Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Know when to hold 'em

First, an admission: I am addicted to Rock Star: INXS.

I was a casual fan growing up. I owned three albums by them (Shabooh Shoobah, The Swing, and Listen Like Thieves). I stopped listening after they release that Prince rip-off ("Need you tonight"). There were a listenable band, and as a good KROQ kid, I blasted "Don't Change" and "Original Sin" whenever they came on the radio.

The show is much more entertaining than the band ever was. The talent is strong, the song selections are good, the house band is tight. JD has a rich, Peter Murphy-like voice that does not match his Elvis-on-uppers dance moves. MiG's voice is a little thin, but he moves well. Marty is totally karaoke. My favorite, by far, is Jordis, the dread-locked singer who reminds me a little of Diamanda Galas.

Rock Star has its problems. It lauds its doubtful authenticity vis-a-vis that other singing competition at every turn. The vapid Brooke Burke pronounces every letter of "Rocker" with such care as if Rock musicians were the Volksgeist incarnate. The songs themselves come the (what must be) the golden ages of Hard Rock, representing the debauchery of the '70s and the angst of the '90s. Too bad the selections don't often resemble the kind of Rock that INXS produced in their heyday.

Sunday night's show produced what ought to have been reality TV gold: caffeinated Rocker Ty Taylor bawled because he was nearly eliminated. Probably prodded by producers and writers off screen, Ty admitted that he felt pressure to succeed as the only black singer on the show. How many African-Americans are in Rock?, he asked. Quite a few. However, given that as Rock gets harder and more alternative, blacks are less represented. Ultimately I understood that Ty felt obligated to represent African-Americans in the competition and in music.

How has this 'touching, disarming' moment gone down? At a number of forums, including the show's, he has been accused of playing the race card. Hmm. He didn't make excuses that he failed because of race. He only said that he felt a heavy burden that he alone carried. Are people that sensitive to the mention of race, or are they trying to render it unspeakable? There seems to be a misinterpretation of what playing the race card means and how race affects life.

Well, I'll tune in tonight. I am already anticipating the show. Rock on!

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