Moyles could work with, fluffing the widespread post-jungle liking for Peter into – what exactly? A comic bit that enough people would commit to for “Mysterious Girl” to land at No.1 (doing the Moyles brand no harm in the process). It’s another new wrinkle in reality TV’s influence on British pop. With Pop Idol and The Voice, the winner getting to Number 1 was the pre-scripted culmination of a story. “Mysterious Girl” is the same but improvised – a campaign to get any old hit to Number 1. In this if nothing else. Chris Moyles would prove a pioneer.

Score: 4

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