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TALENT, COMPETITION, AND SCANDAL: AMERICAN IDOL IN ITS FINAL WEEKS

The events of this coming week on American Idol will determine which two contestants go head-to-head for the big win. Just a few days ago we said goodbye to 16 year old Allison Iraheta, who was the last girl left in the competition. Though going home a runner-up on the show doesn’t mean the end of a singing career, it’s no secret that everyone’s going for the gold. Right now we’re down to three very different guys, each with their own appeal and style:

Danny Gokey

danny-gokey-b1He’s adorable, he’s friendly, and he’s got a compelling backstory. This 28 year old has been a fan favorite since day 1, with undeniably solid talent that made him stand out from the crowd during his Milwaukee, Wisconsin audition. Very tragically, Danny’s wife passed away not too long ago. His early interviews on the show were frequently interrupted by emotion as he explained how he had decided to go on with his audition in her memory.

Danny always seems shocked and humbled to be doing so well on the show. He’s been labeled by some as the “good Christian boy,” a music minister involved with Faith Builders International. (Yeah, that’s him on the homepage.) Recently there has been a sort of mini-scandal, fueled mainly by a couple of internet sources, over Danny’s… eyewear? Honestly, if the worst debate critics can start is whether or not you might be secretly working for LensCrafters, you don’t have too much to worry about.

Adam Lambert

adam-lambertIt comes as no shock whatsoever that Adam Lambert has made it this far. A 26 year old Hollywood native, Adam is no stranger to the stage. He’s been singing and acting his whole life; you might be able to tell by his killer stage presence and unbelievable vocal range. This guy’s got PIPES! Week after week it seems like the judges just can’t get enough of his flashy performances and huge notes.

During the show’s first weeks, Adam was just the colorful contestant wearing the guyliner and skinny jeans. As always, of course, with increased interest in his talent comes increased interest in his personal life. Adam has become this season’s ambiguous intrigue, with fans and non-fans alike speculating, “Is he gay?” (He lists Freddie Mercury as a favorite singer!) “Or is he just well-dressed and extremely colorful?” (He also lists Lenny Kravitz!) Whatever the case, everyone will forget they cared (if they really do) in a few weeks when Adam is the new American Idol or a close runner-up.

Kris Allen

kris-allen3Kris Allen has a tough road ahead of him over the coming week, given the dubious honor of competing with the two people everyone always suspected would make it to the end. Perhaps it’s a blessing: the expectations aren’t on him to take it all. That means less pressure, and that can mean an even better performance. Since it’s all about the votes at this point, Kris might just pull through to be the true “dark horse” of the competition. He’s the youngest of the remaining contestants, a 23 year old from Conway, Arkansas.

Kris Allen doesn’t have any scandals attached to his name. Some might say that means that the public is less interested in him, but it also means that he hasn’t already been labeled as one thing or another. No one thinks they have Kris all figured out. We’ll have to leave it up to his performances this week to determine his fate on the show.

Don’t miss this week’s episodes of American Idol, Tuesday at 8/7c and Wednesday at 9/8c on Fox. Tickets are on sale now for the 2009 American Idol Tour happening this summer.

LADY GAGA AND KELLY CLARKSON PERFORM FOR RECORDING ACADEMY MEMBERS IN BOSTON

T-Mobile and the Recording Academy took over Boston hot spot House of Blues throwing an invite-only extravaganza. The purpose was to promote the Sidekick™ as well as the organization that produces the GRAMMY®. Recently the New York Chapter of the Recording Academy has formed a Boston Committee in the hopes of nationally uniting both industry and musicians while informing them of the member benefits. And membership has its privileges. Last night members were treated to performances by host Blake Lewis, Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson. Production, staging and VIP hospitality were top notch for this Pop spectacular.

American Idol Season Six runner-up Blake Lewis spun iPod tracks, twittered and beat boxed as the entertaining Master of Ceremonies. The event itself demonstrated the inspirational spectrum of popular music, featuring “one-of-us” success story stars, Lewis and Clarkson, juxtaposed with the dues-paid breakout artist, Lady Gaga.

gaga

Gaga’s career started behind the scenes working at Interscope Records, where she penned songs for acts such as the Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears and Fergie; all the while performing her own music throughout NYC.  She signed to Def Jam after record exec L.A. Reid overheard her signing down the hallway from his office. She was soon dropped but continued to hone her sound and burlesque performance style in clubs until she was once again spotted and signed to Interscope in 2008.

