Archive for the ‘Much ado about nothing’ category


April 5, 2017

Since February 2008, I have written faithfully on American Idol (and occasionally the other reality singing shows) with insight, snark humor and self-righteous candor. And Adam Lambert. I’ve written a lot about Adam Lambert. And within the blog’s 618 posts, I also wrote occasionally about music in general with album and concert reviews, best of lists and so forth.

With Idol on hiatus, it’s time for me to turn my musings to other matters since my musing mind never goes on hiatus. With decades of music listening behind me and, hopefully, decades of new music listening ahead of me; moments of outrage (music awards shows) and euphoria (typically some new UK artist like Rag ‘n’ Bone Man) needing an outlet; massive changes happening in the music business – and by the business I mean the industry; and the delusional belief that somebody, anybody, actually cares about my feelings about such things, I have created a new blog – Ray’s Musings: Mostly Music Mixed with Miscellaneous Mayhem.

Per the title, it’s primary focus will be on the world of music and by “the world”, I mean “my world.” I’ll insightfully, snarkily humorously and self-righteously opine on old music, new music, live music, my favorite music, other people’s thoughts about music, the business of music – you get the idea.

And by popular demand (i.e. the plethora[1] of imaginary voices I hear in my head), I will miscellaneously muse on the mayhem of my other infatuations, which could include my fascination with the ridiculiciousness[2] of the Bachelor franchise or my continuous consumption of delightful $10-15 bottles of wine.

And I’ll still write a lot about Adam Lambert.

PLEASE CHECK OUT THE NEW BLOG!!!! I hope you like it and visit often. To that end, when (not if) you take a look, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the follow button. You’ll also see a follow button on the right side of every article you peruse.

Should Idol return – remember Ryan’s infamous words “Goodbye . . . for now,” Idol Musings will likely be back, too. In the meantime, GO RIGHT NOW to!


[1] I love that word. And yes, the new blog will continue my convention of silly footnotes.

[2] Ree-dik-u-lish-us-nuss. Yes, I made that up.


That Time I Sang At Motown

October 12, 2016

Ray at MotownIn March of 2011, I had the good fortune of being taken to the Motown Museum by two friends and loyal Musers J.L. and J.C. No photographs were allowed inside the museum but the photo of me standing outside is relevant to the story.

Eventually we got to the garage that was converted into the legendary recording studio – the hallowed ground trod by, well, everybody. Stevie. Marvin. The Supremes, Temptations, Miracles and Four Tops. My imagination racing, I could barely construct a coherent thought on the one hand and constrain myself from behaving like a 5-year old at Christmas on the other.

The docent snapped me out of my mania by asking me to take off my overcoat. That seemed like an odd request especially since he didn’t ask anybody else in our tour group to do so. He asked me to turn around and hang it on the hook on the wall behind me. He then directed me to stand directly underneath one of three mics hanging from the ceiling. Again, that seemed odd but I complied since I could still barely think straight and needed help managing basic motor skills.

The docent then asked me to sing. At that moment, in that place, only one song could come out of my mouth. “I got sunshine, on a cloudy day.” I totally nailed it, of course.[1] “And when it’s cold outside” – he stopped me and told me to turn around and look at a picture behind me.


There was David Ruffin, the lead singer on My Girl, under THAT mic. And behind him on THAT hook on THAT wall was a black overcoat exactly like mine! I STOOD IN THE SAME SPOT AS DAVID RUFFIN! I SANG INTO THE SAME MIC AS DAVID RUFFIN! WITH MY COAT LIKE DAVID RUFFIN’S HANGING IN THE SAME SPOT AS DAVID RUFFIN’S!

J.L. and J.C. will verify that I gasped and my knees literally buckled.

Best musical moment ever.

And that’s my story of singing at Motown.

P.S. One of the things I miss about Idol is picking what songs the Idolists should sing on Motown night. And a peak Idol memory is of Adam Lambert getting a standing ovation from Smokey Robinson for singing Tracks of My Tears, thankfully preserved on YouTube.


[1] And in my still semi-hallucinatory state, I was waiting for Berry Gordy to come out of the booth and sign me to a record deal on the spot.


My Favorite Song About America

July 4, 2016

America by Prince and The Revolution has long been on the list of my 3,402 second-favorite Prince songs (Kiss is #1). It’s from the 1985 album Around the World In a Day, a decidedly stylistic departure from its predecessor, a little album I like to call Purple Rain. It’s also my favorite song about, well, America. Here’s why.

It’s patriotic.

America, America

God shed his grace on thee

It’s imploring.

America, America

Keep the children free

It speaks truth to power.

Aristocrats on a mountain climb

Making money, losing time

It calls attention to the disenfranchised.

Jimmy Nothing never went 2 school

They made him pledge allegiance

He said it wasn’t cool

Nothing made Jimmy proud

It worries about the future.

