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Registered: 05-2003
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Episode 1

Okay, it’s a new season of Nashville Star, and I do mean new. There’s little resemblance to the previous version, other than the outstanding Nashville Star band. So, let’s get going.

What’s changed? Well, for starters, the show’s on NBC now, which means a bigger budget and more glitz. Of course, in country music, bigger isn’t always better. We’ve got Billy Ray Cyrus as the host. Billy Ray was once famous for his mullet and his incredibly annoying Achy Breaky Heart. Now he’s mainly recognized as Miley Cyrus’ dad. His job on Nashville Star appears to consist of saying, “Wow! That was great! Judges, what did you think?” and repeating the voting procedures after each performance. Nancy O’Dell, where are you when we need you?

We’ve got new judges, too. The top dog is obviously John Rich, who seems to have a new reality show every month, and whose massive ego is on display from the start. Jeffrey Steele, who ranks among the elite songwriters in country music, is a welcome addition, bringing an impeccable pedigree and credibility to the show. Lastly, we’ve got Jewel. Jewel? Seriously? Another pop artist who decided to try out country for kicks? One CD does not make someone a country artist – just ask Bret Michaels. It’s obvious that this show is as much, if not more, about John Rich and Jewel as the contestants. John even makes sure that he’s got his guitar with him at all times.

We start the show with some audition clips, and we learn that the show is also allowing duos and trios in this year’s competition. In the tradition of American Idol, we’re also treated to a lot of audition drama, tears and emotional outbursts. We’re even treated to a special military-only audition event. Yes, it’s a stunt, but it won’t be the last one.

Now it’s time to meet the finalists, and what better way than to have them come out and collectively butcher Life is a Highway, a great Tom Cochrane song? These folks actually make Rascal Flatts’ version sound okay. This opening sing-along has become a Nashville Star tradition, and it’s one I wish they’d left behind. There’s no way you can find one song that matches everyone’s vocal abilities – someone’s going to sound lousy.

Just when I thought the music couldn’t get more disturbing, we’re treated to Taylor Swift singing Picture to Burn. Other than the fact that she shouted through most of the song, and that she was off-key when she sang, it wasn’t bad. Okay, I’m wrong – it was bad. It just goes to show how marketing and ProTools can overcome virtually any obstacle.

We’re thirty minutes into the show, we’re out of guest stars, we’ve got time to kill, so how about letting the competition begin?

First out of the chute is Pearl Heart, a trio of sisters, singing The Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces. Singing a Dixie Chicks song is really a gutsy move, especially in front of John Rich. Their harmonies are great, their voices are on key, but the tempo seems a little slow to me. On a 1-5 scale, I’d give them a 4.

Next up is Tommy Stanley, our military entry. We know he’s military because we’ve seen the audition, and because he’s wearing his Navy whites. While I respect his military service, his rendition of Mark Cohn’s Walking in Memphis is terrible. It’s a pop performance, not country, he’s off-key, and he’s way over the top in his performance. For me, it’s a 1 out of 5.

It only took two contestants before we were treated to a Jewel vs. John argument. Apparently, they’re going to be this show’s Paula and Simon, trying to create controversy where none exists.

Shawn Mayer is next, singing Janis Joplin’s Piece of my Heart. She’s oversinging it, but, oddly enough, there’s no power to her voice. Her pitch is awful, and her performance is much too showy. 1 out of 5.

Third Town, another trio, is next, singing The Oak Ridge Boys’ Elvira. What a horrible song choice this was. In a national competition, this was the best they could come up with? Strictly karaoke. 1 out of 5.

Coffey, singing Dobie Gray’s Drift Away is the next to perform. For some reason, Coffey has dropped his last name (Anderson) for the show. He’s got a good enough voice, but this was a pop performance, and I’m still under the impression that this is supposed to be a country music competition. 2 out of 5.

The next performance comes from Laura & Sophie, a pair of teenage girls who’ve been friends for quite some time. They perform Tammy Wynette’s Stand by Your Man, with great harmony, and they’re on key the whole song. It’s nice to hear a true country song. They’re a little self-conscious during their performance, but it’s still solid. 4 out of 5.

Gabe Garcia’s up next, singing George Strait’s All my Ex’s Live in Texas. Gabe’s got a good voice, but he’s a bit nasal. His pitch is good, and he seems to be a likeable guy. There’s just nothing memorable about his performance. 3 out of 5.

Next up is Alyson Gilbert, singing Sara Evans’ Suds in the Bucket. Alyson has a good voice and bears a faint resemblance to Reba, but this is a scary performance. Her eyes were wide open – and I mean wide open – throughout her performance. I don’t think she blinked at all. I was totally distracted from the song. 1 out of 5.

Now we’ve got Ashlee Hewitt, singing Bubbly by Colbie Caillat. Huh? Did I somehow switch over to an unaired Idol episode? There’s no attempt at country music here. She’s got a folksy kind of voice, but her phrasing totally throws me off. For some reason, she stops in the middle of a word, then continues. It’s like a she’s got a bad case of hiccups during the song. 2 out of 5.

Charley Jenkins is next, singing Tim McGraw’s I Like It, I Love It. Wow. This was bad. Charley’s pitch is non-existent, and he comes off as a Garth wannabe. It’s bad karaoke, and the worst of the night. 1 out of 5.

Up next is Justin Gatlin, a part-time model singing Drops of Jupiter by Train. Train? Did we not let these folks know that it’s a country music competition? There’s nothing country about his performance, his pitch is poor, and his voice is forgettable. 1 out of 5.

To close the show, Melissa Lawson performs Bonnie Raitt’s Something to Talk About. It’s a string performance, although there’s a little too much Broadway in it. She’s got good pitch and good presence, though. 4 out of 5.

Now it’s time for the judges’ elimination. (When I first heard the phrase, I thought we were going to get to see Jewel or John get kicked off – dang it!) It’s between Charley and Alyson, and the judges have decided to send Charley packing. Good call, judges.

So, the first episode’s over. I’m not thrilled with the show. The talent isn’t nearly equal to that of previous seasons. It seems that the producers and judges have gone out of their way to appeal to the pop crowd, sacrificing the show’s integrity in doing so. The total lack of mention of previous winners is disrespectful, and the focus seems to be on the judges, not the contestants. If the show continues down this road, I doubt we’ll see Nashville Star Season 7.

Last edited by LongtimeCountryFan, 6/25/2008, 8:53 am
6/25/2008, 8:36 am Link to this post Send Email to LongtimeCountryFan   Send PM to LongtimeCountryFan ICQ

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