The Changing Face of the Reality Singing Competition.

american idol judging panel jlo steven tyler randy jackson

There was a time, ten or so years ago, when American, and then Australian Idol, hit our screens and was judged by washed-up middle-aged music industry big wigs, like Simon Cowell, Mark Holden, Ian “Dicko” Dickson and the token female on the panel, Marcia Hines and Paula Abdul. These judges were mostly respected, if unfamiliar to Idol’s target demographic. Apart from Abdul’s “Opposites Attract”, I wouldn’t have known any of them from a bar of soap.

Not only was this before Britney, J.Lo, Mariah et al. demanded millions to sit in the judging chair, but it was also prior to the influx of talent shows; reality shows in general, really. Now we have a myriad of Got Talent’s, The Voice, The X-Factor and the truckload of former and current stars it brings with it.

x factor australia judges

For every Britney and Christina, whose careers have been languishing in the pop wasteland for the last few years and could be helped by a judging role, there’s a Nicki Minaj, whose choice to judge the latest season of American Idol in the prime of her career baffles me. And we can’t forget Jennifer Lopez, who was the epitome of irrelevance prior to taking on the gig, and is now once again one of the highest earning performers in the industry (thanks, in no small part, to her franchise of perfumes), deservedly so, as I saw her in concert last year and she is the consummate performer. Closer to home, Guy Sebastian, a reality singing competition winner himself, had a sprinkling of top ten and number one hits in the last few years, but really hit the big time with the Eve and Lupe Fiasco collaborations, “Who’s That Girl?” and “Battle Scars”, respectively, released after his turn as a judge on The X Factor.

x factor judging panel britney spears demi lovato simon cowell

So the “expert” record industry execs have pretty much gone the way of Dicko, albeit with the mainstays Cowell (The X Factor in the U.S.), L.A. Reid (ditto) and Randy Jackson from the original series of Idol, to make way for younger, sexier and more relevant, sometimes with an overhaul in between each season. And then there’s just the question marks that were obviously hired ’cause everyone else turned them down: Demi Lovato, Khloe Kardashian (tenuous) and, arguably, Nicki Minaj.

I think the new season of Idol’s focus on the feud between Mariah Carey and Minaj hinders not only the show (it’s about the TALENT), but also Nicki’s career in the long run. 2012 was perhaps Minaj’s strongest year to date, with “Superbass” being certified platinum, and “Starships” dominating the airways. While she’s never had a number one hit on the U.S. Billboard charts, Minaj was infiltrating pop culture at warp speed, so to her it might have seemed logical to dominate reality television as well. But, to me, singing competition judging panels are the domain of has-beens; people who’ve been down a similar road and can offer advice on the highs and lows of stardom. Who knows? Maybe Minaj will be the one to change that.

What do you think? Do you long for the no-frills early days of Idol, or are you all for big names on the judging panel overshadowing the talent?

Images via People, Wikipedia, Digital Spy.

Magazine Cover of the Week: Christina Aguilera’s Body is Not “Your Body”.

In a career resurrection the likes of Jennifer Lopez’s post-Idol comeback, Christina Aguilera parlays her success as a judge on The Voice into a new album, after 2010′s failed Bionic (though it did spawn the single “Not Myself Tonight”, which I unashamedly loved). This time, though, she’s told her record executives that they’re “working with a fat girl. Know it and get over it.”

When I think of Christina Aguilera I don’t think “fat”, but she tells the mag that “I got tired of being a skinny, white girl. I am Ecuadorian but people felt so safe passing me off as a skinny, blue-eyed white girl.” Think: any of her pre-Stripped videos.

In the theme of her newest single off the album Lotus, “Your Body”, she says:

“My body can’t put anyone in jeopardy of not making money anymore. My body is just not on the table that way anymore.”

Rock “Your Body”, Christina!

Image via Just Jared.

Music: Top 11 Songs of 2011.

“Born This Way”, Lady Gaga.

