The best – and worst – celebrity singing shows of all time

As X Factor plans a celebrity reboot and All Star Musicals returns to ITV, it's time to look back at the long history of celebrity karaoke

Simon Cowell on week 2 of The X Factor

Grab the earplugs and settle in for some hilarious showbiz humiliation: celebrity singing contests are BACK.

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Simon Cowell is reportedly planning to launch a celebrity edition of The X Factor in a bid to relaunch the struggling singing show.

ITV meanwhile is also bringing back All Star Musicals for another round, featuring famous faces taking on a series of musical numbers in a bid to impress a West End crowd.

These shows are just the latest in a long, not-always-proud history of celebrity karaoke.

So join us as we look back at the other celebrity singing shows we’ve enjoyed/endured over the years…

Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes (1998 – 2006)

The big daddy of the showbiz singing format, Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes worked because the idea of celebrities singing on stage was still novel, fresh and exciting. Oh, and of course the sheer brilliance of the “glittery door” makeover, with the celeb stepping out through wafts of smoke looking nothing remotely like the singer they were going to impersonate.

The appeal of it, apart from putting bets on how awful Matthew Kelly’s suit was going to be, was that it was genuinely just for fun. It wasn’t a platform for a celeb to plug a tacky product, there were no bitchy judges trying to grab a few precious minutes of airtime: it was just gloriously silly celebrity karaoke.

It also featured some surprisingly quite good performances, including pre-BAFTA winning Suranne Jones as Madonna and, bizarrely, Jerry Springer as Elvis.

Comic Relief Does Fame Academy (2003-2007)

Launching in 2003, the charity edition of Fame Academy saw celebrities schooled in the art of singing, with the student considered ‘top of the class’ graduating on Red Nose Day.

The show saw some truly appalling turns (including number one artist Nick Knowles only coming 7th in the second series of the show), but the singing was mostly overshadowed by host Patrick Kielty’s constant feuding with the Academy’s ‘headteacher’ Richard Park.

Speaking on Xfm at the time, Park said of Kielty, “I work extremely hard at trying to blot him out. His performance has been sub-standard – I don’t think we’ll be seeing him on BBC screens again.”

However, it was Park who infuriated BBC bosses, after he gave Kielty a rude hand gesture live on air that elicited over 400 complaints. The show hasn’t returned since 2007.

Just The Two Of Us (2006-2007)

Fundamentally ‘Strictly Come Singing’ (complete with Tess Daly as host), Just The Two Of Us followed the tried and tested Strictly method of partnering up a celebrity with a professional singer and having them perform a duet together over five nights, with judges scoring them out of ten.

However, the show lacked Strictly’s charm, with none of the judges able to replicate Len Goodman’s warmth or Craig Revel Horwood’s savagery, leaving the show (like the singing) just a little bit flat.

Just The Two Of Us is also responsible for making the late, great EastEnders star John Bardon aggressively hammer out Nelly Furtado’s Maneater in scenes we will never, ever forget.

Soapstar Superstar (2006-2007)

A painfully budget show with honestly one of the most embarrassing title sequences known to man, Soapstar Superstar gathered a series of soap favourites (and Roxanne Pallett) to see if they could cut it singing live in a studio every night, with viewers voting to put their favourites through to the next round.

There wasn’t any point to it other than receiving the ‘hallowed’ title of Soapstar Superstar, but ITV somehow managed to squeeze out a companion show, Soapstar Superstar: Bonus Tracks.

It wasn’t terrible (its biggest crime was its blandness), but it quickly came under fire after it emerged it was one of the shows involved in the great 2007 ‘phone-in scandal’, when it was discovered that viewer votes had been manipulated.

Unsurprisingly, it was announced later that year that the show had been axed – although a spokesperson said the ITV show “may well come back one day”.  Which sounds like a threat.

Popstar to Operastar (2010-2011)

Popstar to Operastar had the benefit of its contestants actually being able to sing – although whether they were actually bona fide popstars was up for debate (Darius Campbell, of cringeworthy Pop Idol fame, was the first series’ winner).

Basically ‘The Opera Factor’, each week pop singers were mentored by Rolando Villazon and Katherine Jenkins to take on operatic classics live in front of a panel of judges.

The first series inexplicably saw Meatloaf and Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen on the panel – they were replaced by Vanessa-Mae and Simon Callow for the show’s second run.

Not everyone was thrilled by the thought of bringing opera to the masses, with several critics and classical music fans accusing the show of “exploiting the artform of opera.”

Your Face Sounds Familiar (2013)

This bright and gaudy talent show straight from Spain was a modern-day Stars in Their Eyes without the glamour of Matthew Kelly.

Week by week, six celebrities would impersonate a singer, with the best performing celebrity winning £10,000 for their charity, and the overall champion winning an additional £50,000.

The ‘hilarity’ stemmed from the supposedly random generator which assigned a singer to a celebrity, with resulted in side-splitting moments such as Alexander Armstrong as Susan Boyle and Emmerdale’s Natalie Anderson as Justin Bieber.

Thankfully. the UK version was never as tone deaf as the Greek edition, which in 2013 featured one white singer ‘blacking up’ to perform as Stevie Wonder.

The UK version was cancelled after its first series in favour of a Stars in Their Eyes reboot, which also flopped.

All Together Now – Celebrities (2018)

The BBC’s most recent take on the genre was a celebrity edition of feelgood talent contest All Together Now.

The show saw a whole host of stars stand up and sing in front of a panel of 100 musical experts, led by Spice Girl Geri Horner. If the panel liked what they heard, they stood up and joined in with the signing. The celebrity who came closest to getting all 100 on their feet won… a trophy.

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It’s fundamentally an overlong and hyper-glossy karaoke session, complete with some truly awful performances (Gemma Collins’ Big Spender, for example), but it doesn’t hit such a bum note as some other celebrity singing shows. Co-host Rob Beckett throws in some well-timed acerbic observations to counter the more saccharine showbiz love-ins between contestants.


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