Monthly Archives: August 2005

Great, Another Week of J.D.

An inevitable, yet disappointing elimination tonight on Rock Star. Ty was obviously not right for INXS (not because he’s black, as he suspects, but because he’s a douche), but why not boot J.D. first? J.D. can’t stay on pitch, he doesn’t try, and he’s annoying. Contrary to what most reality TV producers seem to think, negative drama like his does not make good TV. It makes the show as frustrating for the audience to watch as it is for the people on the show to experience. With a vocal competition program, there’s enough built-in drama waiting to see who’ll screw up, who picked a bad song, and who turns things around with a good performance.

How refreshing that, when asked to choose the opening act for her encore, Suzie didn’t hesitate or try to be magnanimous. She knew Marty was awesome during the performance show, so she picked him. And she knew she performed well, so she didn’t pretend like she thought she might be in the bottom three.

Suzie’s reactions always seem genuine. I’m telling you, she’s absolutely who INXS should pick, and she even got the crowd to sing along — a giant signal that the band should should pick her. Obviously, when they tour, “Bohemian Rhapsody” should be their encore.

Notes from the performance show:
What misguided sense of charity prompted CBS to hire that choir? They were wretched… Ty and Mig are squares, and it’s very hard to believe them when they try to rock. Mig, don’t give the horns again or I’ll sic  Ronnie James Dio on you… Jordis has an awesome dad, who should be a regular part of the show… Kirk Pengilly and his Dastardly Moustache deserve credit for calling Mig out for singing over all the instrumental parts in “Live and Let Die.” And the house band deserves credit for not laughing while singing those lame-ass backup vocals… Suzie’s jacket makes her look like a lion tamer.

Up With Suzie

This week’s Rock Star clinic gave INXS their best look yet at how the remaining contestants would fare as lead singer of INXS. Contestants were brought into the studio with Andrew and Jon Farriss to record vocals for a new INXS song. Even though the task was pretty straightforward, it was interesting to see who blew it and how. Jordis decided to rework the melody, which probably wasn’t the best move, since they obviously wrote it that way for a reason. Marty screamed, though the song didn’t call for it, and J.D. didn’t bother to rehearse. All the proclamations of wanting to be the lead singer of INXS don’t mean squat when you can’t be bothered to learn the lyrics, J.D.

The Farriss brothers gave off a sense of growing concern that some of their early picks may not be right for the band. Jordis has arguably the most vocal talent in the house, but when asked to interpret new material, she writes vocals with a range of only a few notes. Marty and J.D. give strong live performances, but Marty isn’t comfortable singing (versus screaming) and J.D. is immature. It’s not INXS’s job to teach J.D. how to be a professional, and they may not have the time to shape Jordis or Marty into the singer they need to front the band.

Considering that INXS is currently recording parts of their new album, it’s a safe assumption that most of the vocals and lyrics are already written. What they need is someone who can perform songs the way INXS wants them to be sung. Based on tonight’s clinic, their best options are Suzie and Mig, with the edge going to Suzie. Her vocals get stronger each week, and she has a certain quality that makes you want to like her. She went from one of my least favorites early on to far and away the performer I most look forward to watching.

Tuesday night’s performance show looks like this:
~Suzie’s got a chance to wow everyone with her rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with a choir to back her.
~Ty also gets the choir for what will undoubtedly be a silly version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones. Keith Richards will be spinning in his grave.
~Marty can save himself with a toned down performance of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” But he’s sure to have all of America’s guitar-playing college guys saying, “I’m way better than him, dude. I totally rocked that song at open mic night at the Java Hut.”
~Jordis picked the boring John Lennon tune, “Imagine.”
~Mig does “Live and Let Die” by Guns N’ Roses, er, Paul McCartney. Mig, when you’re worried that “Bohemian Rhapsody” will remind everyone that you’re a theater guy, it’s not a good idea to replace it with the theme to a James Bond film. “View to a Kill” by Duran Duran would’ve been so much better.
~J.D. sings “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis; it’ll sound exactly the same as the original, minus the jumpsuit.