Before it was even released, the world knew that “Born This Way” was going to define 2011, if not for its controversial comparison to Madonna’s “Express Yourself”, then for Glee’s 90-minute special dedicated to the anthem. Gaga was accused of racism and plagiarism for the song, which spawned a website in which gay users can upload images and affirmations. Like it or loath it, you’ve got to agree that Gaga has her heart in the right place with this one.

“Friday”, Rebecca Black.

Ahh, the song that you can never get out of your head. While I think “Friday” is the work of a genius (Lady Gaga thinks so, too!) and enjoy bopping around to it, grabbing my bowl, grabbing my cereal, going to the bus stop, choosing which seat to take, I understand that the majority of the world doesn’t feel the same. But for a viral video, you’ve got to give the girl props for permeating the zeitgeist so.

“Rolling in the Deep”, Adele.

I’ve only recently gotten into Adele, but now that I have, I could listen to her voice for hours. Whether it’s “Someone I Used to Know”, “Turning Tables” or “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, as opposed to “Rolling in the Deep”, you can’t deny that Adele was everywhere in 2011. And she was warmly welcomed for her heartbreaking love songs and her alternative look.

“Party Rock Anthem”, LMFAO.

Up until a few days ago when I asked my friend April which songs she thought I should include in this list, I thought this song was called “Shuffling”! No matter; the whole world has picked up on the gist and beat of the song, and that’s all that really matters, right?

“Moves Like Jagger”, Maroon 5.

Another song that I was oblivious to until recently. Rather, I was oblivious to who sung it, even though the vocals of Christina Aguilera were unmissable. My awakening to “Moves Like Jagger” came the night of my birthday party, when a random partygoer likened my moves to being even better than Jagger’s!

“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, Katy Perry.

The song is somewhat forgettable, but Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” was all about the film clip, featuring the aforementioned Rebecca Black, some guys from Glee, Hanson, and Kenny G.

“(Run the World) Girls”, Beyonce.

While “(Run the World) Girls” isn’t by a long shot the best song on Beyonce’s latest album, 4, it was the one that set the ball rolling for total 2011 Beyonce domination. For my money, “Countdown” and “Best Thing I Never Had” are better, but the controversy the song stirred up and the film clip are what make the song rate.

“Somebody I Used to Know”, Gotye.

Until I YouTubed this song just then, I’d never heard it before. But I’d heard the hype surrounding it. While alternative Australian music isn’t really my cup of tea, it does invoke a certain nostalgia of music my parents would play when I was a child, like Cat Stevens and some others I can’t quite put my finger on.

“Super Bass”, Nicki Minaj.

If it weren’t for the Ellen show sensations Sophia Grace and Rosie, “Super Bass” wouldn’t hold such a special spot in my heart(beat running away)! Is that wrong…?

“On the Floor”, Jennifer Lopez.

This time last year J.Lo couldn’t have been less relevant. Whether it’s the calibre of “On the Floor” (one friend is particularly irked by the “Back it up like a Tonka truck” line from Pit Bull!) or her highly publicised divorce from Marc Anthony (how fitting that the title of her latest album should be Love?), J.Lo was back in a big way in 2011.

“We Found Love”, Rihanna.

Rihanna also had a big 2011, and it was hard to choose just one of her myriad of songs from the past year. I have a penchant for “Only Girl in the World”, which was officially released in 2010 but seemed to transfer over into 2011, and there’s also “Man Down”, “S&M”, “California King Bed” and “Cheers (Drink to That)” that were hits last year. And of course, we can’t forget the hullabaloo that resulted from the filming of the video for “We Found Love”. Farmers and Irish fields, anyone?

So which were your favourite songs of 2011?

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “Born This Way” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures: Birthday Edition.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Battle of the Friday Anthems: Rebecca Black VS. Katy Perry.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Beyonce: Countdown to Overexposure.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Guest Post: Rihanna’s Man Down—Revenge is a Dish Best Served in Cold Blood.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “S&M”: Is It Really So Much Worse Than Rihanna’s Other Stuff?

Magazines: Hollywood Pregnancies—There’s Something in the Water.

