Who could fail to be outraged by the poor score awarded to Scooch at the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday? All right, they may a bit Steps Lite, or perhaps even Steps Lidl, but their entry had it all - stupid dancing, stupid outfits and stupid lyrics about flying flags and fellatio. And yet they were ignored by almost all the judges across Europe, rendering this year's contest even more of an absolute travesty than usual.
But even more of a shame is the fact that the new SingStar for PlayStation 3 has yet to hit the shops - because when it does get here, you'll be able to hold your very own Eurovision Song Contest and redress the balance. Regardless of which country you're in, you'll be able to download songs from all across Europe and host your very own competition - ideal if you've long fancied your chances at singing along to French rap, Finnish techno or Croatian crunk.
Admittedly, the ability to download foreign songs isn't the most exciting feature of the new SingStar. But the point is you're no longer restricted to the 30 tracks which come included on the disc, as producer Paulina Bozek explains during a demo of the game at Sony's London Studio.
"Our main focus was to finally satisfy the demand for more songs," she says. "That, we felt, was the number one thing we needed to focus on for PS3, and that would be our next-gen-ness, I guess."
On the Left Hand Side
You do still get 30 tracks included on the SingStar PS3 disc, however. "The direction for this disc is fun songs, very upbeat," says Bozek. "A lot of contemporary tracks, but a few classics from the nineties and a little bit of the eighties."
So for pop fans, there's Toxic by Britney Spears, the Scissor Sisters' I Don't Feel Like Dancing, Alright by Supergrass and Outkast's Hey Ya - plus tracks from Gwen Stefani, the Pussycat Dolls and Junior Senior. Then there are rock songs by the likes of Primal Scream, The Killers and The Fratellis. Older tracks include an offering from Twisted Sister and Musical Youth's Pass the Dutchie.
Undoubtedly, though, the SingStore is the real attraction. It's like iTunes, essentially - an online shop where you can search for your favourite songs and download them to build up your very own library of SingStar tracks.
Demonstrating the SingStore, Bozek highlights how easy it is to navigate and pick songs. Everything's built into the game, so you don't have to quit back to the PS3's main menu and enter a web browser to shop, and you can download tracks in the background while you're singing along to something else.
You can browse by artist, song title or genre, and there are 20 - 30 second video previews of each song to help you choose. It all seems to work very smoothly and it looks very smart - "We've really maintained the general look and feel. It's very SingStar, very slick, very minimal," observes Bozek.
Unlike iTunes, the SingStore won't be offering a vast catalogue for you to browse - at least, not from day one. That said they're lining up an impressive 350 songs for launch, with plans to ramp up the offering quickly.
"Our goal is total variety, and as many songs as we can get on there - ideally, one day, as quick as they come out. Maybe it won' t be the same day, but very very soon after launch," says Bozek.
Naturally, many of the tracks on offer will be familiar hits and karaoke classics, but you can also expect a few surprises. "We're not going to stick to mainstream as we have before. We've always been, you know, 30 songs and they have to be sure winners. There's going to be a lot more scope for niche, maybe songs that you wouldn't immediately expect to be on there but still have a fan base." Perhaps even songs from videogames - "Say, the LocoRoco song, for example," Bozek suggests.
"It's something that everyone we're working with, our music contacts, they're very excited about this SingStar and very enthusiastic. It's been a successful franchise for everyone, including them, and seeing this demo they can see the potential."
So that's 350 songs to start off with, and more added on a regular basis: "We're targeting 50 new songs per month at the beginning," confirms Bozek.
"But as soon as we manage to oil the process and get the song clearances through, we'll be looking to up that to around 100." And once the process has been streamlined updates will be arriving more frequently than once a month, too.
Sony has yet to announce how much each song will cost to download. Even if they're on the cheaper end of the scale, our guess is you could well find your PlayStation Wallet emptying at a rapid rate as the drunk people you've invited round demand more and more of their old favourites. But there will be a few money saving options in the form of Song Packs. These are bundles of between five and 10 songs, themed according to artist or genre - "The best of David Bowie, top reggae tunes, stuff like that."
