Thursday, July 06, 2006

Rock Star: Ladies night

Since I say that "Rock Star" is better than "American Idol," I guess the least I can do is do a performance-by-performance review of the premiere the same way I do with "Idol." A mostly strong night, though, as with the early episodes of "Amazing Race," it always feels like there are too many people to keep track of. And after only one night, it looks like Brooke's question about whether a woman can front Supernova is irrelevant, since the women were head and shoulders above most of the men. More after the jump...

Storm Large, "Pinball Wizard": After that clip package, I really wanted to dislike her (the "people say I [fill in the egregious act here], but really I" school of reality show self-justification always annoys me), but this was a really strong opening. She overdoes some of the hyper stage mannerisms, but so did a lot of the season one contestants, and the ones with talent learned to tone it down (notably Marty). Stupid name, but if it really is hers, I've gotta hate on her parents, not her.

Ryan Star, "Iris": Speaking of names, I hope like hell that this is his real moniker, because borrowing the pseudonym of a season one female "Idol" contestant ain't a good credibility-generating move. Had a sort of poor man's Jakob Dylan thing going on that mostly worked for this cheesey song, but the last third felt even more blatantly like posing than Storm's. As the judges told so many of the other male contestants, I need to hear him do something a little rougher next time.

Toby Rand, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door": Strong voice, though with more vibratto than I like. Sort of a boy band performance, with the emoting and that Ace Young hand to the diaphragm move, but unlike Ace, this guy can sing.

Patrice Pike, "Somebody to Love": One of the best of the night, putting it all together: a powerful vocal that wasn't just an impersonation of the original, command of the stage, relationship with the camera, etc. For all of Storm's sex appeal in her clip package, Patrice was the one really making love to the audience (and the guitar player), but it felt natural, not desperate.

Magni, "Satisfaction": At least he has the self-awareness to acknowledge that being "one of the ten most recognized singers in Iceland" is like being the best surfer in Arizona. Now, I love this song, but it is one of the most overplayed numbers in rock history. You really have to destroy with it to justify the choice, and Magni didn't pull it off. He tried with all his different tricks: throwing out the chorus to the audience, flicking his tongue, that entitled "You will all kneel before Magni" palms-up gesture, etc. But even with a good voice, it was still the same "Satisfaction." Every time we cut back to the judges, one or more of them looked bored.

Zayra Alvarez, "Bring Me to Life": I hate this song, so it's hard for me to give this an honest assessment. Her accent overpowered the vocals at time, and I think a lot of what seemed good was the result of the laser show and the House Band kicking ass like it always does. I want to hear her on something else before I pass judgment, though.

Jenny Galt, "How You Remind Me": First Evanescence, now Nickelback? It's the Chris Daughtry Memorial portion of the evening! Yeesh. It's a good thing she played the guitar, because the song was way too low for her voice; she kept trying and failing to bring power to the vocals.

Josh Logan, "She Talks to Angels": Oddly looks like a dead ringer for J.D. in the clip package, then nothing at all like him on stage. I'll leave aside the scatting for now, because that's clearly the guy's thing, but I don't see it matching up with this group of musicians. But my biggest problem from the jump was the fact that this guy seems way too pleased with himself, either smiling broadly or outright laughing between each line. Dude, it's a song about heroin addiction. I expect the "Idol" contestants to not pay attention to what the lyrics are about, but this is rock 'n roll.

Matt Hoffer, "Yellow": Starts off avoiding the Chris Martin falsetto, which seems like a good call -- especially after he tries to do it during the chorus and makes my ears hurt. First real dud of the night.

Dilana, "Lithium": Okay, wtf was that? I have no idea if she's any good or not, but I was mesmerized by the whole thing, from the decision to stand rock still at the mic for the song's first two thirds to the complete spaz-out at the end. (Though she should've pulled the hood off at that point.) Very weird voice, sort of Laurie Anderson-ish at points. Definitely someone I want to see and hear more of.

Dana Andrews, "I'm the Only One": Stage mannerisms felt a little cliche (I don't know that I ever need to see a female singer rake her hand down her face again), and a pretty froggy, albeit powerful, voice. The judges liked this a lot more than I did.

