A Dose of Reality: Rock Star: Supernova - Week 1
by The Trades Staff
Published: July 6, 2006
Ten months after homeless rocker J.D. Fortune was chosen to be the new lead singer of waning pop-rock band INXS, CBS returns with Rock Star: Supernova. This season we're looking for the perfect rock star to front a new supergroup formed by Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee along with Metallica's Jason Newsted and Guns N' Roses' Gilby Clarke. The group is produced by uber-producer Butch Walker. Brooke Burke returns as the scantily clad host and Dave Navarro one again joins the band on the couch to fling meaningless comments upon our hopefuls.
My name is Raul Burriel, a veteran of last season's Rock Star: INXS recaps. Joining us for this round table is Sheila Franklin, our newest reality TV maven.
Raul says: I, personally, have some issues with this new season of Rock Star on CBS. Chief among my quibbles is that show producers couldn't find a band that needed a new lead singer. I could give you a dozen just off the top of my head. Queen. The Doors. Genesis. Van Halen. Just to name four! Instead we get essentially Tommy Lee's vanity project (Tommy Lee's already got a band... it's called Mötley Crüe!) Furthermore, if last year's contestants were so good (and they were!), why aren't any of them returning this season? Surely they weren't just "good enough" for INXS (in fact, INXS said they weren't good enough for INXS!) Lastly, I'm concerned by the lack Canadian content in this year's grouping. Last season, Canadians cornered the market and a Canadian won the contest. This year we only have two: Jenny Galt, originally from my hometown of Montreal but now living in Vancouver; and Lukas Rossi, who makes me embarrassed to be a Canadian.
Sheila says: What do Tommy Lee, Jason Newsled, and Gilby Clarke want Supernova to become by the end of the summer? In the words of Jason, they are "gonna take it to a whole new level". I love this. (So does Mad TV, who has used that same phrase on a recurring skit all this season.)
Often when a reality series is just starting, the show will open and close strong, the others being strategically placed to keep the audience from channel surfing. This seems to be the case here.
Storm Large - Portland, OR - "Pinball Wizard"
Raul says: Storm doesn't have the rough and gravely voice this rock band is going to need. Her version of "Pinball Wizard" is much too soft, too gentle (which is really saying something for a song once performed by Elton John. She doesn't strike me like a rocker at all.
Sheila says: Storm Large from Portland is first at bat. I guess this makes her the largest storm in the Port. (That was too easy, but whatever possessed her parents?) Singing "Pinball Wizard", she belts it out with a strong voice and rather flamboyantly works the house. (Did you catch that finger action?)
The judges seem to agree. There is already a rapport between the Storm and Tommy Lee:
"Watch it, Sailor."
Ryan Star - New York, NY - "Iris"
Raul says: He's too much in the "singer-songwriter" vein (and his song choice clearly indicates that.) Plus, the name "Ryan Star" has already been marred by a whiny pris on the first season of American Idol. I can't imagine Tommy Lee's band ever doing this song in concert but the performers had to choose from a pool of songs, and I guess Ryan got the short straw.
Sheila says: Ryan claims that he is half of a rock star already. I concur that he is half, but only because his last name (a pseudonym I suspect) is Star. I disagree with his comment about rock n' roll not being about image. I think that is always part of the charm in any music genre.
He sings "Iris", one of my favorite songs, but between his nervousness, the karaoke vibrato, and the blandness of his performance, I am amazed that the women in the audience are so impressed. And what was with the ace bandage on his arm?
Toby Rand - Melbourne, Australia - "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
Raul says: Navarro said that Toby made a good choice to go acoustic with this song. Really? Is there any other way to do this song? In the end, it's good but not memorable. Three performers in and I'm still waiting for someone to stand out.
Sheila says: Toby, surfer dude, attempts Bob Dylan's classic "Heaven's Door" and tries to put his own spin on it. This is a fine idea; absolutely no one can compete with Dylan. His rendition of "Heaven's Door" sounds to me like a lot of local clubbers, solid and acceptable but not particularly outstanding.
Patrice Pike - Austin, TX - "Somebody to Love"
Raul says: I couldn't get past the fact that Patrice sounds just like Grace Slick. Certainly, that's a bonus for her when singing this song but I'd like to know what her true voice sounds like. I'm eager to hear her perform again next week.
Sheila says: Patrice, the traveler with funds (those new VW vans are quite pricey!), does "Somebody To Love". She is no Grace Slick, but she has great tonal quality, can hold a note, and the early rapport with her musicians is a definite plus.
I do think that Patrice could use a makeover. She is noticeably attractive but not dressed for the rocker community, nor would they see her beyond the first few rows. I would imagine that she will be given the American Idol treatment if she sticks around, and I think she will.
Magni - Reykjavik, Iceland - "Satisfaction"
Raul says: Perhaps one of the worst performances of the night. It's not that his voice is wrong for the band. In fact, he may have just the right voice for this band. He sounds like he's a pure metal rocker. But this song totally sinks him. There's no range, no variety. He comes off like he's singing kareoke.
