So the other night I sat down with a bag of pork rinds and a six pack of high-end suds (with a loaded .45, in case things got real bad) and forced myself to watch the NBC premier of (but sixth season overall) of “Nashville Star.” For those of you with a life and no desire to care (how I envy you) “”Nashville Star” does for country music what “American Idol” does for pop. Namely makes it into a showcase for ridicule, humiliation and celebrates a narrow type of “talent” all to sell you trucks and tampons. Woo hoo!
But just as a younger version of pop ubber-talents like Brian Wilson and Elvis Costello would never get past the screening process of “American Idol” a younger version of a country star like Willie Nelson or George Jones would never get past the screening of “Nashville Star.” Though the mold was a bit more flexible on NS than on AI, it wasn’t by much.
The mold flexed just enough to include older performers with families – Alyson Gilbert and the now rejected Charley Jenkins – those with atypical looks – plus-size mom of 5 Melissa Lawson – performances can be done by single performers or groups – the sister trio Pearl Heart, the friends trio Third Town – and, though it’s regrettable to say that country music hasn’t come far from the days of the Jackie Robinson of Country Music, Charlie Pride – race, – Coffey, a black single dad of a beautiful baby girl.
Alas, even the inclusion of these marketing-demo risky outsiders did very little to amp up the diversity of the song selection or the way the songs were performed. For the most part it was the Garth/Kenny/ Martina/Reba school of hamming it up while warbling heartfelt clichés and stalking the stage. The song selections ranged from the cringe-worthy – boy model Justin Gaston performing Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” the aforementioned, and now booted, Charley Jenkins doing Tim McGraw’s “I Like it, I Love it” (which was crap when Tim did it) to the dull – Jewel clone Ashlee Hewitt doing Colbie Caillat’s cloying monstrosity “Bubbly” with a couple of surprisingly old school cuts thrown in – the teen duo of Laura and Sophie’s “Stand By Tour man” and third town’s fun version of the Ridge Boys’ tune “Elvira.”
I’m not going to go into detail on the performers on the show. The range of talent they exhibited was more or less what you would expect from amateurs singing in front of millions on television . There was nerves, there was cracks in vocals, there was dears in the headlights. But they exhibited more talent and guts than I could ever hope to have, so I’m not going to sit here and pick them apart. I’ll let the one competent judge on the show do that.
Like AI there is a three judge panel to preside over the performances and opine on the details of style, tonal quality and moxie…or whatever.
Playing the part of Randy Jackson is country music songwriter and producer Jeffrey Steele (from the now defunct band Boy Howdy, yeah I never heard of them either) who has some local Nashville cred for penning big hits for Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Montgomery Gentry and others. Playing the part of Paula Abdul is neo-folkie gone pop-princess gone country singer Jewel Kilcher. Jewel just came out with a pop-country album “Perfectly Clear” produced by homophobic midget John Rich, and she’s married to retired rodeo star Ty Murray so she clearly is the best choice to judge country music performances) I guess Jessica Simpson was booked.) Playing the part of a kinder and gentler Simon Cowell is the aforementioned John Rich who you might know from playing his John Oates (with less talent) counter to Big Kenny Alphin’s Daryl Hall (with less talent), as well as being a homophobic midget and wearer of women’s fur coats. With the exception of Mr. Steele none of these judges are qualified to even judge a pig calling contest little alone a country music talent contest. John is a Napoleonic flash in the pan and Jewel’s best days were in the mid-90’s.
To add insult upon and flaming train wreck country music bimbo de jour Taylor Swift kicked the whole things off with some song I’ve never heard. I’ll say wheat everyone with half a mind thinks when listening to Swift, The girl CAN NOT SING. Easy on the eyes in that blonde-cheerleader-soon-to-be-stripper sort of way, can’t carry a note in a bucket.
There…I’m done…I won’t watch another episode, though I’m pulling for Gabe Garcia the Texican from San Antonio. He’s the real deal, unfortunately he’ll have to suffer the idiocy of this diseased dog and pony show to prove it nationally.