Lost in Spice…

Enhanced CDs feed fans the trivia they crave, spurring them to buy their stars’ new singles. Matthew Valentine clicks his way round AMX’s E-CD for the Spice Girls >

Waiting for Top of The Pops to start, symbolically marking the beginning of the weekend, could, pretty soon, be a thing of the past. Having already driven the first nail through its coffin by moving the show from Thursday night to Friday night – don’t try telling me when the weekend starts – the BBC is now up against an increasing number of enhanced compact discs.

E-CDs, if you haven’t already seen them, are interactive versions of CD singles. And they allow teenagers of all ages to create their own chart run-downs in their bedrooms.

Played through a PC, E-CDs provide a video, still photographs and song lyrics to go with the song. They could supply much more – but the Chart Information Network, which regulates the charts, insists on a maximum content if the discs are to be eligible for the all-important singles chart. Developers of E-CDs are hoping these rules will be relaxed.

Just released is the latest E-CD from the Spice Girls. The five – and here they appear to be still five, as the disc was developed before Ginger Spice left to join her Buddhist retreat – have used AMX Studios to develop the enhanced version of Viva Forever. Design literate pop fans may enjoy the irony in AMX’s Malcolm Garrett, who designed the famous Orgasm Addict album cover for the Buzzcocks and is closely associated with graphics from the Punk era, clicking his fingers to the latest lyrically inoffensive tune from Ginger, Sporty, Scary, Baby and Posh Spices.

For the purpose of Viva Forever, the girls have been transformed into cartoon characters. Clicking on them by using a sparkly wand icon allows access to exclusive pictures and the full video. Conspiracy theorists will note that Ginger Spice looks less than her best in the documentary-style still pictures.

As an extension of the Spice Girls’ overstretched brand the E-CD works well. Fans of the Spice Girls will no doubt enjoy it. It is, perhaps, only fair to admit at this point that they have been ousted from my affections by the far superior, and sexier, All Saints. If you feel the same way, the angelic cartoon Spices may nauseate rather than entertain.

But as a way of increasing the link between fans and bands the E-CD is a potent tool. The silver discs are capable of holding unprecedented amounts of hype, something the music industry has never been shy of exploiting. Indeed, a list of groups for which AMX has created E-CDs reads like a list of the boy and girl bands currently competing for the top spot in the charts.

The rest of the industry will surely follow suit. In fact, ageing loud boys Iron Maiden already have an E-CD in production. Before long pop-pickers will be able to symbolically start the weekend as early as they like. Tuesday has a nice ring to it.

The Spice Girls’ Viva Forever Enhanced CD is out now at 3.99

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