I’m So Sad, But I Can’t Stop Dancing

Dear Mark Burnett,
Please make all three weekly
Rock Star shows 1 hour long. Thanks.

The little show that could has developed into a compelling TV series. Tonight’s elimination show was legitimately sad, especially when Deanna said onstage that she was afraid everyone would forget who she was after she left the show. I have a feeling that the record producers and agents who’ll be calling Deanna tomorrow morning won’t let that happen.

Unlike other reality shows with young, dumb contestants, these people are mature enough to form real friendships with each other. The competition seems to come second to their relationships, and they were obviously upset to see Deanna go. Well, not J.D., for whom the competition has always come first.

Jordis seemed to take the elimination hardest because she knew she deserved bottom three, and maybe it was supposed to be her night to go. It’s hard to ask a 23-year-old girl to face the people she lives with after being given a reprieve she didn’t want, or deserve.

Luckily for Marty, his fall to the bottom three forced him to do exactly what INXS wanted (more singing, less screaming) and he gave what may have been his best performance yet. What’s amazing is that Marty doesn’t even want to be the lead singer of INXS. This is just a learning experience for him, and I don’t think he expected to get this far. He’d rather return to Chicago and play with his now highly-publicized Lovehammers; too bad he might wind up winning the whole thing.

Tonight’s outro footage of Ty captured what being a contestant must feel like these days. The house band played and Ty danced along as the tears rolled down his cheeks. The experience has likely been more intense than any of the contestants expected; most of them probably thought it would be an easy way to get noticed, and they’d spend the rest of the time partying. But every week they get closer to the prize, and every week they have more to lose. Most of the contestants probably just wanted to go home tonight. They’re so sad, but they can’t stop dancing.

That Was Ty-riffic

Tonight’s Rock Star was an episode of firsts: the first time we heard Mig’s song “Do or Die,” the first time Jordis was the worst performer, and the first time I voted for J.D. Like Suzie, Deanna and Ty, J.D. gave a solid performance; he hit the notes and didn’t overdo it. Suzie was the best of the night, and Ty’s rendition of “Proud Mary” was good, although I would’ve appreciated some dancing from his backup singers. Tina Turner wouldn’t tolerate that kind of stationary performance. And the house band made Deanna’s song sound like a real song.

Mig. Ugh. What was that, mate? It sounded like the theme from some 80s film about high school athletics. Picture it: Matthew Modine wins the wrestling tournament, credits roll and we hear, “I’m free fallin’, freestylin’…”. If it was really do or die, Mig, you’d be dead.

Someone stole Marty’s shoes! That has to be why he lost it and tanked the vocals during “I Alone.” It’s a crappy song anyway, but at least no dolphins cried during the filming of the show. God, I hate Live. And poor Jordis didn’t know what she was getting into when she picked “Dream On” by Aerosmith. I can’t imagine how much worse that performance would’ve been in person. If she’s not in the bottom three, I’m demanding a recount. Better yet, there could be some kind of ski-off or karate tournament while Mig’s song plays. Cobra Kai, never die!

People of Canada, Rise Up!

Now is your time, Canada, to show America what you’re really all abooot. It’s time to support your girl, Suzie. She’s gotten dogged the last two weeks on Rock Star: INXS and she didn’t deserve it. Her performance of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” was lovely and far out classed Ty’s theatrics and J.D.’s insincerity. Next week, vote for Suzie and put someone who actually deserves it in the bottom three.

Predictions – I keep slightly revising my thoughts on how the rest of the show will play out, but I think I’m on to something here. The next four eliminations will go boy-girl-boy-girl. Here’s how I hope this scenario works: J.D.-Deanna-Ty-Suzie. J.D. and Ty are interchangeable at this point. INXS knows it would be impossible to work with J.D., but Ty’s campiness may have annoyed them enough to boot him first. I may tweak this a bit after next week’s elimination show, but I’m going to stand behind my final three choices: Jordis, Mig and Marty.

