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Rock Star: INXS

 

September 11-14: Glory to you

Sunday: In the most boring episode yet at the mansion:

Marty misses his girlfriend...uh...friend, Jordis.  Suzie cries because she's so honored to be the only female contestant left.  MiG feels guilty for never being in the bottom three.  J.D. gets a visit from his sister and mother, and he immediately asks his mom if he can borrow fifty bucks.  Ha, ha, cute, cute.  Except not.  He's kind of pathetic when he's not being evil, you know?

This week's clinic consists of INXS interviewing each of the remaining contestants to get a feel for how they'd interact with the band.  I'm sure the interviews lasted at least twenty minutes or so, but all we see is about one or two minutes of each one.  Due to clever editing on the part of the show's producers, this is what we're supposed to believe:

J.D.: He has an edginess and self-confidence the band likes, but they're concerned about his trustworthiness.  When asked about his family, he immediately pulls out photos of his sister, which impresses the band.  Jon think he may be misunderstood, while others worry that what he says may not be what he means.

MiG: He's dependable, but he's too nice.  With his massive theater background, he doesn't always seem "real" on stage.  It's hurt him not to have sung any INXS songs.  They're the least enthusiastic about him, even though he's never been in the bottom three.  Methinks that if he ends up in the bottom three this week, he'll be in serious trouble.  [Note, though, that he and Jordis did record three older INXS songs with a couple of the band members a few weeks ago, one of which was released on select radio stations around the country.  So they really can't say they've never heard him sing their music before.  And I find it hard to believe that this was the first time they'd ever heard of him being in a band before.  Didn't they read his bio on the official Rock Star web site?]

Marty: The band likes his self-confidence and says he has the "spine" they need.  He has definite ideas about the direction the band should go, which, according to him, should be a departure from their previous direction.  He says he'd put his own stamp on their back catalog of songs.  Personally, I'm not sure I like that -- the way he stated it made it sound like he'd want to take charge and change everything so we'd just forget about Michael Hutchence altogether -- but the band seems impressed.

Suzie: They agree she's the best singer of the four and has grown a lot over the course of the show.  She's very nervous in the interview, though, which could be a Bad Thing during press conferences.  They think they might be able to coach her in this aspect of being a band member.  She doesn't think that the band should change direction -- "if it's not broke, don't fix it."

At the conclusion of each interview, INXS gives the singer his/her songs for the week.  You'd think that with four contestants and just two weeks to go, the band would start assigning INXS songs to everyone for at least one song.  But no.  J.D. gets to sing "Pretty Vegas" again, along with Pink Floyd's "Money."  MiG gets to sing Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" and the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black," the latter to show his dark side [snort].  Marty gets to sing "Trees" again, along with Radiohead's "Creep."  And Suzie?  The producers apparently didn't think we needed to know, because we aren't told.

INXS deliberates about the contestants and thinks that they're as different as north, south, east, and west.  The decision will be very difficult.  Yeah, yeah, tell us something we don't know.

The most exciting part of the show comes during the end credits.  J.D. brings in a cake in the shape of a butt.  Suzie sticks her face in the crack for the first bite and comes up with a face full of chocolate.  Okay, that's more gross than exciting.  But the look of absolute horror on Marty's face is priceless.  Hee!

Tuesday: Tonight Brooke comes out in an outfit that Daisy Duke would wear if she married a sheik.  Dave says she looks like an adult super hero.  As opposed to what... Captain Underpants?

 

A useless recap of the mansion episode is followed by an equally useless question & answer session with the remaining four contestants.  Marty reiterates that he wants to take the band in a new direction, and Tim responds that "it's important that we're open to new things."  Hmm.  Is INXS so out of touch with what's popular that they need Marty to help move them in that direction?  MiG doesn't see it as a liability that he's never hit the bottom three and thus never performed an INXS song, because obviously the fans believe he's right for the band.  Um...the math doesn't quite work there (he may never have been number one in the voting), but okay.  Suzie, in a remarkably lucid moment, says that it's not about whether or not a contestant is male or female, it's about who's right for INXS.  J.D. says that the visit from his family gave him strength to go on.  Fine, whatever.  Get on with the show already.

 

Dave plays guitar with each contestant on their first song.  I'm not sure what the point is of this, other than to give him a reason to be on the show.  Shouldn't someone from INXS be up there instead, since it's an audition for their band?

 

Suzie (sings Stone Temple Pilots' "Interstate Love Song" and 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up"): I don't know the first song.  I don't think Suzie knows it that well, either, since she covers a blown entrance by shouting "Come on!"  In fact, she shouts "Come on!" seven times during the course of this song, gives props to Dave Navarro, and exhorts the audience to put their hands in the air.  She also walks out in the audience at one point.  And that's all I remember about it, other than it being very loud.  Oh, and Dave kisses Suzie at the end, after she's all but humped him the first half of the song.  Ho hum.

