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Radio review: Conor Maynard – Mayniacs Take Over; Scream Queens; Hollywood on the Tiber

In 2008, Brighton-born teenager Conor Maynard taped a microphone to his bed so he could sing and record cover versions and upload them to YouTube. While his performances weren’t ignored – sometimes even getting up to 300 hits and a couple of comments from his nan – nothing could have prepared the schoolboy for what was to come.

In BBC Radio 1’s Conor Maynard – Mayniacs Take Over, the station’s breakfast show DJ Nick Grimshaw chatted to the 19 year-old about his rapid rise to success – one minute working from a makeshift home recording studio, the next facing a bidding war between labels desperate to sign him. When the singer eventually made a deal with EMI’s Parlophone Records earlier this year, he was still so young his father had to countersign the contract for him.

Back in 2009, Maynard’s YouTube collaborations with American rapper Anthony ‘Anth’ Melo helped boost his profile to a global level. While the pop star rather modestly told Grimshaw that at this stage he was still really only known via the internet, it didn’t take long for record companies to realise what hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits and a rapidly growing number of besotted fans – the ‘Mayniacs’ of the show’s title – could mean for business.

In a fairytale reminiscent of Justin Bieber’s rise to fame – although one gets the impression that Maynard prefers to be compared to Mr Timberlake – the teen sensation began this year by winning MTV’s Brand New for 2012 award. In August, his debut album, featuring the likes of R’n’B star Ne-Yo and singer and record producer Pharrell Williams, shot in at No 1 in the UK album chart.

Expecting this profile to be packed with cheesy content as family, friends, fans and collaborators droned on about how wonderful the singer was – and the Mayniacs interviewed did, of course, supply plenty of this kind of stuff – it was refreshing to hear Maynard sounding like a normal teenager, still completely in awe of the kind of performers, writers and producers he was having the chance to work with.

As well as providing a global showcase for new talent, the internet is of course hugely influential in the way it revives careers. In Scream Queens, in which Reece Shearsmith looked at female roles in horror films and TV past and present, one actress commented on how she was “far more famous now” than she had been even at the peak of her film career.

Shearsmith, like his League of Gentlemen co-star Mark Gatiss, proved himself a great fan of the genre, and his excitement at having the opportunity to speak to an array of former femme fatales, heroines and lesbian vampires was clear. The half-hour show, part of BBC Radio 4’s Gothic Imagination series, was at its best when the spotlight fell on actors such as Pauline Moran (TV’s Woman in Black), Barbara Shelley (Dracula, Prince of Darkness), Linda Hayden (Blood on Satan’s Claw), Jane Merrow (Hands of the Ripper) and Madeline Smith (The Vampire Lovers).

However, what didn’t work was Shearsmith squeezing in questions about the changing role of women in the horror genre – there was enough potential material in that debate to fill a whole other programme.

In Hollywood on the Tiber, writer and producer Mukti Jain Campion examined another special time in movie history – when Rome’s Cinecitta film studios were flourishing in the 1950s and 1960s. Attracted by the lower costs of filming away from home and the facilities offered by the largest studio complex in Europe, American directors, producers and actors travelled to Italy in their droves, in the process creating such classics as Roman Holiday, Ben-Hur and Cleopatra.

However, the most compelling chapters of this story had nothing to do with the glitz and glamour of Taylor and Burton, or even Federico Fellini’s relationship with Cinecitta, which he called his “ideal world”. They lay more in the early years of the studios, founded 75 years ago for propaganda purposes by Mussolini, and then later in the period after the Second World War, when the location was used as a refugee camp.

Never before has it been easier to catch up with what radio has to offer, whether it be drama, documentary, comedy, quiz show or current affairs. The latest technical developments in this field are two new iPhone radio apps. The Stage’s online editor and columnist Scott Matthewman has more details in his Arts 2.0 column.

Conor Maynard – Mayniacs Take Over, R1, Monday, October 15
Scream Queens, R4, Monday, October 15
Hollywood on the Tiber, R4, Thursday, October 18

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