Last night Lady Gaga delivered a performance that showed she was deserving of the spotlight. She is a true entertainer, delivering a show filled with avant-garde fashion, dance, and video montage. But she is also a powerful vocalist and talented musician. These talents were best demonstrated through the piano-accompanied debut of a new song “Future Of” intertwined with vox-and-keys-only version of “Poker Face.” However it was her chart-toping electronic dance songs that turned the audience out.

clarksonAmerica’s sweetheart, and most success Idol, Kelly Clarkson closed the night with a set jammed-packed with her chart topping singles. Clarkson’s celebrity status continues to capture US audiences who can relate to the chanteuse’s pre- Idol financial hardship and family struggles. Regardless of personal opinions one may have about the Idol franchise, few can deny her inspirational rise to fame.

Clarkson, looking over a zealous audience of fans singing the lyrics to all of her songs, appeared as if she was just another young fan at a concert. Her ordinary identity yet diva talents were displayed as she performed hits such as “Walk Away”, “Never Again” and “Because Of You.” Clarkson’s vocal stylings were reminiscent of Janis Joplin’s, while also evocative of present day trendsetter Gwen Stefani. However, Kelly Clarkson’s demeanor was very much the pretense-free girl from Burleson, Texas, albeit one with seven year’s studio and tour experience.

The evening’s talents represented some of The Recording Academy’s most successful members and served as a warm welcome to some of Boston’s newest members. For information on how artists, industry, and aspiring college students (whether performance or industry driven) can become members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) visit the GRAMMY’s website.

From the Disney Channel to Broadway

Anneliese van der Pol... an OurStage favorite in Pop

Anneliese van der Pol... an OurStage favorite in Pop

Anneliese van der Pol is definitely enjoying her “Day in the Sun“… and the spotlight. You might recognize her from The Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven where she played Chelsea Daniels for more than 100 episodes, a record for Disney. This year, Anneliese finds herself moving from TV to Broadway while also maintaining her budding music career. In July, you can catch her in the musical version of the play, Vanities opening at the Second Stage Theatre in New York City.

On the music side of things, this red head from Amsterdam has certainly been busy. Her song, “Over It” was featured in the Disney Channel movie, Stuck in the Suburbs and she’s been spending extra time in the recording studio working on prospects of a future record deal. She has also been charting in the top 10 in the OurStage Pop channel consistently since the new year. Currently, Anneliese is competing in the semi-finals for Pop… be sure to go judge and support her if you like what you hear!

Whether you are planning a trip to NYC to see Anneliese on stage or are holding out for her first full-length album, you won’t be disappointed with what Anneliese has to offer. In the meantime, join Austrian artists Climax of Pleasure who commented that, “A day in the sun is a really cool summer song for us!” We couldn’t agree more:

THE TOP 5 BANDS STUCK IN THE TOP 10

Every once and a while, great artists on OurStage slip through the cracks and don’t get proper recognition. They do well but for some reason that winning channel spot continues to elude them. Maybe they just have bad luck, or maybe their competition is just too tough, but either way let’s take this moment to commemorate some of our best artists who have not been properly celebrated with a channel win. This will be my last blog post before I move on from OurStage, so I wanted to make sure that I gave some of my favorite OurStage musicians their just deserts before I moved on.

In this post:
White Light Riot (Rock)
Heather Evans (Pop/Rock)
American Babies (Folk/Rock)
Derek Adams (R&B/Hip-Hop)
Sean Bell (Hip-Hop)

Breaking Out With Amy Kuney

It would be easy to say Amy Kuney is just another female singer/songwriter in a sea of them recieving national attention recently, but there’s more to her than that. She travelled in Central America as a teenager, where she encountered experiences beyond what most people ever see- including being kidnapped by rebels while traveling through Guatemala. Through her harrowing adventures, she has been giving plenty of material to help fuel her songwriting career. Her inspiration fueled by incredible experiences in life captured the attention of a producer in Los Angeles, and things have been rising ever since.

Kuney won the March Grand Prize on OurStage for her song “Thank You For Last Night”, and has been garnering national attention for her other songs as well, including placement on TV shows One Tree Hill and Passions. She also had the luck to be cast in a one-episode role on Gilmore Girls. Kuney is also about to embark on a national tour with Kate Voegele in support of Amy’s debut solo album, Bird’s Eye View.

You can check out Amy’s website, or preview her album on iTunes as well.w

Checking in with Ryan Montbleau

This past weekend was a big one for independent music in Boston as WERS hosted its 60th birthday party and indie artists and music lovers came out of the woodwork to celebrate. Kicking off the festivities was Ryan Montbleau an OurStage artist and mainstay in the Boston indie music scene with a following that stretches well beyond our fair city. We caught up with Ryan after the show and he shared his plans for the year, some funny stories and thoughts on the industry with us. See what Ryan had to say in our Q&A below and check out his music at his OurStage fanclub:

The Ryan Montbleau Band (from left) James Cohen, Ryan Montbleau, Jason Cohen, Matt Giannaros & Laurence Scudder

The Ryan Montbleau Band (from left) James Cohen, Ryan Montbleau, Jason Cohen, Matt Giannaros & Laurence Scudder

OurStage and WERS are both all about supporting independent music and you’re not afraid to tout your own independence, what would you say is the greatest benefit to following an independent career?