 

"What's Up" is a very annoying song with a chorus that goes "And I say, hey-yay-yay-yay!"  It's so annoying that I've always switched the radio station whenever the song has come on the air.  Suzie's performance isn't quite as cringe-inducing -- her voice is more pleasant to listen to than that of the lead singer of 4 Non Blondes, and she certainly seems to be getting into it -- but she doesn't exactly make me like the tune, either.  And the girl needs to know what to say to introduce songs.  "We all need to be aware of our environment."  Thank you for sharing that.  I didn't know.  [rolls eyes]  At the end of the song, she collapses on the stage, totally spent in asking us, "What's going on?"

 

Dave points out that the studio audience was really into her second song, which implies to me that they weren't into the first one.  INXS thinks that this set shows Suzie's versatility, and I'm thinking, "Huh? It's two shouty rock songs!"  But okay.  We know they like her.  Next.

 

J.D. (sings his own "Pretty Vegas" and Pink Floyd's "Money"): Okay, "Pretty Vegas" is a catchy tune, but I'm starting to get tired of it.  J.D. moves around on stage as if he's already done this a hundred times on tour already.  It just seems to be a more polished, less edgy performance, if that makes sense.  He used a megaphone for parts of the song previously, and this week the megaphone is rhinestone encrusted.  Ha, ha, very Vegas, we get it.  In an attempt to add something new (or maybe to get the kiss J.D. planted on his cheek out of his mind), Dave performs an extended guitar solo after the song has finished.  Let it go, Dave.  Let it go.

 

Oh, look, J.D. is wearing a shirt that says, "Better Than Pretty."  Is he better than the song he just sang?  Is he saying he can write even better songs?  The world may never know, because now he's launching into tent revival rhetoric. "How many of you have enough money? How many want more money?"  He uses a word that's blanked out for the censors, which makes INXS laugh.  He asks the audience to sing along, then adds, "If you don't know the words, fake it, 'cause I'm going to."  Okay, that was funny.  He finally launches into "Money," and...he's very, very good.  He stays on pitch, he doesn't resort to too many spastic hand gestures, and he doesn't miss a beat -- which is pretty remarkable, considering that the song is in 7/4 time.  Okay, so he throws some fake money out to the audience late in the song, which is kind of gimmicky (how many props does this boy need, anyway?) but we enjoy it, anyway.  [People who were at the taping say that handwritten on this "money" were the words "You Are Not a Slave."]  Oh, and the house band?  Kickin'.  Mike is about to prostrate himself before the bassist and cry, "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!"

 

Both Dave and INXS love J.D.  Every member of INXS was singing along with "Pretty Vegas."  Dave goes so far as to say that, if J.D. is picked as the next lead singer, "Pretty Vegas" should be the first INXS single.  Kirk says he can't get "that damn song" out of his head.  And Tim jokes that it's good that J.D. was throwing money away, because that means the band won't have to pay him much if they pick him.  If the performances and the comments are any indication, here's your next lead singer, folks.

 

Marty (sings his own "Trees" and Radiohead's "Creep"): He performs "Trees" as an acoustic version with him and Dave playing the exact same thing on guitar.  One of their guitars is seriously out of tune, which makes me cringe every time they get to the chorus.  And playing it acoustically just highlights the silly lyrics, anyway.  "It's you and me up in the trees!"  No, thanks.  I'm scared of heights.  Then Mike points out that this arrangement is very reminiscent of one of Adam Sandler's songs in The Wedding Singer.  You know when Adam is singing that song to Drew Barrymore that starts off really soft, and then he ends up screaming, "Somebody kill me"?  That's it exactly.  I dissolve in a fit of laughter.

 

My giggles continue through the first thirty seconds or so of "Creep," because at the bottom of the TV screen, you see the contestant's name, followed simply by the title of the song.  So in this case:

 

Marty
"Creep"

 

We're both thinking, "Well I guess we know what the producers think of him now."

 

Anyway, I guess the song is okay, but it's another one with absolutely stupid lyrics that can only be appreciated by an adolescent male, and Marty's getting all intense about it and staring into the camera as if to say, "I am a creep and I'm going to kill myself."  The falsetto section sounds really...well, bad, and of course he has to go into scream mode near the end.  Granted, the song lends itself to that, but I really do not want to see him do this to INXS material.  He's great for what he does, but boys, please don't pick him for your band.  Let him go and do his own thing and take us all into the twenty-second century.

 

INXS enjoys the performance, and we find out that Radiohead is one of their favorite bands.  Okay, that's scary.  It's obvious that they like Marty, and he's a favorite among the voting public, too, so even if he's in the bottom three this week, he's not going anywhere.

