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Exclusive Q and A: Lauren Alaina Talks “Wildflower,” Fans and Steve Tyler

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsLauren Alaina may not have won the two Teen Choice Awards for which she was just nominated — Choice Female Country Artist and Choice TV Female Reality Star for American Idol — but she’s got plenty of other successes to celebrate.

Not only is she looking ahead to joining Sugarland‘s “In Your Hands” tour in support of her debut album Wildflower, but her new single “Eighteen Inches” has been released to radio with great success. The song, written by Carrie Underwood, Kelley Lovelace, and Ashley Gorley, which references the space between a person’s head and heart, is something which resonates strongly with Alaina.

Recently the 17-year-old American Idol season 10 runner-up and Georgia native took time out of her schedule to talk about her music, her idols, and just what she learned from recording with American Idol judge and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.

OS: Let’s talk about your album and how you chose such great songs like “Eighteen Inches.”

LA: In the process of making the album I was listening to quite a few songs. I had to narrow them down to what what was going to go on the album. When I heard ["18 Inches"] that reminded me so much of my mom. She has literally gone through the exact same thing as the song. Eighteen inches is the distance between the head and the heart. It delivered such a beautiful message. I remember being very proud of being the person who sings it.

OS: I know you admire Carrie Underwood very much. Was that another reason you liked it so much?

LA: I didn’t know she wrote it [when I first heard it]. I think [my team] didn’t tell me on purpose.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Lauren Alaina Talks “Wildflower,” Fans and Steve Tyler’

Sound and Vision: Why Judging a TV Star Search Is More Valuable Than Winning One

The votes were counted and Phillip Phillips was crowned the 11th American Idol on May 23. So what’s next?

If this is going to be just another case of recent history repeating, a first blush of modest success (his Idol winner’s single “Home” entered Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 10, with 278,000 downloads), maybe even a platinum post-Idol album (like his predecessor, Scotty McCreery), then… nothing much. Unlike American Idol‘s early seasons, which made durable stars out of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, taking the grand prize no longer comes with guaranteed gold or platinum (if only for one album).

Even Adam Lambert, Idol‘s eighth runner-up and the show’s lone international star launch in the past several seasons, is in the throes of a sophomore slump. Although Trespassing, his second studio album, released on May 15, entered Billboard’s Top 200 album chart at No. 1, it did so with only 77,000 copies sold its first week. That’s 120,000 less than his 2009 debut, For Your Entertainment, and the lowest one-week total for a No. 1 album since last August, when Adele’s 21 sold 76,000 copies in its 12th non-consecutive week at No. 1. Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: Why Judging a TV Star Search Is More Valuable Than Winning One’

The ACM Awards Should Renew your Faith in Country

When “Crazy Girl” by the Eli Young Band won the ACM Song of the Year at the April 1 awards telecast from Las Vegas, my faith in country music was renewed.

Don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against mainstream performers including Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert or their music. They were all celebrated, and rightfully so, at the ACM. They’re great musicians and terrific entertainers. I was one of the first music journalists that had the pleasure of interviewing some of the now big-names in country, and found the majority of them to be down to earth and passionate about their music.

But I’m also one of those fans that thinks it’s something of  a tragedy that so many widely loved and incredibly talented performers—think Willie Nelson, the Avett Brothers, Ricky Skaggs, and countless others—are, let’s say shunned, at these shows. We could go into all the reasons, but why? The bottom line is that they aren’t on the industry shows. I love KISS and LL Cool J and U2′s Bono, but really? They’re featured at the ACM awards?

Continue reading ‘The ACM Awards Should Renew your Faith in Country’

Your Country’s Right Here: Scotty McCreery, Ricky Skaggs, Lauren Alaina and Others Add Country to Your Holidays

Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Ricky Skaggs and Phil Vassar are just some of the country stars that are ready to brighten your holidays with their down-home music. Sure, you’re overwhelmed with all kinds of lists—shopping and otherwise—during this season but take a look at the stellar line up of artists offering you holiday-themed country music and enjoy.

Think of American Idol alums Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina as melodic bookends of the holidays. McCreery, who performed in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, is also featured in the Disney Christmas Day parade that will be televised on ABC. Find out when it will be aired in your area by going to the Disney Web site. Lauren Alaina will join other artists on American Country New Year’s Eve at 11 p.m. on December 31 on FOX. Find out more about the show on this Web site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: Scotty McCreery, Ricky Skaggs, Lauren Alaina and Others Add Country to Your Holidays’

Vocal Points: America’s Got Talented Singers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about the show American Idol. Since the show’s start in 2002, it’s unbelievable success has created a series of stars—Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Kris Allen and most recently Scotty McCreery. But Idol‘s popularity is now on a whole new level, as evidenced by a crop of similar shows. The X-Factor, The Voice and The Sing-Off are just a few shows which focus on vocalists and their journey to become stars. But which of these programs, if any, actually completely focus on the singer and the importance of a voice above all else?

American Idol, despite its longevity and success, has never been focused on just the voice. While these artists obviously are judged on their singing, the competition is more of a popularity contest, rather than an in-depth examination in vocal technique. And while ex Idol judge Simon Cowell‘s The X-Factor has a different approach, the show is really about contestants with the whole package deal. Premiering earlier this fall, this show boasts a $5 million prize to the one person who can wow the judges with their X factor—the ”thing” that  makes someone a star.

Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: America’s Got Talented Singers’

Sound And Vision: 10 Reasons Why I Wanted To Hate Lady Gaga’s New Album Before I Heard It

By now you’ve read the (mostly glowing) reviews, and Born This Way is probably well on its way to becoming Album of the Year. So who needs me on the Lady Gaga bandwagon? She’s already sold millions of albums and singles without the benefit of my adoration, and her second full-length effort (launched worldwide on May 23) is destined to pad her coffers with more gold and platinum. But after single after sound-alike single from The Fame and The Fame Monster EP, I was hoping for a change of course, her very own Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, a follow-up to a mega-platinum breakthrough that defies expectations and stands on the strength of the music alone. (Remember how George Michael made only one video for that album, and he didn’t even appear in it?)

I like Gaga best at her piano with a bare minimum of camp and circumstance, and I wish she’d go there more often. There’s something about way-over-the-top freaky Gaga that leaves my eyes in perpetual rolling motion. Plus I’m generally allergic to anything that’s hyped by the majority of the universe. I won’t bother to review the new album since pretty much everyone with an opinion has offered it on Facebook, Twitter or any other social-media forum where people will read it, but I’ll say this: Since the marketing of Gaga is often more interesting than the music she releases, my expectations were low. This time, though, in a nice surprise twist, she exceeded them. Still, it’s so hard to listen without prejudice, unaffected—positively or negatively—by a publicity push that shoved Gaga in our faces 24/7 and screamed, “You must love her!” So what exactly fueled my pre-release discontent and keeps my Gaga resentment bubbling just under the surface of my grudging respect? Read on.

1. “Judas.” Here we go again! Another busy video in which Gaga bombards us with visual stimuli. (Enough with the religious iconography, girl!) This one’s an eyesore, and I’d rather go blind than ever watch it again. But the biggest problem with “Judas,” the second Born This Way single, is that it isn’t much of a song—it’s basically just a noisy rewrite of her previous hits. No wonder it spent all of one week in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100, at No. 10, after its initial characteristically over-hyped release.

2. The onslaught of Born This Way teasers. Though Gaga would surely have us believe that this is yet another of her brilliantly “original” ideas, Taylor Swift did the exact same thing in the weeks before the release of her third album, Speak Now, last October, and Katy Perry pulled a similar stunt with Teenage Dream. After the title track, Born This Way‘s three follow-up singles were released in too-quick succession to have much impact, and when you add the streaming of songs from the album on Farmville in the days leading up to May 23, it’s like an extended trailer that gives away the entire plot to the Event Movie of the Year, to which Born This Way was born to be the musical equivalent. I’m surprised she didn’t add “in 3D” to the title!

3. Her publicity blitz cut into my Justin Timberlake time on the Saturday Night Live season finale. Watching Justin Timberlake host SNL made me long for the good old days of gimmick-free pop stars who weren’t trying to save their fans from the big bad evil world. He’s talented, nice to look at and his music stands on its own. He don’t have to take his clothes off to have a good time, or to make his tunes interesting, though he’s certainly welcome to! So why should he have to share the SNL spotlight with musical guest Gaga?

4. “You and I” was not a pre-release single. If anything good came of Haley Reinhart’s run on American Idol, it’s this: She dug up a then-unreleased Gaga track called “You and I” and almost did it justice. I immediately marched over to YouTube and sought out Gaga’s live performance of the song on the Today show last year. I felt like I was watching a female Elton John in her prime. Too bad the Born This Way version is more heavily produced by Shania Twain’s ex, Robert John “Mutt” Lange.

5. As an Idol mentor, she didn’t even acknowledge the free publicity Haley gave her little-known song. Did it happen off screen? Does she not watch the show, or was she simply unimpressed by Haley (Lord knows I usually was)? That said, Gaga made an excellent mentor and gave constructive advice. James Durbin didn’t do as he was told (come on, dude, put some Elvis into it!), and look what happened to him.

6. She’s probably going to leave Adele’s 21 in the dust as the top-selling album of 2011 so far. But then again, Adele made her mark fully clothed without the benefit of flashy videos and a billion-dollar publicity campaign. She didn’t even bother to get out of her seat in the “Rolling in the Deep” clip, and the single still went to No. 1.

7. Does every Gaga video need a cast of thousands? Just once, I’d like to see her go stark and minimalist, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”-style—no controversial imagery, no cheap group choreography, no grandiose aspirations. Yes, there’s strength in numbers, but less could be so much more.

8. “The Edge of Glory” is like a bad ’80s flashback. It would have been perfect for the Top Gun soundtrack. Images of Kelly McGillis dance in my head. Bonnie Tyler, or Stock, Aitken and Waterman-era Donna Summer, would have killed for this. I almost expect Laura Branigan to rise from the dead and start singing back-up halfway through. If only it were half as good as “Gloria” or “Self Control.”

9. She wasn’t born that way. Isn’t it ironic that the singer who sells artifice better than anyone scored one of her biggest hits—six weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100—with a song called “Born This Way”?

10. Her return is totally eclipsing Beyoncé’s. Queen B should have done what Kelly Clarkson did and sit out a few months while Gaga rules. A stronger first single would have helped, though. If the premiere of the “Run the World (Girls)” video on Idol and Beyoncé’s May 22 Billboard Music Awards performance don’t put her in charge, maybe she can still pull a Britney/Rihanna and get Gaga to add her two cents to a “Run the World” remix and watch it soar straight to No. 1.

 


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