Sheila says: Magni, the Icelandic pop star, definitely seems out of his element. His interpretation of "Satisfaction" is only so-so. He seems to be aimlessly wandering around the stage rather than working it, and I just don't know about that scream he injects in the middle of his performance.
It bothers me that he keeps trying to get the audience involved. Maybe they do that in Iceland but not in America, bucko. I don't see Magni as any real competition.
Zayra Alvarez - Dallas, TX - "Bring Me to Life"
Raul says: Whoa! Major Latin vibe to this Evanesence cover. It's an incredible arrangement. Complements her vocals perfectly. But I can't ever picture Supernova doing something like what Zayra is doing right here.
Sheila says: Zayra has a pleasing stage persona but when she sings "Bring Me to Life", it is not exactly awe-inspiring. She is superlative at self-promotion though.
I am beginning to notice that the judges are benevolent when faced with talent that is not exactly high-quality. Instead, they make general comments like Jason asking Zayria to marry him.
Jenny Galt - Vancouver, Canada - "How You Remind Me"
Raul says: Navarro says that her performance is a great example of someone who can play an instrument comfortably on stage. That was a clear poke at Toby's earlier performance (Toby was caught repeatedly looking at his cords.) The song choice was perhaps the poorest part of her performance. Did she choose it because it's a Canadian band? Or did she get a short straw, too? Most rock fans would mock you for enjoying Nickelback and deride you for covering them.
Sheila says: Jenny of Vancouver: nasal, anorexic, looks good with a guitar (again one of those generally kind statements), has very nice-looking hair, and shouldn't be allowed near those Nickelback high notes. I can't envision her as being a "Supernovan".
Josh Logan - Manchester, NH - "She Talks to Angels"
Raul says: Josh Logan clearly comes from the singer-songwriter factory out of Boston. In his video clip he talks about hoping that Supernova will be open to all kinds of music (suggesting that he wants them to move more towards his end of the musical spectrum rather than his moving towards their end.) I'd like to see him perform something like, say, "Welcome to the Jungle." I'm beginning to question the selection of the producers. I'm not seeing any real "rockers" yet on this stage.
Sheila says: Josh does some Black Crowes with a great vocal clarity and personalized charm but I think he is possibly too clean cut to be a heavy rocker. He is clearly one of those singers who feels it. The judges agree. Maybe he can go grungier and let his hair down, or grow out at the very least.
Matt Hoffer - Chicago, IL - "Yellow"
Raul says: Maybe because the original arrangement is too difficult, Matt Hoffer's version takes on an edgier - more rock - tone. It does succeed in highlighting his vocal talents while at the same time ripping the song apart. This song only works when Coldplay sings it.
Sheila says: Matt claims he likes taking risks. He certainly took one singing "Yellow". Another of my favorite songs subjected to a somewhat limited performance. He is another singer who should have avoided those high notes.
I notice him playing to the cameras. This being a vote-in show, if you are relatively good-looking, this is one of your edges. Kind of takes the fun out of it for a live audience, I would think.
Dilana - Houston, TX - "Lithium"
Raul says: The caption on the screen says she's from Texas, but she's originally from South Africa and she's still got the accent (what in the world would a sane person from South Africa be doing in Texas?) But I digress... "Lithium"? Really? This could have been a perfect song in the right hands. Dilana does most of the song standing still hitting us with this creepy/scary gaze. Then, as the song picks up, she starts flailing around the stage like a lunatic (thus, a South African decides to move to Texas...) Before she started "dancing", it was good. Then it back grotesquely bad. The band seems to have loved her, though.
Sheila says: Dilana came out vocally solid and remained so all the way through her rendition of "Lithium". She is one of my favorites of the evening. I can see this woman being hired tomorrow, since she does fit in so well. But then that wouldn't make for much of a series, would it? I also dig her stage presence; even the director can't keep up with her.
Dana Andrews - Augusta, GA - "I'm the Only One"
Raul says: The "baby" of the group, Dana tells us that the flight to Los Angeles to perform was her first plane ride. Awww... that was cute the first dozen times we heard it on American Idol. That's not the kind of thing we want to hear from someone we expect to be fronting Tommy Lee's new band. She's lucky to get a song with a country vibe. She does a great job with this song, but I can't ever picture her as a member of Supernova.
Sheila says: Dana used to be a back-up wedding singer. I don't think she would be a strong front for any rock band. Her interpretation of "I'm the Only One" seems almost too nice and a bit pouty, although she picks it up a bit towards the end. The judges agree with me and mention her young age which definitely does not spell out the next Melissa Etheridge.