Phil Ritchie, "Cult of Personality": Ty did this in last year's premiere, but it felt more like one of those early Marty performances, down to the way Phil seemed to flop around stage as if he had just been jolted with 1.21 gigawatts of electricity. The band was especially hot on this one, which is good, because the vocals were just a'ight, dawg. Even the judges, who seemed inclined to go easy on everybody, couldn't find much nice to say.

Jill Gioia, "Piece of My Heart": First of all, I never want to hear her talk again, and I say that as someone with a wife and many friends from Long Island. Second, she has that Jim Neighbors thing where the speaking and singing voice are light-years apart, thank God. She sounded so much like Janis, though, that I need to hear her do something else to figure out whether she's a good performer or just a good karaoke artist.

Chris Pierson, "Roxanne": Unlike Matt on "Yellow," he's smart enough to avoid attempting the falsetto throughout, but without it, there's nothing memorable about the performance. It's one of the most repetitive songs in rock history, especially the portion he excerpted, and you need some kind of vocal magic to make it work. I know the band attacked the new arrangement, but I think if Chris had a more interesting voice they wouldn't have cared. (Plus, I hope this doesn't scare the others away from rearranging the classics, because that's one of my favorite parts of the show.)

Lukas Rossi, "Rebel Yell": Forget what I said about Josh vaguely resembling the season one winner, because Lukas is our J.D.-alike. Let's see... Canadian? Check. Homless? Check. Cocky as hell? Check. Talented enough to justify the cockiness? Check, check, check. This is the best the band sounded all night, and he brought an intensity to match them, just completely shredding those vocals, staggering around stage as if drunk, etc. The first guy of the night who actually sounds like he might be a match with whatever Supernova turns out to be. You can see the judges sharing an "OMFG" reaction to the whole thing, which seemed about right.

Summing up: Lukas was probably the best of the night, with Patrice, Dilana and Storm way up there. Chris, Phil and Matt were the three weakest, and I'll be shocked if a guy doesn't go home tonight.

What did everybody else think?


Adam said...

OMFG, Dilana scared me. Reminded me of Diamanda Galas, kinda.

Pretty much agreed on all your choices. I'm all set to like an Icelandic singer, but you have to bring something new to the table if you're doing "Satisfaction".

Why has no Idol performer attempted "She Talks To Angels" yet?

Chip Chandler said...

I'm not getting the Storm love. Her clip package and her "sexy" posing while performing completely ruined her for me.

On the other hand, I'm all about Dilana. Creepy, freaky, scary -- and the only woman in the competition I can really see fronting the band. Except maybe Patrice, though I really think she'd be better on her own.

Anonymous said...

Dilana lost me when she botched the lyrics for "Lithium." I can see the Diamanda Galas comparison, too, except Galas can scare me with just her voice, and I think one needs to see Dilana to be scared of her :-)

Mostly, though, I got bored with all the nice-niceness from the judges and stupid Jason Newsted's "proposal" to the chick with the accent who couldn't sing very well. "It's okay, honey, you don't have to sing well as long as you let me fuck you." What a friggin' tool.

Anonymous said...

I already posted my long review at my own website, so I won't go into it again, but I mostly agree with your choices, Alan. I think Dilana and Lukas will be fighting it out in the final two although I really liked Toby - I thought he had a GREAT voice even if he's not of the Supernova "I can hang with Tommy Lee" caliber.

Anonymous said...

The thing that completely makes this show is the House Band. They are freaking incredible.

Very entertaining show last night. This show has killed American Idol for me, I just can't get into AI any more after seeing what a REAL music competition can be. (Now I'm just curious about that ABC show "The One.")

Eric Fingerhut said...

I only watched Rock Star: INXS sporadically last year, so I watched the first episode this year after reading your article arguing that it's better than AI. But my opinion hasn't changed from last year: Rock Star may very well be a better designed competition to pick a singing star, but American Idol is a far better television show. From the judges (other than Gilby's "That ... sucked," did anyone say anything interesting?) to the host (Brooke Burke looks good in a short skirt, but can't ad-lib to save her life--she's made me appreciate Ryan Seacrest), to the fact that I couldn't tell one singer from the other last night, it all adds up to a much less entertaining and enjoyable show in my opinion.