The One, July 18: Season Premiere, Who Will Be “The One?”by Donna Reynolds -- 07/19/2006
Welcome to The One, the latest entry into the wacky world of reality/talent shows. This show promises to take us “behind the scenes to see eleven talented performers share the opportunity of a lifetime as they learn from successful music business professionals, while competing for a major recording contract.” We will have a chance to watch as these talented artists work go through hours of preparation for their weekly live performances. Viewers will be able to vote by phone, text, or online, and the results will be announced the following night. Sound familiar?
Before we begin, let’s run down the list of key players for The One.:
The contestants include: Nick Brownell, 21, Sandusky, OH; Austin Carroll, 23, Memphis, TN; Michael Cole, 22, Winston-Salem, NC; Aubrey Collins, 18, Littleton, CO; Caitlin Evanson, 27, Seattle, WA; Scotty Granger, 19, New Orleans, LA; Jadyn Maria, 21, Nashville, TN; Adam McInnis, 25, Jackson, NJ; Jackie Mendez, 23, Miami, FL; Syesha Mercado, 19, Sarasota, FL; and Jeremiah Richey, 25, Waxahachie, TX.
The One will also offer us a panel of “music experts” (i.e. judges). Kara DioGuardi is a songwriter who has worked with Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, Santana, Ashlee Simpson, Celine Dion, Jewel, Paris Hilton, Enrique Iglesias, Hilary Duff, Kylie Minogue, and The Pussycat Dolls. She is also lead singer for "Platinum Weird" with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. Andre Harrell is the former president of Motown Records and founder of Uptown Records who has worked with Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Heavy D and the Boyz, 98 Degrees, and Sean "Puffy" Combs. Mark Hudson is a songwriter, vocal director, musician and record producer who has worked with Celine Dion, Ozzy Osbourne, and the legendary Ringo Starr. He co-wrote Aerosmith's Grammy award-winning "Livin' on the Edge,” and is also a former member of the 1970s group, the Hudson Brothers.
Rounding out this cast of characters is the “artist development team,” including vocal coach Roger Love, choreographer Tina Landon, stylist Jennifer Rade, piano teacher rad, personal trainer Mark Jenkins, and guitar instructor Ray Fuller. Our host for this ten-week journey, which is patterned after Spanish Endemol series The One: Making a Music Star, will be George Stroumboulopoulos. Confused yet?
And, we’re off. The show opens with a quick rundown of the audition process. Very quick! We are told that one week ago the final 11 entered the "One" camp where they will live together under one roof and “learn from the best.” Mark Hudson tells us about his credentials saying, “Music to me is life.” Kara hopes to be “whatever these kids need me to be.” She talks about how she is going to push them. Andre is there to “find their individuality.” He says that music is the “soul of the generation” and that he once had an intern named Sean (Combs). Tonight, he says, they will perform on the “biggest stage of their lives.”
George Stroumboulopoulos (this is the last time I’m spelling out his name!) is overly enthusiastic as he hits the stage. He tells us that the winner will be signed with the Interscope label, and quickly describes the voting process.
The contestants kick it off with a group number, Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time.” It’s as cheesy as any Idol group number, which really isn’t saying much. The band is a bit thin. Hey, is that Kellie Pickler? No, sorry. Pardon me as I fumble through this opening show! Can I say that this is weird, very Idol-esque and familiar, while at the same time totally alien. One guy is wearing a Mario Vazquez hat! But some of them are playing instruments, which is kind of neat.
The audience is enthusiastic and the contestants leave the stage. George returns and tells us that the contestants are surrounded by the best in the business. He introduces the “music experts.” Mark Hudson, who I should point out has a blue beard, says, “Each and every one of them has it.” “Music Mogul” Andre Harrell thinks that the most challenging thing for any artist is to be an individual. He looks forward to it. Kara DioGuardi says, “You guys have set the tone for an amazing show.” Oh really? I don’t know that I would go that far, Kara.