Eenie, Meenie

Now that there are eight rockers left on Rock Star: INXS, the band appears to have gotten serious about finding a lead singer. They’ve stopped letting contestants choose their own songs and have begun to assign songs individually. This is a great move because it saves viewers from having to endure more weeks of J.D., Ty, Jessica, well, all of them complaining about not getting the song they wanted, or worse, acting like they’re doing someone else a favor by giving up their first choice. CBS realized that the show works best when there’s less drama and more singing.

I’m sure that INXS will tell each contestant that they chose their song to challenge them as a performer. Of course, I’d prefer they select songs to get rid of the singers they don’t want. For example, give Jessica “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd; she does poorly with slow songs and the lyrics sound like they’re describing an acid trip. I can’t imagine Jessica’s interpretation of it would be anything short of bizarre. Or give J.D. something like “Informer” by Snow just to see him blow up. “I can’t perform garbage like this! If that’s what they think of me, then I’m oooot, hosers!”

It’s still difficult to tell at this point what kind of lead singer INXS really wants. Based on what the band wants, just about anyone could win (except Jessica):

If INXS is looking for a good musical experience with a minimum of problems, choose Marty. He’s got charisma and stage presence and has the best understanding of how to rock. Also, he’s been doing this long enough with some degree of success to have outgrown some of the drinking and ego problems others might have (J.D.). He’s good at working with people and would appreciate the chance to write with successful musicians.

If INXS is looking to bring in a younger audience, they should choose Mig. Mig seems to be happy without a shirt under any conditions, so I guess that’s a plus. He’s charismatic and has a great voice, plus he’s an Aussie so he already knows Aussie slang, unlike all the septics on the show. They could also go with J.D., who has his own following and may appeal to a broader age range of females with bad taste in men. He also may be able to write some decent songs, but does INXS really want to put up with his crap after all this time? Trying to reach out to a young demographic carries a lot of risks. INXS may be better off going the Neil Diamond route, releasing new stuff when they feel like it but sticking to the standards when touring, in which case they should pick whomever they’d enjoy having around the most.

If INXS is looking to achieve critical acclaim, they should choose Jordis. They’ll get credit for taking a risk by hiring a young woman, yet she’s good enough, that taking her isn’t much of a risk at all. They may have to write a little differently for her, which could improve their music and take it in a new direction. Choosing Jordis carries the risk of changing from what’s worked well in the past, but it could yield the biggest reward and may be the most satisfying experience.

And if INXS has decided during the course of the show that they’d prefer to retire, they should pick Deanna, Ty, Jessica or Suzie. Otherwise, those four contestants will be playing a state fair near you sometime real soon. Probably together. Jessica can fill in for Mig on “Stop Go!”

The Wrath Of A Suzie Scorned

Whoa, Suzie was pissed when she was voted (well, not-voted) into the bottom three on tonight’s Rock Star: INXS. Can’t say I blame her. She made the wretched R.E.M. song “Losing My Religion” almost listenable on Tuesday night’s episode, and she’s got cool hair.

Any aspiring female singer could stand to learn a thing or two from Suzie. She performs with economy while still connecting with the audience, as if she’s channeling all her conserved energy into her voice. That physical restraint adds an air of importance to the movements she does make. Tonight, when she started jumping during the second chorus of INXS’s “Bitter Tears,” it was at a climactic moment in the song, set up by her choice to keep her feet on the stage while she built up the crowd’s energy during the first two verses. Her movements enabled her to really tell the story of the song.

Holy crap, where did that come from?

I guess I can really appreciate Suzie after tonight’s performance because she showed herself to be a total pro. She was seething the whole time she listened to Jessica and Brandon perform, knowing full well that she’s much more polished than either of them and has the chops to hang around for a while. Yet when it was her turn to sing, she seized the moment, giving an excellent performance of a song that is near the bottom of her vocal range when trying to sing quietly. She won the crowd over and belted out a helluva rocker, and she knew it. We’re used to seeing Suzie cry at the end of every Wednesday show (and she didn’t disappoint tonight), but she left the stage beaming because she knew she’d given the performance of the night. Any music fan should be able to appreciate Suzie’s showmanship.

