Rock Star: INXS

Like everybody else who watched the first episode of Rock Star: INXS the other night, I tuned in for the trainwreck. You know, over-the-hill band that doesn’t know it’s dead yet desperately seeking one more cheap cash-in, etc. A high-gloss version of the state fair circuit

But oddly, that show wasn’t on. I know, Brooke Burke is the Barbie of the Week and Dave Navarro has apparently launched a new career as Randy Jackson, but

Michael Hutchence is dead, but the rest of the band remains a pretty tight outfit that still has the desire to make music. If your partner dies, do you have some kind of sacred obligation to be buried with him, or do you try to continue with your life by finding ways of doing what you love to do? Right. So here’s the show that was actually on when I flipped over to CBS.

First, the members of INXS have a lot of humanity about them. In fact, their sheer realness is probably why Navarro and Burke are there, because the guys aren’t Hollywood enough to satisfy the audience’s presumed American Idol jones. (Not that I’m sure this show is about that audience, either.) Tim Farriss is fantastically authentic – it’s like he’s never seen a reality show and nobody told him how he’s supposed to act, so he’s just being himself – a nice guy in a band that needs a new singer.

Second, the production/programming philosophy isn’t worried about inciting artificial prima donna bitchfests. So far the show is all about a group of apparently decent people singing.

Most importantly, there’s some legit talent in the cast of contestants. Regardless of the outcome of the audition process – and despite the reality show trappings that’s all this really is – there are a few kids who are going to get a shot somewhere. Here’s what look like the top four after two nights:

  • Jordis: Sweet Mother of Jesus – they put her on first the other night for a reason. She has an amazing voice and while her look isn’t my style, it’s certainly a look you could market.
  • Ty: His first number was Living Color’s “Cult of Personality,” and he drilled it. Unbelieveable dynamism and a presence that just fills the whole room. The best of the male contestants by far.
  • Deanna: Hey, it’s another blonde chick singer – up until she opens her mouth. A lot of female vocalists have trouble in the lower register, but this girl can reach down an octave and rattle the back of the theater – just an ungodly voice.
  • Daphna: Gonna be tight between her and Jordis. For starters, she’s got this deep, dark, mysterious look and vibe that you have to look at. And although she may not quite match Jordis for pure voice, she’s damned close.

There are at least five others I’d say have a shot to win, and they could all front a new iteration of INXS. Depending on the songwriting, I can see them enjoying a bit of success. The only problem is that they might be written off as a novelty act and not get a fair listen. That’s a fair way to treat American Idol contestants, but this is different.

The best part for me is that this show isn’t about being a braindead pop star. They ain’t looking for no Clay Aiken, and most of the chicks on this show would kick Bo Bice’s ass. No, this is about rock, and they searched long and hard to find 15 serious candidates to bring in for the audition.

I had zero expectations, but so far I’ve been really surprised. I imagine either Wil or Jessica are gone tonight. The girls in the crowd love Wil, and there’s some suspcion that he has a gear we haven’t seen yet. Jessica is an okay singer with looks and a body and that’s about it, so if I’m voting I’d say give Wil one more shot….

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