Sunday, October 02, 2005

COLUMN: Rock Star

Whew. I was getting worried there for a bit. It was a long, tense summer, but we rose to the occasion. We persevered through the best of times and through the worst of times, but it was worth it. Yes, we as a people can sleep much easier tonight in the safe, comfortable knowledge that -- finally -- INXS have chosen a new lead singer.

Anybody else get roped in by CBS' "Rock Star: INXS" this summer? I didn't mean to, I really didn't. I watched on a laugh one night... and inadvertently found myself completely and pointlessly hooked. It really WAS compelling television -- the contestants on "Rock Star," while arguably weaker vocalists, were FAR more engaging than anything "American Idol" threw at us last season, and it was refreshing to see a talent show -- ANY talent show -- not involving Ryan Seacrest.

We watched the contestants battle week after week ("we" being the 14 or so of you who actually checked the show out - it was fairly low-rated.) We saw the tense moments, the stumbles, the triumphs, and the bizarre covers of "Bohemian Rhapsody." And, in the end, it was homeless guy and erstwhile Elvis impersonator J.D. Fortune who won the position of fronting INXS, one of the most popular bands of two decades ago.

Umm... congratulations, J.D.! Just yesterday, you were a total nobody. Today, you're the frontman of a group of total nobodies long past their prime. Next stop? Perhaps opening for Foghat at the Oklahoma State Fair. That's right, you've MADE IT, baby!

And THAT'S what makes "Rock Star: INXS" my pick for Most Ridulous Show of the Year. Once upon a time, INXS were a truly great band. The reason for their greatness was simple: Michael Hutchence. Here was a guy who figured out a perfect formula for success: Take the swagger and sex appeal of legendary Doors frontman Jim Morrison and homogenize it down to appeal to the pop masses. Morrison took peyote and wrote songs about doing rather scandalous things to his mother; Hutchence was more concerned with finding words that sounded sexy and rhymed.

For all intents and purposes, Michael Hutchence WAS INXS. Sure, there were some other guys behind him onstage someplace, but you never really paid attention. Those other guys might have even written all the songs, but would you -- even 20 years ago when they were huge -- have recognized anybody in INXS if they were standing next to you in line at McDonalds? Only Hutchence; the rest of the guys were filler.

Tragically, Hutchence died a few years ago. And now, INXS have wrapped up their search for his replacement. The goal is that J.D. will step on stage with the rest of the band and that "INXS magic" will happen all over again.

What nobody informed you of on the show was that the magic had already run out years ago. Quick, name ANY song off one of the last 3 INXS albums. Can't do it, can you? That's because NOBODY BOUGHT THEM. Their career was already toast PRIOR to Hutchence's death. Did you also know that Fortune wasn't the first to replace Hutchence? The band had already recruited a new singer and set off on a failed world tour that netted empty seats and no new record deal.

But now, thanks to "Rock Star," INXS are once again household names (provided, of course, that you're in of one of the 8 or so households that actually WATCHED the show.) And Fortune is ready to try and do the impossible by honoring the memory of Hutchence AND making INXS somehow relevant again. Best of luck, pal.

Amazingly, "Rock Star" producer Mark Burnett has announced that he wants to do future installments of the franchise, where each season another presumably washed-up band seeks a new singer. What's next? Join us next season as the Blowfish seek a new Hootie? The Captain needs a new Tennille? Randy and Tito look for a new Michael? "The Jackson 4 + Some Guy Named Doug," coming to a Wal-Mart opening near you! Run away. Quickly.

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