 

MiG (sings the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" and Seal's "Kiss From a Rose"): "Coming to theaters next summer...MiG Ayesa is [cut to MiG saying "Bond. James Bond."] in... 'Paint It Black.'"

 

Cue 007 theme...

 

Seriously, that's what this arrangement of the song reminded us of.  Kind of like "Live and Let Die."  And just like Paul McCartney, MiG has no dark side.  At all.  No one will ever mistake him for a Sith Lord, that's for sure, no matter how serious he looks or how much he tries to emulate a Marty scream.  Poor guy.  He's so not roit for INXS.  The bored expressions on the band members' faces say it all.  Even Dave looks like he doesn't want to be playing guitar near him.

 

"Kiss From a Rose" is more the type of song MiG is comfortable with, and the vocals are so good that he erases the memory of Constantine butchering this song on A.I. last season.  Thank you.  But his overall performance is rather lackluster.  He just sort of walks around and waves his arms in the air.  I'm left strangely cold.  I'm also sad, because I know MiG will hit the bottom three this week and INXS will let him go, and I wanted to see him in the finale just so I could drool over his chest one more time.  Sigh.

 

The band's comments are lukewarm.  Dave, who has obviously sensed during the taping of this show that I would be distressed at this point, says that the thing that will help MiG is for him to remove his jacket.  MiG obliges, and I'm at least given that much happiness for the night.  Garry believes that MiG won't be in the bottom three based on "Kiss From a Rose."  I'm thinking that he will be there this time, because when the preliminary voting results are shown, the order is: Marty, J.D., Suzie, MiG.  Yes, results change, and they usually do, but even with his Australasian fan base, I kind of doubt that he's going to be able to claw all the way the top.  So I'm preparing myself for a bottom three performance, and an "I'm sorry, you're just not roit for eh band" from Tim.  Unless, of course, Suzie's fifth (or sixth?) time in the bottom three is enough to kick her out.  I just can't see them getting rid of either Marty or J.D. at this point.

 

*sniff*

 

My order for the night would be:

 

1. J.D. - "Pretty Vegas" is getting old, but he gave the most solid performances of anyone there.
2. Everyone else - either I hated the songs but liked the performances, or I liked the songs but hated the performances. Bye-bye, MiG or Suzie.

 

Gee, that was easy.

 

Brooke keeps saying that this is the last performance show. So are the contestants not singing anything for the finale? Are we just going to sit around for an hour watching INXS deliberate? Zzzzzzzz. I can hardly wait.

 

Wednesday: After a recap of last night's show, Brooke asks the contestants if any of them think they deserve the encore.  MiG alone raises his hand.  Oh, MiG.  You've inherited Ty's tendency toward delusions, haven't you?  She proceeds to crush his dream by announcing that Marty's "Trees" got the highest vote for an encore.  She then asks Dave about the second encore (as if that's now obligatory), and he says that the studio audience should choose this time.  Whoever among the three rockers left gets the loudest applause will get the opening encore.  All the applause sounds about the same to me in volume, but J.D.'s applause lasts the longest, so he gets it.

 

J.D. asks the audience which they'd rather hear - "Pretty Vegas" or "Money."  "Pretty Vegas" is chosen.  He sings it as an acoustic version with two guitarists backing him up.  Even though I'm sick of the song, it's about twenty times better than Marty's acoustic "Trees" from last night.  J.D. has a decent voice when he's not impersonating Elvis.

 

Next up, Marty, and he tells the audience he can do "Trees" as an acoustic piece or with the band.  If they choose the band, he will smash a guitar.  Mike cringes as the audience chooses the electric version and the guitar is destroyed.  Was this necessary?  Anyway, "Trees" does sound better with a full band, even though Marty goes into scream mode again at the end, and the song increasingly sounds like Nirvana meets the Cars meets Sesame Street.

 

Brooke tells everyone that the final three contestants will each receive an all-new, totally redesigned 2006 Honda Civic with an MP3 player.  This after the show has been plugging the Honda Ridgeline all season.  And as I recall, the American Idol finalists each received Ford Mustangs.  You tell me which is more impressive.

 

We see what happened at the mansion following the performance show.  It's basically all one big group hug, and people saying, "Wow, I could be the lead singer for INXS!"  Snore.  Then we're back at the club, where there's yet another opportunity for a stupid Q&A with the contestants.  Marty is reminded that his guitar was made out of trees and makes the really deep comment that one bad performance can send you home.  MiG seems oddly full of himself tonight and says he'd be happy to wait until next week to perform INXS songs.  I'm not liking his sudden lack of humility here.  Maybe those tight pants are squeezing his brain, too.  J.D. promises INXS that, although he's been inconsistent in previous weeks, the best is yet to come.  Suzie is asked if she has any advice for those who make the bottom three, and she just tells them to just give it all they've got, but she won't give away any more advice because she wants to kick their butts.  As if.

