Joe McElderry covers Donkeyboy! Er, who?

Despite huge success in their home country, Norway, Donkeyboy struggled to get their song, Ambitions, played in the UK. So why have the X Factor winner's people chosen it for his new single?

This blog's headline was the question on, er, some people's lips after 2009 X Factor winner Joe McElderry premiered his new single, Ambitions (the first after the obligatory winner's single) on Radio 1 yesterday morning. You may remember wee Joe as the Geordie lad with the big smile who was basically adopted by judge and mentor Cheryl Cole. You may also remember him as the victim of the bizarre "real music v Simon Cowell" Facebook campaign that saw Rage Against the Machine finally get their festive anthem Killing in the Name to the Christmas top spot.

So, having covered Miley Cyrus's The Climb for that first single, he's now releasing another cover, this time a song by a little known (outside of Scandinavia) Norwegian pop group who had trouble even getting their original played on UK radio. The oddly named Donkeyboy (head to urban dictionary for two eyebrow-raising definitions) are Cato Sundberg, Kent Sundberg, Peter Michelsen, Thomas Drabløs and Alexander Garborg Ågedal. They formed in 2005 in the southern municipality of Drammen and, like all bands since the invention of MySpace, were signed after someone from a major label (in this case Warners) stumbled upon their songs and thought, "these guys are destined for success in Norway and a future footnote in pop as the band who originally did that Joe McElderry single". Or something.

Released in March 2009, the really very good Ambitions was Donkeyboy's first single and spent a staggering 13 weeks bobbing around the Norwegian top 10 before finally reaching the top spot, going on to spend a further 12 weeks at the pinnacle. In total, it has spent 52 weeks on the Norwegian charts and was only knocked off the top spot by their follow-up, Sometimes. Having emphatically slayed the Norwegian market, in April of this year they attempted to crack the UK only to be met with little or no support from radio. All this despite supporting A-ha on tour!

You'd think Cato, Kent et al would be fully aware of the fact their song has been covered and yet on their Facebook page yesterday they seemed slightly bewildered: "We don't know anything about this Joe guy. And it is completely new for us that he's planning to release Ambitions ..."

So, what do you make of it all? Does it matter that Joe McElderry's releasing another cover as his first single when even Olly Murs has managed to get someone to write him a new song? And if not, is his version any better than the original?


Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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