Friday, July 22, 2005

Rock Star? Nice try, but no.

While I was growing up, INXS was one of my favorite rock bands. I have every one of their albums, most of them on both cassette and CD. One of the best concerts I ever attended was an INXS show at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where I was lucky enough to score 10th row seats on the floor, easily the best seats I've ever had for an arena concert.

By the time lead singer Michael Hutchence killed himself, INXS's time in the rock spotlight was probably over. I think only diehards (myself included) bought their last couple of albums. But the band insisted it would somehow carry on, and eventually find a new lead singer. Rumors of several replacement candidates have swirled around in the eight years since Hutchence's death, none of which I can remember.

Having failed to find a new front man (or woman), INXS has opted to use a "reality TV" show to audition lead singers. If you haven't seen it - and the ratings imply that you haven't - CBS's Rock Star: INXS is American Idol with the band as judges.

If you’re really interested, please continue.

Since many people who sit down for a reality TV show might not recognize INXS, Dave Navarro is on the show as... well, I have no idea what he's supposed to be, other than a rock musician who doesn't look too old to be a rock musician and can wear a feather boa without embarrassing himself. The producers also hired Brooke Burke as host, which is just a shameless attempt to get horny guys to watch. Of course, I saw right through that and focused on the music. (Ahem.)

So I tuned in, mostly because I just wanted to hear INXS again, but also with the shred of hope that this would revive a once-great (at least to me) band.

Guess what? It ain't happenin'. First of all, the show is a glaring example of just how formulaic reality TV has become. (Most of you probably already knew that. But with the exception of The Apprentice, I've managed to avoid most of these shows.) All the contestants live in a big mansion, viewers vote for their favorite performers, and at the end, someone comes in with the final judgment. (In this case, guitarist Tim Farriss, who sputters the might-be-an-attempt-at-a-catch-phrase, "I'm sorry. You're just not right for our band... INXS." If the pause is meant to be dramatic, it's not. It comes off more like Farriss remembering he'd better remind people of the band's name.)

After watching the first handful of shows last week, I was going to write a blog with comments on each contestant. But since I bet no one else is watching the show, I'm sure that'd be boring as hell to read. Besides, I kept writing the same thing. None of these guys are the right lead singer for INXS. Of course, I'm comparing them to Hutchence.

Well, not all of them are terrible. Only a couple flat-out just can't sing. But a handful of them can. They just don't have the right sound (too deep and "soulful," for instance). Three or four actually look the part, and one practically sounds like Hutchence (maybe because he's a fellow Aussie.) There are two people (the punky redhead and the token black guy), however, who would be quirky choices and I think that's the way INXS should go. Not only would they be different and seem refreshing, but they have the requisite ability to sing and cocky stage presence. If you're going to do this, why not try something different? Maybe you'd cheese off the old fans, but they'd just go back and listen to the old albums anyway.

I might tune in at the end to see if that's the way INXS goes, but for now, I'm done. I tried. Hell, I tried four times. I don't want to hear these people sing "California Dreamin'" or "Hard to Handle." I don't want to see INXS bop their heads and sing along to their own songs. And if no one's going to be mean (Dave Navarro, I'm lookin' at you), there's really nothing fun to watch. Wake me up when this thing is over.