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TOP POP IDOL CAN BE AS BIG AS WESTLIFE; Boy band's Scots hitmaker will write for telly winner.

Byline: LESLEY ROBERTS EXCLUSIVE

FOUR of the last five Pop Idol finalists could make it big as solo stars.

Stuttering Gareth Gates was yesterday installed as the runaway favourite to win.

But our panel of showbiz industry experts reckon most of the final five could become as big as boy band sensations Westlife.

The only exception is 25-year-old Hayley Evetts, who only one of our judges reckoned had any star quality.

Scots songwriter and producer John McLaughlin, who has penned No.1 hits for Westlife and Five, has vowed to make the winner of ITV1's Pop Idol the UK's next big solo star.

John revealed he will be teaming up with Pop Idol 'baddie' Simon Cowell to help launch the winner's career.

He said: "I'll be working with the Pop Idol winner, whichever one it happens to be, so I've been following the programme closely."

John joined a trio of Scotland's top industry experts to assess the final contenders and their chances of pop success - whether or not they win the TV contest.

Glasgow-based fashion expert Kelly Cooper-Barr, stylist to stars including Elle Macpherson and Kylie Minogue, was our style expert.

Public relations guru Gordon Duncan, from Cardross, Dunbartonshire, whose clients include Atomic Kitten and Victoria Beckham, assessed their marketing potential.

And former rock singer and voice coach Donna Soto-Morettini judged their voices.

All four reckon Gareth, 17, is out in front, but say Glasgow lad Darius Danesh, 21, Will Young, 22, and Zoe Birkett, 16, have the ability to become stars on their own.

Only Hayley was given the thumbs down. The panel feel she does not have a strong enough voice and has failed to make an impression.

Bookmakers William Hill have posted Gareth at 1/3, Will 5/2, Zoe 10/1, and Darius and Hayley 66/1. Spokeswoman Serena Momberg said: "It comes down to whether you vote for Gareth, the good singer, or Will, the good-looking singer.

"Is there life after Pop Idols? Here's our judges' verdicts

GARETH

STYLIST

Kelly says: "What can I say? You just want to cuddle him, don't you? Out of all of them, he could do with a bit of work on his look. He could afford go a bit more grungey and laid-back, spending less time making his hair spiky.

"PUBLICIST

Gordon says: "I suspect he's going to win. He's got a great voice and he looks great - girls want to go out with him and mums want to look after him. His stammer wouldn't be a problem at all. Brits like someone who beats the odds.

"VOICE COACH

Donna says: "He's got a pleasant voice but his ear is limited. He's trying too hard to please, but at least he is a littler riskier with his singing than the others, taking a few more chances. He should be more confident in doing that.

"PRODUCER

John says: "He hasn't got the greatest voice in the world but he makes up for it in other ways. He's overcoming his speech problems and will pick up a sympathy vote. With the right songs and the right team behind him, he'll do well."

ZOE

STYLIST

Kelly says: "She's very much got her own style which is brilliant. I wouldn't necessarily have chosen some of the outfits I've seen her in. I'd like to see her go for a funky New York 'street' look. She's already the winner for individuality.

"PUBLICIST

Gordon says: "She's a bit young to have to start dealing with the music industry. But she's gorgeous, very striking, with her own sense of style and that's something we look for. Whether she's mature enough is another issue.

"VOICE COACH

Donna says: "She's got a big voice which is pleasant and in tune and she's got a much better ear for music than the other contestants. She should concentrate on trying to bring something different to what she does.

"PRODUCER

John says: "She's tremendous. I really think she's got the potential to do anything that she wants. You need to have a special quality if you're really going to make it as a pop idol and Zoe has it. I'm sure we'll see more of her.

DARIUS

"STYLIST

Kelly says: "His image is fantastic right now - I wouldn't change it at all. Getting rid of the beard and the ponytail was the right thing to do. He looks very much like a pop star already. Definitely not a rock star - he's too clean cut.

"PUBLICIST

Gordon says: "From a PR point of view, he's a double-edged sword. Everyone knows who he is,but a lot of people don't actually like him. He does keep bouncing back but he's also very very cheesy. Bit of a publicity nightmare.

"VOICE COACH

Donna says: "His voice is the dullest of the remaining male contestants. I suspect he has trouble sustaining a note. He needs to get some muscle behind it. He would probably be a more interesting vocalist singing his own songs.

"PRODUCER

John says: "I like him and really hope he does well, partly because he's from Glasgow and partly because he's learned a lot about the industry in a short time. But a lot of people will judge him on what he is rather than on his talent.

HAYLEY

"STYLIST

Kelly says: "She's sexy and sassy, but in a clean-cut way and her style is really easy to copy - which is good news for young fans. Low-cut jeans, a sparkly top and a good belt - stick with that and she won't go too far wrong.

"PUBLICIST

Gordon says: "If I was being harsh I'd have to say that she hasn't made much of an impression on me. That suggests that I might have a problem translating her personality to the public if I was representing her.

"VOICE COACH

Donna says: "Stylistically, she's dull and she's got problems with her pitch which means she's not perfectly in tune, but that may come with experience. She should stick at it and keep singing all the time till it comes.

"PRODUCER

John says: "It takes more than being a good singer to be a pop idol and I'm not sure she's got it. I understand she recorded a single before Pop Idol but it obviously didn't sell much. She's lucky to get a second bite at the cherry.

"WILLIAM

STYLIST

Kelly says: "My tip for the winner. He's a cross between Rick Astley and Jude Law - a combination of the boy-next-door and a cool, comfortable scruff. His look has been fine up till now but he could afford to go a little more raunchy.

"PUBLICIST

Gordon says: "I like the way he stood up to Simon Cowell during the earlier part of the show. People that can stand up for themselves in this business will do well. He's quite good looking and he's obviously very confident.

"VOICE COACH

Donna says: "He's got an old-fashioned, easy-listening voice. He could be sitting in an armchair while he's singing. Like all of them, he would benefit from listening to other, more interesting artists to learn about style and technique.

"PRODUCER

John says: "He's great. He's got a pure, soulful voice. I see him as a kind of Mick Hucknall or Marti Pellow performer, with songs that have an R&B edge. He would make a good artist but I'm not sure he's got enough appeal to kids."
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 20, 2002
Words:1229
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