You might remember a few years ago, in 2007, when it seemed like every celebrity was pregnant, and some surprisingly so. Nicole Richie with Harlow, Christina Aguilera with Max, Nicole Kidman with Sunday, Gwen Stefani with Zuma, Angelina with the twins, Jessica Alba with Honor, Jennifer Lopez with her twins… it was just never ending!

I was surprised back then to never read an article on the phenomenon. (Then again, I wasn’t as immersed in the fledgling blogosphere at that time and kept my celebrity trend reading to the weeklies and monthlies.) Now I finally get to write about it.

Opening up this week’s Who (and Famous, which came out today, asserting that Blake Lively’s pregnant. She probably just ate too much Thanksgiving turkey. Leave her alone!), a spate of celeb mums-to-be greeted me from its pages. Kourtney Kardashian, Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Hilary Duff, Jennifer Garner, perhaps Kate Middleton. Now this is a high-profile list! Babies by Jessica, Beyonce and Kate have been long awaited, so expect to see a lot more of their bumps in the media. That’s not to mention how often we’ll see their offspring in the pages of the glossies after the births!

I love few things more than bump-watches and babies, so I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the growing stomachs of these celebs. Especially Beyonce, who, after appearing on Sunday Night a couple of months ago, sparked a faux-bump furor over her creased belly. Do we have another Katie Holmes-Suri saga on our hands?

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Beyonce: Countdown to Overexposure.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Jessica Alba Seemingly Enjoying Pregnancy the Second Time ’Round.

Images via Who, The Hollywood Gossip.

TV: Glee—T.G.Inappropriate.F.

Last night marked the return of Glee after a month of baseball-related hiatus.

While the show is continuing it’s new tradition of actually following its storylines (Shelby’s new glee club, Santana and Brittany’s lady love, Quinn and Puck’s quest to get Beth back), it’s also following its long-held ritual of being wildly inappropriate and offensive.

The offensiveness was dialed down to low, with a couple of racist (nationalist?) remarks directed at Brittany’s leprechaun, also known as Roy Flanagan, but the hypersexualisation of the New Directions and the Troubletones* (the name of Shelby’s glee club, consisting of Mercedes, Sugar, and the newly recruited Santana and Brittany) was at an all-time high, singing Katy Perry’s (does she have an agreement with this show or something? “Firework”, “Teenage Dream” and “I Kissed a Girl”, the title of the episode in which Santana comes out to her family in a few weeks’ time, have all been featured.) “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and Christina Aguilera’s “Candyman”, respectively.

I’m not so sure lyrics like, “We took too many shots… Got kicked out of the bar… Had a ménage a trios,” and, “Makes my panties drop… Makes my cherry pop… With a real big cock,” are really appropriate for fictional 17-year-olds to be singing, as several of them are twelve kinds of illegal!

But then again, they’re probably not as bad as this

*This post originally named Shelby’s all-girl glee club as the Treble Clefs.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Asian F” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “I Am Unicorn” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Glee Back in Full Force.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Disturbing Behaviour: Terry Richardson Does Glee.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Is Lea Michele Too Sexy?

Image via VideoBB.

Gay Chicken: Latent Homophobia in “Who Would You Go Gay For?”.

What is it with guys refusing to reveal who’d they’d go gay for?

In my experience, girls have no problem admitting who they’d turn for. Personally, I have several: Megan Fox, Christina Aguilera and Lindsay Lohan. Though the last one is probably the Mother Theresa-complex kicking in, I do love a buxom bombshell.

But when I surveyed several of my guy friends, they absolutely, point blank refused to give me a name. With the exception of my friend and soon-to-be housemate Eddie, who couldn’t choose between Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds (fair call!), they all said they’d rather die and go gay.

This is a typically masculine trait, but the underlying homophobia—the fact that a straight man would rather have his life ended than simply choose someone of the same sex they would go for in a hypothetical situation—is worrisome.

