Rock Star: INXS -- week 10

And then there were three. "Sweet" Suzie MacNeil, the last female in the competition to be the next lead singer of INXS, was sent home this week. She was given a decisive test by INXS with the two songs that were given to her for her Tuesday night performance. She passed the first test well enough, doing a respectable rendition of the very masculine Stone Temple Pilots tune "Interstate Love Song". But the 4 Non Blondes hit "What's Up" is a virtual minefield of tricky vocal dynamics, and it exposed Suzie's weaknesses. Her Wednesday performance of "Suicide Blonde" was fine, but someone had to go, and the "Queen Of The Bottom Three" was the logical choice. After six strikes, she was finally out.

Suzie is a singer who has certainly grown over the last ten weeks. She was nearly eliminated on the very first episode, but recovered quickly. She avoided elimination five more times with mostly strong performances of INXS songs. Her self-confidence seems to have taken a quantum leap forward. She said she was ready to take on the world, and she can still do that without INXS. We'll see.

So now we know that one of three contestants will become the new INXS frontman next Tuesday: it's down to Marty, Mig, and JD. Only one of these singers has ever been a personal favorite of mine, and that is Mig Ayesa. But I don't predict a victory for him. It is impressive that he was able to avoid the bottom three until the tenth week, which suggests he has broad appeal. His vocal abilities have never been in doubt; I was able to peg him as a standout during Week 2. But (through no fault of his own) we didn't hear him sing a single INXS song until last night. His performance of "What You Need" was satisfactory, but not earth-shaking. The members of INXS have suggested in recent weeks that he is too theatrical for their band. And the two original compositions we've heard from him haven't been very impressive, nor have they been INXS-like. When you see the accolades that JD and Marty are receiving for their originals, you can see that Mig has failed to impress the band in that department. He will not be the one.

And JD Fortune? He's definitely improved in recent weeks; in fact, he came off best during this crucial week. But he's been too inconsistent and unpredictable. If he had begun to be placed in the bottom three sooner than he was, he probably would have been eliminated some time ago. (In fact, he came close to elimination on the very first episode). The popularity of his song "Pretty Vegas" (which has reportedly been downloaded millions of times from MSN Music) suggests commercial viability. But can he be trusted? He is acting like a sweetheart now, but his erratic behavior over the course of the program has got to make INXS nervous. I don't think they're going to chance it.

The smart money is on Marty Casey. He didn't seem like a contender in the early going, but he has improved, and he has shown willingness to listen to INXS' suggestions. He has also demonstrated what he would bring to the table (JD has dodged that question). He has offered his suggestions for the band's future strategy without seeming pushy, and his original song "Trees" suggests that he would make INXS radio-friendly again in the modern market. I think he's got the job.

So what did I think of this week's other performances? JD was the winner this week. He has now gotten to perform his INXS-like original four times on the show. He also nailed Pink Floyd's "Money" with his showmanlike performance. And his rendition of INXS' "By My Side" was flawless. If the man wasn't so unstable, he'd probably have the job. Mig did fine with Seal's "Kiss From A Rose", but I could have done without his needless arrangement of the Stones classic "Paint It Black". Once he got through the first stanza, it was okay. Marty's song "Trees" continues to sound like a potential hit single, although it sounds better electric than acoustic. His performance of Radiohead's "Creep" had a shaky start, but it emerged a grabber, especially when he hit that "ruuuuuuuuuuuuuunnn!" note. I felt that!

Only five days to go until next Tuesday's grand finale. The show may not be ending a moment too soon; it is less interesting with a handful of performers than it was with more. But I will miss Rock Star: INXS when it's gone. Rock music in general is in something of a slump; some pundits are declaring it dead, like they do at least once a decade. But this show put rock and roll on a major TV network, just after prime time. It was considered a ratings failure, because it only drew about 6 million viewers. But 6 million fans is a dream for most musicians. Time will tell if the show has any long-term impact. But it may have brought a faded '80's band newfound fame, and may have introduced other future recording stars in the process. We got to see up to 15 talented performers sing an eclectic variety of rock and roll classics each week for over two months. I, for one, am looking forward to the Rock Star: A Night at the Mayan Theatre CD that will be released on Tuesday. Whatever happens next, I thank INXS, Mark Burnett, and all others who made this entertaining show possible.

Next Tuesday: need I say more?

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