The other major new feature introduced by SingStar PS3 is My SingStar Online - it's a social networking service, essentially. If you're familiar with MySpace, Facebook or any of those other sites used by today's youth (and today's grown-ups "because of the music thing"), you'll be right at home.
On your My SingStar Online profile page, you can post a picture of yourself, list your favourite artist and favourite song and pick a flag to show which country you're from. Your high scores will be displayed, along with comments other users have left for you.
Then there's room for photos and videos you've taken using the official PS3 camera or any of the web cams SingStar supports from third-party manufacturers. Snapshots are taken automatically when you're singing a song, and you can also grab your own at key moments. Then it's a matter of saving them to your media gallery and stick them on My SingStar Online, with the option to restrict viewing to those on your friends list if you're shy.
You're a bit more restricted when it comes to videos. After you've performed a song you can watch a playback of your entire performance - but you can't save it or upload it. However, you will be able to save a 30 second clip, and upload that to My SingStar Online.
And there could be the option to post full length videos later on because as with the SingStore, Sony is planning to keep developing this aspect of the game after the disc has launched. "We've got day one plans for My SingStar Online, and then update plans. Certainly, what we deliver at the beginning is not all of it - it's the platform we'll begin with," Bozek says.
The first update will be released towards the end of the year - "We're aiming for October" - and will introduce many new features, with more frequent updates to follow. "We've got lots of ideas for the SingStore and how to connect that up with the community - like user-created playlists, 'My top tunes for a barbecue' or something like that," suggests Bozek. "There's a lot more we can add to it."
There's also a feature called SingStar News, which will keep players updated with new info and help to build a community around the game. "So for example, say it's Elvis week and we want everybody to upload Elvis videos, we'll advertise it there. Or we've just added the entire Beatles catalogue... Maybe not day one, but something like that, we'd advertise it there to bring it to the forefront."
Mic and the mechanics
The SingStore and My SingStar Online may be important new features for the series but not a great deal else has changed, as Bozek explains. "The fundamental gameplay is pretty much intact. We're aware that we've got four million sets of microphones out there, so we want to make sure people who pick up the PS3 version still know how to play it."
So yes, SingStar PS3 will work with the red and blue microphones from the PS2 games - but later on, you might like to invest in the new wireless mics. Bozek says they won't be available from day one, "And it's not confirmed how it will come out - whether they will be packaged or standalone - but they're in development."
What about other peripherals - any chance we could see some compatibility with the Guitar Hero controller, for example? "Guitar Hero does what it does really well, so I think we're going to let them do that," Bozek says.
But what about the follow-up, Rock Band, which is set to come with all manner of exciting instrument-based peripherals? Bozek is less than convinced - "I think time will tell. Not too sure about that one.
"I mean, I think it's a really interesting concept. I'm looking forward to seeing what the price is, how it's all going to work together, the interface. I think it's cool, definitely very cool to expand it and have this concept of a rock band, I like that a lot. We'll just see how it's going to work out."
The fact is, SingStar PS3 doesn't need any fancy peripherals (apart from the aforementioned wireless mics, perhaps), and from what we've seen so far it looks like Sony was right to focus on adding new features rather than mucking about with the gameplay. A cynic might say it's just the same old game with iTunes and MySpace, but is that such a bad thing? Even if you're not keen on watching videos of 12 year-olds from the Isle of Man performing Killers songs, the idea of being able to download songs on request has a lot of appeal.
And although Sony may still be lagging behind when it comes to its online offering in general, SingStar PS3 should push things up a notch. The game's online features are slick, intuitive and fast, and make it easy to connect with your friends. They're everything the other aspects of the PlayStation Network ought to be, in short.
Whether the new features will be enough to convince the most hardened of SingStar objectors to change their opinion is debatable - it is still a game that revolves around singing in public, after all. But fans of the series are likely to love the option to download their own songs of choice, providing the price is right. And what with today's youngsters' proclivity for plastering their faces all over the Internet, My SingStar Online is likely to prove popular too.
Who knows? Perhaps the UK entry for next year's Eurovision could be performed by a brand new star who makes their name on SingStar PS3. Or perhaps Scooch could just use it to get a bit more practice in.