Now, Eddie is one of the straightest guys I know, and he’s obviously secure enough in his manhood and accepting of homosexuals to engage in this harmless truth or dare-esque scenario. (Suck up? Me? Never!) Funnily enough, some of my less-secure male friends are the ones who refuse to partake.

What is it they say? There are no winners in gay chicken?

Image via Fanpop.

Magazine Review: ZINm, Issue Six.

 

With issue six released a couple of weeks ago, independent zine, ZINm, by Melbournian Marc Bonnici, is really hitting its stride.

The “Teen, Pop, Gossip, Trash” issue takes a page out of Famous’s book mag, with a snarky, funny and pop-culturally heavy tone.

On the “From the Editor” page (p. 5), Bonnici ponders the first world problems of “Britney VS. Katy: product placement in their new music videos” and “what colour scarf shall I wear to go check the mail…?”

The issues features a spread of Selena Gomez’s ever-changing hairdo (p. 6), how to correctly apply make-up (p. 9), Kellan Lutz’s obsession with exercise and long sports socks (p. 10–11), a “dear Christina Aguilera/Metro trains/couples walking in the city” letter in regular feature “Burn Book” (p. 18), and a Dolly Doctor-esque sexual advice column entitled “Doctor Chorizo” (p. 21).

Melissa George, Ryan Reynolds and Emma Roberts also make appearances.

It’s a good thing this issue comes with a “may contain possibly false information” disclaimer, ’cause the truly riotous celeb scandals in this issue couldn’t possibly be true!

The newsstand glossies should take heed: goodness knows a lot of their material is based on possibly false info!

Related: George Michael Paper Dolls in Independent Zine ZINm.

Independent Zine ZINm Preview.

First World Problems.

Elsewhere: [Marc Bonnici] Homepage.

The Underlying Message in Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” Video.

About a month ago, I posted a quick revision of a presentation I did at uni on Madonna’s most controversial videos. In it, I wished to go into further detail on “Madonna’s influence on the music video and religion in pop culture”. Here I attempt to do so.

Another pop culture icon who’s had a big influence on modern religion is Oprah, who pushes her brand of “pick and mix religion” to her millions of followers. Funnily enough, Shmoop comes to a similar conclusion about the “Like a Prayer” video:

“The blending of Italian American and African American traditions and cultures should also be considered a postmodern choice. It resists interpretation. Where a critic might try to understand the video as an endorsement of Catholicism, the blending of Catholicism with the African Methodist Episcopal choir Madonna meets in her dream prevents such a simple interpretation. The video is neither here nor there on particular religions, only communicating the power of some force of faith to empower her.”

But when the video was released in 1989, that was the least of its critics’ problems. Perhaps it was the rape scene at the beginning, the depicition of a “black Christ”, who was in actuality the black Saint Martin de Porres, to critique racism, or—my pick—the burning crosses in the field behind Madonna, who prances around in black negligee. It could have been any combination of these factors that made Pepsi back out of its $5 million deal with the star in the aftermath of the video’s release.

Granted, the film clip was made more than twenty years ago, and it was groundbreaking for its time. However, fast-forward to 2011, and what we’ve seen since then makes “Like a Prayer” seem positively tame.

Madonna herself has been responsible for some of these, like her clip the following year for “Justify My Love”, her Sex book or, on the tamer side of things, kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2003, which seems to be an enduring image of ranch culture in this day and age.

But you don’t go about these things without thinking of them seriously, and that’s why Madonna’s legacy has persisted all these years. She knew exactly what she was doing in that clip, and all other clips that followed. The fact that at the end of the song the events of the clip are revealed to be a performance indicates that “we all play a part in this little scenario”. What part, exactly?

While religious groups trying to get the video banned could be interpreted as the Church being unwilling to accept square pegs that don’t fit into round holes, Pepsi backing out of their deal with the star is an example of big conglomerates being scared to buck the system and take a risk less they lose customers.

Someone who isn’t afraid to buck the system and is accepting of all walks of life (except, perhaps, those whose body parts were used in the assembling of her meat dress) is Lady Gaga, who is a huge Madonna fan, if some of her recent videos are anything to go by. Last year I blogged about Gaga’s film clip for “Alejandro” and how it emulated “Like a Prayer” and other Madonna videos almost to a tee.