Tonight’s elimination round was a display of contrasts. Suzie was charming, Brandon was creepy, and Jessica was the underdog you’d rather see fail. Jessica needs to stop whining and acting like she’s waiting for the axe to drop. Give us a reason not to hate you, Jess, and we’ll stop. It’s too bad she’s right in believing that she’s next to go because it’ll keep her from trying. And it’ll keep her from seeing this as a chance to learn from singers like Jordis and Suzie who consistently demonstrate how to win a crowd and make them love you.

And then there was Brandon. The guy has tons of potential, but he’s convinced himself that he likes the way he is now, and unfortunately he’s got enough people around him who agree. No one challenges him and he lacks the will to change, so he’ll never be as good as he could be. When Indiana Pacer guard Reggie Miller retired a few months ago, I can remember another basketball player saying, “He achieved his potential; I can’t give him any higher compliment than that.” It’s true; if we reach our potential, we’ve done the very best we could do. Right now, Brandon’s unwillingness to process the criticism INXS gave him has kept him from improving. Shaving your beard doesn’t count as learning. And by not even trying to achieve his potential, he’s done one of the worst things people can do: thrown away talent that others can only wish for.
Good riddance.

The Art Of The Graceful Exit

I can’t say that I was sorry to see Tara go on last Wednesday night’s Rock Star elimination, but the way she departed exemplified one of the best attributes of the show. She didn’t quit. Tara gave what she thought was a great performance of the INXS song, “Beautiful Girl,” despite the fact that she had to know she was going home that night. She chose to go out with her best because, even though it may not have been right for INXS, it may be right for someone else.

Most of the contestants seem to understand that how they behave and the character they display on TV will have consequences in their real lives. Good behavior matched with good performances will bring a receptive audience to a show. Bad behavior invites hecklers. Rock Star is a nationwide audition for any band looking for a lead singer, whether it’s a garage band just starting out or an internationally famous band whose singer has auto-erotically asphyxiated to death. Um.

Rock Star will continue to be an interesting show as long as the contestants consider it an audition first and a reality show second. It’s the same thing that makes The Amazing Race work so well; teams view it as a race around the world more than a reality show. Survivor’s major flaw is that contestants don’t have anything to keep them busy so they create characters. After the first few seasons, most of the truthfulness and relatability was gone. Rock Star contestants are lucky in that only 30 minutes of offstage material airs each week; they don’t have time to develop offstage alter egos. The format of the show saves the contestants from themselves.

Upcoming Rock Star Clinics

Now that the contestants on Rock Star: INXS have perfected their image, stage presence and vocals thanks to the weekly clinics set up by puppetmaster, Dave Navarro, what could they possibly have left to learn? The rockers still don’t know how to acheive longevity in the music industry and how to maintain a high energy level during long concert performances. That’s where the next two guest clinicians come in.

Neil Diamond: Longevity Coach
Neil’s been in the business for the last 100 years, and has written literally thousands of hit songs. Go ahead, count ’em. Thousands. His clinic teaches the future superstars that the key to a great concert is to add an extra syllable to the last word of each line (e.g. “Holly Holy love-ah”). When the band is jamming, throw in a “C’monahyeah-haaaa” and watch the crowd go wild. And if you’ve gotta make out with that 45-year-old filly in the front row during “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” you do it. All these things will keep the fans coming back for more, decade after decade.

Bruce Dickinson: Endurance Coach
Bruce’s experience performing with metal gods Iron Maiden in front of billions of fans (per show) has taught him a thing or two about keeping the energy level high during a concert. “It’s all about the running,” Coach Dickinson says. “If you’re not running about while singing, you’re not trying.” Loads of ramps on stage are crucial, although climbing on and off stacks of amps will do in a pinch. It also helps if you have a giant band mascot chasing you during the show. Offstage, singers must train vigilantly in high intensity sports such as fencing and golf. If you can actually endure playing 18 holes of golf, you’re in great shape.