Well, the obvious stuff, fist and foremost: you control your own destiny, you own all your music, etc. I couldn’t imagine a career where someone approved or disapproved of the music I make before I put it out. And then, in the long term, if you can stick it out, it’s just a much more natural and bona fide way to go. It’s grassroots. The roots we’ve been putting down, in a sense will never go away.

On the flip side, what has been the greatest challenge for you along the road and are there any lessons learned through your experience?

Lessons learned every day, I suppose. This is a challenging and straight-out wacky business, there’s no doubt. Doing it grass roots and one show at a time is a long road and the biggest challenge is just staying sane, keeping it together. One major lesson is that you can keep your eye on the prize, but ultimately you have to be realistic about where you are and just enjoy the trip. In that sense, your job is to go out and keep “making it” as opposed to dwelling on a day when you finally “make it.”

Continue reading ‘Checking in with Ryan Montbleau’

Life After Idol

It may be hard to believe, but there is a place other than OurStage where aspiring stars have gone to see how they measure up against others. A place where they perform, compete, rock out, let loose, and petition for your votes. It is called American Idol, (or so I’ve been told)… anyone heard of it? This guy has:

chrisrichardson-1

His name is Chris Richardson and his track “Damm Thing” recently landed in February’s Top 10 Pop chart on OurStage. It’s not the first time he’s been in the spotlight; Chris came in 5th on Season 6 of American Idol. That’s no small feat! Any of you who has watched the show has seen the long lines and rooms filled with seemingly endless hoards of anxious contestants. Season 6 actually marked the third time Chris auditioned for Idol. It was finally his year to shine, and a lot of people took notice. While on the show, Chris often received comparisons to Justin Timberlake, whom he had listed as one of his favorite male singers along with Jason Mraz, James Brown, and Michael Jackson.

Armed with this powerhouse list of influences, Chris has a style all his own that has helped his fanbase grow and grow. “Damm Thing” is ready to be a radio hit with solid vocals and acoustic guitar reminiscent of late nights in a Spanish café. Be on the lookout for Chris Richardson; you’ll be seeing his face around. More importantly, you’ll be hearing his music.

Want to be the judge and decide for yourself? Judge the Pop Channel on OurStage this week to tell us if you think he belongs at the top of the charts and catch him live next month in Richmond and NYC:
March 16th: The Canal Club Richmond, Virginia
March 20th: The Canal Room New York City, New York

The Next Fifty: Pop

Sometimes the best songs go unnoticed and OurStage has a lot of great songs. Scan through our current Pop charts, for example, and you will find some great content even in the 50-100 rankings. This playlist is a mix of catchy, melody-driven tunes. From soft rock to singer/songwriter and even some R&B influenced songs, these tunes will definitely have you singing along. Hear it for yourself!

Jetty Rae: Chasing the Wind!

These days, it’s rare for most people to listen to an artist’s album all the way through, but I think I may have found an exception in Jetty Rae.  I really couldn’t skip to the next song or put the album down.  Songs from her current album, Blackberries, have won quite a few awards on OurStage2533_58067812260_613142260_1941057_7799866_n over the past year, and I can assure you she has much more to come!

Jetty recently spent 5 days in Nashville recording her new album, “Chasing of the Wind.” Jetty just posted an exclusive sneak peak of her new album titled, “Blink of an Eye!”  Check it out in the player above!

Her producer, Andy Walker, found her on OurStage and has worked with a few other OurStagers including Rose Walker and Jennifer Schmidt.

“This album has me really excited! The instrumentation is so much fuller than ‘Blackberries.’ I am hoping to release ‘Chasing of the Wind’ by May,” Jetty Rae said.

While waiting for the new album to release, Jetty is also working on a new music video for her song “Movies,” (Listen to it on her website.)  The video, as she says, “makes fun of how unrealistic movies and chic flicks are!”  Jetty is currently based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  So keep your eye’s out, someday she could be playing in your town!

Nevershoutnever is getting HAPPY on the road!

nsnpolaroidAfter stepping out of the performing spotlight in January to record a new album, NeverShoutNever kicked off his headlining tour in Evansville, Indiana Feb 26th.  The Let’s Get Happy Tour, will be taking NSN to over 20 locations around the country between now and March 15th.  Moreover, the tour is sponsored by Hot Topic, which is a rarity for independant artists!

That’s not all!  NSN will also begin touring in the spring with The Bamboozle Roadshow 2009 alongside acts such as We the Kings, Forever the Sickest Kids, and The Cab.

You’ll be able to pick up NSN’s latest single, HAPPY, March 3rd in the iTunes Music store.  The full release of his album is slated for Early May.  Still want more?  Check out our exclusive behind the scenes feature of his music video!

 


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