While we would like to think that we have grown as a society and have become more accepting of different people in the twenty years since “Like a Prayer” was banned, “Alejandro”’s critical reception from religious and parenting groups may indicate otherwise…

Related: More Madonna.

Katy P. VS. Lady G.

Madonna (and Her Brand of “Feminism”) On the Rocks.

Elsewhere: [Shmoop] Like a Prayer Meaning.

Images via YouTube.

Movie Review: Burlesque.

 

“Did you notice the mistake in that movie?” my friend Sallie asked me as we left the cinema.

“The only mistake in that movie was Christina Aguilera’s acting,” I replied.

I went into Burlesque expecting three things: acting so bad it hurt, quality musical numbers and Aguilera’s ’90s strawberry blonde ’do to be cut off once her character made the big time. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. (For those of you who haven’t yet seen the film, the latter point is the one that remains.)

The movie starts out with country Christina (Ali) quitting her job in a bar on a whim, and moving to the big smoke. She notices a burlesque bar one night on a walk through the city; “the best view on the Sunset Strip without any windows”. After seeing the girls perform a number, with Cher at the helm as club owner Tess, Ali begs Tess for a job onstage, but settles for working under bartender Jack (literally; but as if we couldn’t see that coming!) as a waitress.

When the alcoholic star of the show, Nikki, played by Kristen Bell, fails to turn up, Ali takes her place. Nikki is so incensed that she interferes with the music for the set, forcing Ali to use her spectacular voice—which previously no one had heard—to save the performance. Tess then begins to build her burlesque show around Ali.

This is where the film starts to get bearable, as we see more of Christina Aguilera in all her ’40s pin-up/voice-that-brings-down-the-house glory, and less of mousy, weak, annoying Ali.

There are some pretty good musical numbers in the film (a 2011 Golden Globe for Best Original Song doesn’t lie), my favourites being a dance-off between Nikki and Juliannne Hough to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and one of the only legitimate “burlesque” performances in the film, “Guy What Takes His Time”, where pearls and feather fans are used as props.

Really, though, the only things that saved this movie were Christina’s performances, Eric Dane’s face, Stanley Tucci in general, and Cam Gigandet’s cookie box scene. Google it.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

It’s a smorgasbord of Katy, Ke$ha, Britney and Gaga as Complex counts down “The 25 Greatest ‘Slutwave’ Songs of All Time”.

In other Katy and Ke$ha-related news, Feminist Music Geek critiques their acts.

Finally, closing off a Katy Perry heavy week, Jezebel ponders the similarities between “Firework” and Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”.

Sady Doyle on Charlie Chaplin’s paedophilia on film:

“I… kind of forgot, actually, that Charlie Chaplin was a pedophile?… Boy howdy, this movie sure didn’t!… It invites you to get off on this… We got a scene where the FBI tried to go after Chaplin for his dangerous left-wing activities, BY PERSUING STATUATORY RAPE CHARGES AGAINST HIM. “It’ll ruin him,” the evil right wing poo-hating US government cackles.”

Hmm… strangely echoes a certain left-winger accused of rape in the media at the moment…

Hermione Granger perfects her “judgemental badger” face.

“Empty Bellies Do Not Beget Genius”.

Now this is how “self-marriage” is done. Glee, take note.

Following on from last week, “Is Lara Bingle the new Paris Hilton?”

Is the antidote to “Taylor Swift’s Endless Reign” a Lindsay Lohan singing career revival?

Coco Rocha reveals “The One That Got Away”.

Gala Darling detoxes her closet.

MamaMia asks, “Do You Have Mother Issues?” Oh hell yes! And daddy ones, too!

More on why Gwyneth Paltrow is just that damn unlikeable.

JWoww’s heinous ex calls her pre-surgery body “deformed” by cellulite. Nice.

2010 was the year of the mistress.

In defence of May-December romances.

What does your ponytail say about you?