Now we are getting down to business with the first performer, Jackie Mendez. Her parents are Cuban and she grew up in Miami. She wants her music to be a “fusion of the music she grew up with.” Jackie says that she was very close to getting where she wanted, but was labeled as another Latina pop star ala J’Lo. Mark asks her what she will do to separate herself, and she cries. She says that she knows what she wants but wonders whether or not whoever she is working with will understand. “I want this so bad,” she tells us.
Jackie sings “Hot Stuff” with a Latin flare. The keyboard is stronger than she is, actually, and the song doesn’t really work… at all. She has a nice voice, but if she wants to separate herself from the J’Lo vibe, she probably should lose the Latin beat. Simon would call her cabaret. I call her inexperienced and colorless.
Andre thinks her presentation was spectacular. He says that she looks like a Cuban dessert. Mark was worried, but says she almost changed the color of his beard (which, may I remind you, is blue). Kara says Jackie was great and points out that she “nailed the ending.” Meh.
George returns to the stage and tells us that on this show, the contestants will have to live together in one house (ala Rock Star). At the house, there are guitars all over the place, and a piano that Ray Charles used. There’s a quick rundown of all the benefits of living in the house, and hijinks ensue as they take out one contestant’s (Jeremiah Richey’s, we later learn) bed.
Nice segue into Jeremiah’s bio. He plays drums and guitar, and tells us that his father left when he was very young. To him, music is about feeling and meaning. He wants to reach people and have them feel what he’s feeling. He’s here to find out where he is musically.
Jeremiah is singing Foreigner’s “Waiting For a Girl Like You,” accompanying himself on guitar and wearing his Mario Vazquez hat. He has a strong voice, nice edge, and a lot of passion. But he is holding back, and the song is a tad boring. I am not overly wowed, but see his potential.
Kara says that Jeremiah did well, although she tells him that there were some pitch issues. Mark can relate. He tells Jeremiah that his father left him at an early age, and that he can see what goes on in Jeremiah’s head. Andre thinks Jeremiah’s performance was shaky in the beginning, but says that by the end, he was “like a movie star from Texas playing Jeremiah.”
Our third performer for the evening is Jadyn Maria, who was born in Puerto Rico, but raised in Nashville, TN. Mariah Carey is her favorite. “Girl got pipes,” she says. Mark is worried that she is overly influenced by her idols, but nothing will deter Jadyn. She’s here to win.
Jadyn sings the Supreme’s “Keep Me Hangin’ On.” At least it’s not another Foreigner tune! She is a bit over the top and loses her breath in the middle. She also seems to lose her place in the song. I am thinking very “beauty pageant.” This could be a long, long ten weeks.
George asks her what she thinks is going on at home. Jadyn squeals with glee. Then it’s time for our experts to weigh in. Mark says that she didn’t nail the power notes. Andre really likes her, and says she “set him free.” Kara says that Jadyn is hot and sweet. Mark interrupts to add some sanity. He wants her to “reach for the ring.”
Syesha Mercado is next, and tells us that she started singing in church. Faith is very important to her and she’s brought her bible along with her. She knows that if she has faith in herself, she can do anything. I like her attitude. Andre does as well. She calls music a form of therapy.
Syesha is tackling Aretha’s “Chain of Fools.” I am thinking very, very lounge-y. She’s the best so far, but that really isn’t saying much. She does, however, have a great tone to her voice, and some nice moves for a church girl. Plus she looks pretty hot in her black and white striped dress and black leather boots.
Andre advises her not to be too theatrical. He thinks she started out shaky, but by the time she got to the end it was a “soul thing.” Kara says it was too theatrical, and that she wants to feel connected and intimate. Mark says, “You can make a rock 'n roller like me testify.” Gag me.
Now we have a chance to see some of what goes on at the “academy.” They will be working on choreography and storytelling in terms of singing the song. Every time Jeremiah is on screen, the girls in the audience scream for him. He must be the fave? We see some late-night fisticuffs and the boys take a dunk into the pool. But Andre isn’t having it. He really rips Michael Cole a new one for drinking the night before. Mark reiterates this message and shakes his head in disgust. Michael must be our resident “bad boy!”
