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Sound and Vision: An ‘American Idol’ Wish List– Who Should Replace Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler?

You couldn’t pay me to be an American Idol bigwig right now. The show is about to face its greatest challenge since the 2008 battle of the Davids (Cook and Archuleta).

The producers and the Fox network already have to worry about sagging ratings (the average viewership in season 11 dropped 23 percent to below 20 million for the first time in nine years, and the show fell from No. 1 for the season—to No. 2—for the first time since 2005), not to mention less commercially viable Idols and external competition from The Voice, The X Factor, and pretty much any reality show that promises to make a nobody a star.

Now, the producers have to deal with pleasing Mariah Carey, who has signed on as a judge next season, replacing either Jennifer Lopez or Steven Tyler, both of whom left after two years in order to focus full-time on their music careers (and in the case of Lopez, her “acting” career, too).

I once interviewed Carey for an Us Weekly cover story, and I found her to be warm, intelligent and surprisingly funny, but she’s a diva through and through. (She actually walked into the living room of her New York City hotel suite cradling her miniature dog!) Idol will reportedly pay her a very diva-like sum of between $12 and $17 million a season (a hefty and not altogether worthwhile expense, considering that Carey is well past her pop heyday), and I don’t even want to think about her list of perks and demands.

Meanwhile, there are murmurings that Randy Jackson, the last remaining original judge, currently in contract negotiations, might be moving from the judge’s table into more of a mentoring role, in an attempt to revamp the show for season 12, launching in January of 2013. Sadly, that restructuring doesn’t extend to Ryan Seacrest, the inexplicably still-highly employable host, who has signed up for another two years at a pay rate of $15 million per season. Is it too late to invite ex-judge Ellen DeGeneres back for the job they should have offered her in the first place?

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: An ‘American Idol’ Wish List– Who Should Replace Jennifer Lopez and Steven 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’

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Weird Al Yankovic, Steven Tyler and Alice Cooper ring in NYE

Lots of big names played shows on New Year’s Eve, but no stage packed more star power into a smaller square footage than this one in Maui. Watch the holiday’s oddest trifecta play “Come Together” below.

Justin Timberlake off the market

NOOOOOOOO!!!! That’s us quoting every woman (and a fair share of dudes, too) who heard the rumor that Justin Timberlake got engaged to Jessica Biel this week. Let’s hope he put a ring in the box this time.

The Bad

Rihanna and Chris Brown spark speculation

Tweeps following Chris Brown and Rihanna picked up on some heat waves this week when Brown tweeted a cryptic “Love U more than u know!” followed a minute later by a similar tweet from Rihanna that read “I’ll always love u #1LOVE.” This wouldn’t be so weird if not for the fact that Chris Brown’s mother, Joyce Hawkins, tweeted this, which Rihanna seemed to respond to a minute later with this. You can read more about the antics of these two crazy kids here.

Miley Cyrus punks Khloe Kardashian

Miley Cyrus and Kelly Osbourne got Khloe Kardashian good for an upcoming episode of Punk’d. The two invited Kardashian over for a girl’s night, where a delivery boy accidentally zips up his … well, just watch the clip.

The Ugly

Sinead O’Connor’s marriage back on

Sinead O’Connor has continued her tradition of over-sharing. After announcing last week that her marriage was over, the singer announced this week that it was back on with a bang. Her tweet was too TMI even for us, but if you simply must know what it said, you can read it here.

Katy Perry and Russell Brand split

After only eighteen months of marriage, loveable wack-jobs Katy Perry and Russell Brand are headed to splitsville. Brand filed for divorce this week, citing “irreconcilable differences.” Rumor has it the split is mutual, but Brand filed the paperwork due to Perry’s very religious beliefs. R.I.P., teenage dreamers.

Miscellany

Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music’s Unlikely Collaborations

“I get high with a little help from my friends,” Ringo Starr sang on the Beatles‘ 1967 classic. These days, so do many of music’s top stars. Two’s company, and so is three and sometimes four. The more the merrier, the higher and higher they get.

On the charts, that is.

In the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week ending December 10, seventeen songs were collaborations between separate recording entities. Four of them featured Drake, and three apiece featured Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both appeared on tracks with Drake and with each other. But will.i.am featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger—and debuting at No. 36 with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” which the threesome performed on the November 20 American Music Awards—was probably the one that nobody saw coming.

Old-school Rolling Stones fans must be cringing at the idea of Jagger going anywhere near Lopez and will.i.am so soon after Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera went to No. 1 by invoking his hallowed name on “Moves Like Jagger.” But for a sixty-something legend like him, hit records—even if in name only, a la Duck Sauce‘s GRAMMY-nominated “Barbra Streisand—are a near-impossible dream unless they’re in tandem with other, often younger, stars.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music’s Unlikely Collaborations’

Your Country’s Right Here: Lauren Alaina Blossoms with ‘Wildflower’

Lauren Alaina has turned her hometown of Rossville, GA., about 10 minutes south of Chattanooga, TN., into a tourist attraction.

Yes, the sixteen-year-old runner up on American Idol, who won praise from none other than judge Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, still lives in her hometown with her parents J.J. and Kristy Suddeth and attends high school there. Just don’t expect to see her working at CiCi, the pizza parlor where she held a part-time job before she became a professional recording artist. With her debut album Wildflower blasting up the charts to No. 2 so far, Alaina isn’t in need of the job.

“I just looked at a house with my parents,” said Alaina. “We are having to move because the house I live in now we moved into when I was like four years old. We didn’t have a lot of stuff and we’ve collected a lot of stuff. This house [we’re considering] is big. It’s got three stories and it has a pool. That would be fun!”

The smart money bets that Alaina is just beginning a life full of fun now that her singing talent has been discovered. Although she’s one of the youngest contestants ever toappear on American Idol, critics note Alaina sings with a maturity reminiscent of one-time Idol contestants Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson before her.

Although such success would turn some people’s heads, Alaina seemed very grounded, chatting about how nervous she was thinking of her upcoming road test for her driver’s license. But, she said, even if she passed she wouldn’t be driving the new Ford Mustang that she won for placing second on American Idol.

“I’ll be driving my mom’s 2011 Kia Sorrento,” said Alaina of her vehicle of choice, at least for now, because she doesn’t want to damage the powerful Mustang. “We’re actually going to switch cars for a while.”

Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: Lauren Alaina Blossoms with ‘Wildflower’’

Vocal Points: What Makes A Great Rock Voice?

There are plenty of components that make up an outstanding rock band. From a great guitar sound, to a killer bass line, there is so much rock greatness out there to grab your attention. But what makes a great rock vocalist? What kind of singer can produce a sound that shapes a generation and even other singers to come? And most of all, what does it to take to have a voice that flat-out ROCKS? Well, lets look at a few of the most well-known, respected voices in rock history.

Freddie Mercury, Queen‘s phenomenal frontman, is one of the rock voices that has always impressed me. The texture of his voice, his low growl, and the ease that he would glide from one vocal register to another are all truly remarkable. Unlike many rock singers, Freddie Mercury had an incredibly versatile voice which was raw and ferocious, while still being incredibly melodic and listenable to a wide array of music fans. His voice was  huge part of what made Queen such a huge success, as well as the reason why they’ll continue to be an important piece of rock history.

Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: What Makes A Great Rock Voice?’

 


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