Phil Ritchie - Ocean City, MD - "Cult of Personality"
Raul says: Phil Ritchie looks like the guy in a teen movie who gets a makeover from geek to rocker. He is, in fact, that guy, as his video bio tells us how he could be doing something truly beneficial to society but instead decided to become a rocker. He's got a thin, waifish figure with incredibly long and dangley arms. His image is perfect. Navarro knocks Phil for not having the right stage presence. Supernova knocks him for being pitchy.
Sheila says: Phil does Living Colour's "Cult of Personality". What's wrong with this picture? He exudes neither personality nor color. He's a bit flaky and resembles Ray Bolger's Scarecrow as he moves around the stage. I am also worried that he can't seem to stay on key or catch his breath.
Jill Gioia - Long Island, NY - "Piece of My Heart"
Raul says: She's 4-feet-friggin-11-inches tall!!! She shouldn't be auditioning for Supernova. She should be auditioning for MiniKISS! On the other hand, she's one of the few rockers who actually rocked out tonight. She did justice to Janice with this song.
Sheila says: Jill, on the other hand, has both of the above. Referred to as the "little stick of dynamite" by Jason, I find her to be another strong contender. She fits in anywhere on that stage and her "Piece of my Heart" would have made even Janis proud.
Chris Pierson - Atlanta, GA - "Roxanne"
Raul says: Chris Pierson totally rearranged this familiar classic. It certainly trends towards the rock end of the spectrum but every time he screams "Rooooox-anne", it makes me want to punch him. Dave Navarro and Supernova tear him a new one.
Sheila says: Chris, the former baseball jock, sings "Roxanne" without highs or lows until it starts to sound monotonous. I suspect this is a case of the wrong song at any time for him. Finally Gilby remarks, "That one sucked."
Lukas Rossi - Toronto, Canada - "Rebel Yell"
Raul says: Before ever being permitted on stage, someone should have given this guy an extreme makeover. He's got oddly shaped eyebrows, purple eye shadow (and probably purple eyeliner), awful hair, and a white blazer. But once he opened his mouth... he belted out this performance like a pro. He rocked "Rebel Yell" harder than even Billy Idol. Dave Navarro and Supernova totally loved him and I couldn't agree more.
Sheila says: The finale features Lucas performing his rendition of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell". He gives the impression he is a bit nervous at first and is a trifle screechy, but soon turns it around until it becomes a veritable Mick Jagger performance, complete with swagger and working the jacket routine. Tommy sums it up, "Can you say rock star?"
Raul says: As was often the case last season, the star of tonight's episode was the backing band, conveniently called "House Band." They shined regardless of the performance occuring in their presence. Less impressive was the selection of performers (I'm trying not to call them "contestants" as it would belittle them and the show, but, let's face it, it's a contest, right?) The selection, though, was not the fault of the singers themselves but rather the producers. What their selection criteria is not altogether clear but the ability to "rock it" does not appear to have been high on their list. These singers - most of them, anyway - are good singers. They're just not rockers. And, even worse, some of them made themselves look very bad trying to be rockers... trying to be something they are not. It doesn't help that they were saddled but an abundance of poor song choices. We've known from day 1 on American Idol that song choice makes or breaks the performer. That wildcard was all but factored out on Rock Star when producers started dishing out songs for the performers to sing. All that was left was for the performers to figure out amongst themselves who would sing what. Sure, this scenario still left us with some winners and some losers. But you'd expect that at least some of the songs would highlight the performer's vocal range and show that they could rock. In order to do that, though, you have to give them rock songs! Mellow pop songs like "Yellow" and ballads like "How You Remind Me" help no one. if we were repeating Rock Star: INXS, these songs may help. But when we're looking for a lead singer to a band consisting of Tommy Lee, Jason Newsted and Gilby Clarke, song selection should be limited to AC/DC, Metallica, the Cult and Motorhead.
I would not be upset if this entire batch of contestants were sent home packing tonight and a new group were brought in. Alas, that will not happen, so I choose a favorite: Lukas Rossi. I need to rub sandpaper over his face until I cannot recognize him anymore. But his singing is perfect for Supernova. My least favorites (and I regret that I limit myself to only three) are: Chris Pierson, Dilana, and Magni.
Anyone still confused about what Supernova is going to sound like should catch one of VH1's incessant reruns of Supergroup. Watch the last episode where Sebastian Bach et al perform their premiere concert under the name Damnocracy. Not one acoustic song... not one power ballad in the whole set. Just a whole lot of noise, screaming and bright lights. This is an audition for a rock band, dammit! Now let's see some rock-n-roll!
Sheila says: Chris may have a decent voice but perhaps he will not get the chance to show it off as he is in the bottom three by the end of this week's episode. So are Phil and Magni; neither of these choices surprises me.
I am not usually into "chick-rockers" but I think that the female talent is the prevalent one here. Clearly, they seem to possess not only better voices but fit the genre better. But the real question remains. Did Tommy, Jason, and Gilby have that same idea all along? We shall see.
Find out who got eliminated in this week's results recap.