Now it’s Michael’s turn. Why does George feel the necessity to introduce himself after each commercial break? Anyway, Michael says he’s a “real” rocker. He started playing guitar when he was three and it made his fingers bleed. He doesn’t care what the others think about him. He’s never had any formal training, and is somewhat frustrated by his first attempt. We also learn that the “music experts” pick the song, and for Michael, they’ve chosen “Drift Away.” He’s not happy. He wants “slammin’ rockin’.”
But Michael isn’t doing “Drift Away.” Nope. Instead, he’s singing “Devil With the Blue Dress,” badly. He runs around the stage, jerking around like a maniac with absolutely no control of his vocals. He jumps on the table in front of Mark, who seems to be grooving out. This is positively awful. The backup singers sound worse than I do. Unbelievable.
Michael is totally out of breath as he talks to George. Please tell me the “experts” don’t like this. Please? Mark says being “The One” isn’t just about one thing. He calls Michael “the good bad boy.” Kara says, “You should do whatever you want because you are great.” Andre (who apparently is our “Simon”) says, “One thing for sure, you’re definitely not a bum.” Huh?
George jokes about his name this time around. He then introduces Austin Carroll. Austin says he is eccentric and quirky, but is definitely a soulful cat. He says he goes to a different place when he sings. He says that he thinks he’s afraid of succeeding. But Andre tries to pump him up by telling him that he needs to “be the you that you need to be.”
Austin has chosen The Band’s “The Weight,” and is accompanying himself on the piano. And you know what, I like him. A lot. You know why? He sounds a bit like Taylor with a gravelly, soulful edge to his voice. He feels the emotion of the song and conveys it properly. He doesn’t need the assistance of the shrieking, off-key backup singers. Not one little bit. All right, Austin!
Austin is elated after his performance and calls it “surreal.” Kara tells him that he has true greatness in him. She wonders where they will put him. Andre says that his level of emotional connection is what great art is about. Mark says eccentric and quirky is not a bad thing. Andre adds that he thinks Austin is a category unto himself. Yeah. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
Next up is Aubrey Collins, the Kellie Pickler look-alike. She tells us that she has been singing all her life. We see her singing “A Whole New World” as a tot. Her entire family sold everything to help her with her career, and they are now living in an RV. Aubrey also wants to be The One!
For her first performance, Aubrey has chosen “Born to be Wild.” I start laughing out loud. My dogs wonder if I have lost it. Perhaps I have. Sorry, Aubrey. She is all over the place pitch-wise, and every now and then, breaks out into this weird, growly kind of shriek that sets me off on another laughing jag. Need I say more?
Andre says he didn’t believe it. Mark thinks Andre needs oxygen, and says she is right there with the best of the rockers. Kara says she has great pipes, but she’s going to have to work a bit harder. I guess so!
Back we go to the “One” house. The girls are speculating on the “hot” guys. Romance seems to be in the air already. Aubrey seems to have caught the attention of Nick Brownell, and they sing a little duet by the pool. Looks like we could have a little action here? No, not with her family sitting in the RV in the driveway.
We return from the break and George (who does not tell us his last name again), explains the voting again. I’ll save this for the end, okay.
Nick Brownell is our next victim, er, performer. Nick started playing out when he was a senior in high school. Kara is trying to help him, telling him this is serious, and that he could be “The One.” She calls him “frat boy!” Nick says he’s not going back, either. Someone has to, though, right?
Oh gawd. Nick is singing Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” He’s flat, pitchy, and totally soul-free. The band sounds like something you might hear in a small corner bar on a Wednesday night, and Nick a singer in a high school talent show. He completely loses his place in the song and never finds his way back again. I can’t believe how bad that was.
Kara says that they are going to be getting it on… practicing that is. She says Nick was a little stiff for her (yikes). Mark calls him Frodo, and says that there is some work to be done. Andre says, “I don’t know what you were thinking about, but it wasn’t sexy like Marvin sang it.” You tell it, Andre.
Now for Scotty Grainger, who plays piano, guitar, flute, sax, piccolo, and several other instruments. His biggest fear is not winning. He’s from New Orleans, and tells us that “Katrina was a bad chick.” He says that he experienced some things in his life that have hit him hard. He seems to be able to capture that emotion in his music. “Music is such a powerful force,” he says.