 

Brooke now asks the contestants if any of them think they're safe.  No one raises their hands.  She thinks that they should show more self-confidence, and I think she should shut up.  Then she reveals the early ranking from last night: Marty, J.D., Suzie, and MiG.  It comes as no surprise when it's eventually revealed that Marty is the only safe one in the group - although we have to suffer through more artificial tension as the bottom three are called up one by one to sing their songs and only MiG and Marty are left.  Please.  Even MiG knew he wasn't the top one at this point.

 

Suzie sings "Suicide Blonde."  I really like her vocals - she's now reminding me of a female Michael Hutchence in that respect - but I could do without the three "Come on" moments.  Why does she always feel she has to insert those words?  The performance itself is okay, but not incredibly exciting.  It's like she doesn't quite know what to do with herself.

 

Garry asks Suzie to describe how she's grown over the season to be a part of INXS.  She says that she now believes in herself and could take on the world.  Believe it or not, that's the most lucid response the band will get out of the three contestants.

 

J.D. sings "By My Side" and reverts to his Elvis persona during the verses.  That slow vibrato really makes my skin crawl.  But on the chorus he's fine, his performance is more interesting than Suzie's, and he ends the song on a high note that almost (I said, almost) sends shivers down my spine.  Goodness, I didn't think the boy could do that.

 

Jon asks J.D. what he's learned during the course of the show.  J.D. says that he was so focused on being a part of INXS that he lost sight of peripheral things, but his friends (here he points to Marty and MiG, forgetting about Suzie who is off to the side) helped him to know better.  I believe what he meant to say was that he was so competitive that he became a jerk to everyone else, but he learned that he needed to be that human being he has tattooed on his arms.  Well, at least he has something to say.

 

MiG sings "What You Need."  The tempo is a little too fast, and MiG has all this pent-up energy that bursts out in one big tidal wave over the course of the song.  Performance-wise, it's probably the most exciting of the three, and he looks a little less "theatah" than usual doing it.  Vocally, it's a big shoulder shrug for me.  His voice really sounds too thin for this.  And for some reason he feels the need to shout out, "Come on," too.  Twice.  But when he rips his shirt open...well, I can forget about the voice for a couple of seconds, anyway.

 

INXS is like stone when he's done, but the audience goes crazy, and I guess MiG spends so long shaking hands that Kirk admonishes him to "stop loving the audience."  Sheesh, Kirk, let the man enjoy himself.  I think the band really wanted to get rid of MiG tonight, and now they're peeved that he did so well - as evidenced by Kirk telling MiG that he's now made the choice really hard.  He then asks the singer what he's learned over the course of the show, and MiG rambles something about how he came into this really cocky about winning this thing, then saw the talent and let his self-confidence slip.  But he's learned to take every moment as it comes and now he's self-confident again.  Er...okay.  Whatever.

 

INXS goes into deliberations.  You'd think this lasted all of five minutes, but because the show is taped in advance, it really takes longer.  In this case, it apparently took thirty-five minutes - the longest time yet.  I imagine that the conversation was a series of variations on "Damn that MiG! What do we do now?"  At the end, Tim tells J.D. he's safe.  Big surprise.  Then...dramatic music please...Suzie is told that she's just not roit.

 

Dave - who has never been part of the deliberations - looks positively stunned and appalled at this.  No more "Sweet Suzie McNeil," and it's obvious he really doesn't like MiG.  For her part, Suzie gives a very classy farewell speech, wishing the band and her fellow contestants well.  The audience chants, "SuZIE! SuZIE!" and Mike and I applaud her.  She's a ditz, but she really has improved musically over the past ten weeks or so.  If she gets a solo contract, I'll at least give her CD a listen.

 

So now the final three contestants - Marty, J.D., and MiG - take the stage and have another group hug.  Gag.

 

Brooke tells us to look for Rock Star: The Tour.  Mike and I think about this for all of five seconds.  As much as I love MiG's chest, I doubt we'd score seats close enough to get a decent view of it.  Plus there was really only one standout performance for us during the show (MiG's "Baby I Love Your Way"), and none of the contestants have the squeeeeee! factor of Constantine or the humble class of Bo.  We just can't see spending $100 for the two of us to see this.  Now, if they can guarantee that the house band will be the ones backing the group, we might think about it for another ten seconds.

 

We are also told that the Rock Star "Live from the Mayan" CD is now going to include tracks from all fifteen singers, instead of just the top five.  Hmm.  Mark Burnett really wants to make some money off of this, doesn't he?

 

Next week...the end.

 

Review 2005 by Patricia Lowhorn.  For comments, e-mail tricia@lowhorn.org.

 

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