Scotty’s bringing us a little Motown with the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” He’s got the falsetto, and some nice spins, I’ll give him that. And he does a decent job on the bridge, but seems very nervous. I think he can do better, and I will give him the benefit of the doubt, this time at least.
Andre says that he was nervous about the performance in the beginning, but that Scotty pulled it off and sounded like Jackie Wilson. Mark does some strange kind of head motion that indicates he likes it (I think). Kara calls Scotty a smoooooth cat.
Two more to go. Stay with me now, okay! We’re almost there! As an aside, the theme music to this show sounds like the MadTV theme.
We have another clip of action at the house, and the contestants talk about each other. During the clip, Scotty is singing “Ain’t No Sunshine,” beautifully. You should have chosen that one, Scotty. Aubrey likes Michael Cole. Syesha sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (oh please, please, please, not again).
Caitlin Evanson is next. She plays fiddle and sings, and has been on the road for four years playing for various country artists. She has also just quit drinking. Mark tells her he has 13 years of sobriety, and says, “I’ve been you.” He offers to help her, and she starts to cry. Mark reassures her that he is just a phone call away. She is afraid that isolation will drag her back into the drinking.
Caitlin comes out with her fiddle, and does (or tries to do) Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.” An appropriate tune for a recovering person, I must say! But this is the wrong song for her voice and style, and really, I can’t even begin to describe this performance. Doesn’t quite work with the fiddle either! I am laughing again. I can’t help it. This is bizarre.
After her performance, Caitlin tells George that she is happy to share her experience to help others. Mark tells her she has nothing to be ashamed of (except that performance, I’m thinking). He feels like a proud dad, and says she nailed it. Andre says it’s hard to be honest and loves her “raspy, country thing.” Kara says, “She’s real,” and points out that this is Caitlin’s coming out party. She’s no longer in the background. Yay!
Our final contestant in the two-hour torture fest is Adam McInnis. He says that he was tone deaf up until three years ago, and calls his style “timeless.” His greatest fear is the stereotype about his dreadlocks. He doesn’t want to be compared to Lenny Kravitz or Bob Marley. Now why do I think there is probably not much chance of that?
Adam is singing an acoustic version of “American Woman” – kind of Dave Matthews-like. It’s actually rather nice. But then the band kicks into the traditional version, and Adam’s voice is no match for the arrangement. It’s thin and without any flavor at all. He flails about on the stage and seems to forget that he is supposed to be singing. Oh man. It’s like he disappeared into the mist.
Kara says it was a little bit pitchy, but the visual image was incredible. I’ll say! “This guy worked his butt off,” she says. Mark also points out how focused Adam was at the academy. Andre likes Adam’s sensitive spirit, but says he needs work.
We have a recap of the performances in anticipation of the voting. Here’s how it works: The viewers vote, and on Wednesday night, the bottom three will be revealed. The three will perform, and then the judges will “save” one of them. After that, the remaining contestants will actually select the person who goes home. Nasty!
Now you know that I have to select my picks for the bottom three, right? But how, pray tell, does one choose? Of the 11, the only one with whom I was impressed was Austin. I like Scotty, and Syesha wasn’t terrible either. Jeremiah was okay. So, that leaves seven. This is tough, but I would say that the bottom three should be Nick Brownell (“Let’s Get it On”), Aubrey Collins (“Born to be Wild”), and the incredibly horrific herky jerky Michael Cole (“Devil With the Blue Dress”). Of the three, I would say that Michael Cole will be the first to be eliminated from this mess. But it really doesn’t matter. I say they should “crown” Austin right now and be done with it! But that’s not the way this usually works, now is it?
If you are interested in helping out with recapping for The One or contributing to a “We’ll Be the Judge of That!” column for the show on Foxes On Idol, please let us know! We are looking for some people with good writing skills, and you can e-mail the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you have what it takes.
Donna Reynolds is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, New York. While entertainment sustains her emotionally, she earns her daily bread by writing and editing web copy. Check out her new website at www.idolthoughts.net. Donna loves mail, so shoot her an email at email@example.com.
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