Now Jimmy lives on a mushroom cloud

It’s real.

Little sister making minimum wage

Living in a 1-room jungle-monkey cage

It’s idealistic.





It’s funky.

It’s Prince.

Happy 4th of July!

My Favorite Idol Memories

April 5, 2016

It was May of 2003 and because I am a music snob, I was an automatic American Idol hater – without having watched a single episode. And in a horrible hotel room in Indianapolis[1] with nothing to do, I channel-surfed my way to a large, black guy singing Luther Vandross. Fairly typical. Not interested. Keep surfing. A little later, I surfed my way back to that channel only to find some skinny, white guy over-dramatizing Bridge Over Trouble Water. Fairly typical. Not interested. But wait.

THIS must be that American Idol thing,” I mused to myself and the bed bugs that I was sure were eagerly awaiting me. “Why would anybody want to watch people imitate good singers and wreck great songs?”

Three years later, I decide to tune in. First, because I was shocked to find out the Randy Jackson on Idol was the Randy Jackson who played bass for Journey[2]. That was certainly worth a look-see. Second, because by now 30 million people were watching this show in its fifth season. The time had come for me to do my duty as an American and set people straight with the facts to end this plague upon our civilization.

And then there was the adorable and dumb-like-a-Dolly-Parton-fox Kellie Pickler. And the preternaturally talented teen Paris “Miss P” Bennett. And a soul-singing Jewish guy who worked in a drugstore in Richmond (Elliott Yamin). And a menacing, bald rocker dude (Chris Daughtry). And Randy from Journey, the cute but incoherent Paula Abdul and this snarky, soul-crushing British guy named Simon.


And so began my civic duty to use my music snobbery to tell everybody watching who was good and bad on this show and why. I started with an email to friends and family that went out with the same subject line each night: Idol Musings. And then I found that my people were forwarding it to their people. And their people were forwarding it to their people. And if I was late, my people would be asking on behalf of their people where was the email? And finally, a friend kept after me to start a blog.

Those are my first Idol memories. And out of a decade of too-many-to-list memories, here are the ones I remember the most.

Daughtry albumMy Daughter Diandra (MDD) declaring that she was going to buy Chris Daughtry’s album – after his initial audition! She and I always worked collaboratively to identify which Idolists we thought would emerge as successful artists in the business – and by now you all know I mean the industry. But she called this one all on her own. I’ll bet Simon Cowell, Clive Davis, Jimmy Iovine and Scott Borchetta never discovered a star that fast!

No Shining Stars Yet But a Few Bright SpotsThe Omnipotent Idol Clipboard Ever the organizer, MDD created Word documents for each voting week of Idol that had the voting info and spaces for notes for the exact number of Idolists competing each week. That document was placed on a clipboard for her to record her own observations which often included reviews such as on 2/24/2010: “GO! LEAVE! DEATH! DESTRUCTION!” It’s unclear who that unfortunate review was about.

Before there was voting on the interweb, knowing the phone numbers to dial for our favorites was crucial and we relied on The Omnipotent Idol Clipboard for that info.

Footnotes. I stole the idea of creatively using footnotes in the blog to add peripheral content from Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball. Bill is a smart, snarky, subversive know-it-all. As such, he’s a great role model for me. So of course I could be smarter, snarkier and even more subversive by adding clever (at least in my mind) footnotes to the blog.

JPEG image-7C6D5671C8CB-1My Girls. A My Girl history I wrote four years ago can be found here. Sabrina Sloane (Season VI) was the first My Girl and occasionally I’ll still fire up the YouTube and watch her sing Whitney’s All the Man I Need or En Vogue’s Don’t Let Go and get angry over an Idol career cut short too soon – sadly, she was eliminated after that Don’t Let Go performance and fell just short of the final rounds.

In similar fashion, My Girls didn’t always last long. While Syesha Mercado (3rd place Season VII, Book of Mormon) and Lauren Alaina (runner-up Season X, successful country career) did well on and off the show, My Girl of Girls Alexis Grace went out in 10th place in Season VIII; Siobhan Magnus finished in 6th place on Season IX. And Never Got to Be My Girl Brandy Neelly, who completely rocked my world in her Season XII Chicago audition, unjustly didn’t make the final rounds in that season and the next.

“Your Mom”. My tribute to my mother aka “Your Mom” is here. Within the community of the blog, I was a lower court. If a reader disagreed with me, they could appeal to Your Mom[3] whereupon they would revel with unrestrained joy should she overturn my opinions. Her phone calls during or after each show are a big part of my Idol memories and I miss knowing how much she would have LOVED La’P this season. She would have enjoyed Trent, too.

IMG_1139Albums. This is why the show existed and proof that the show worked. Raw amateurs learned and grew and made records that people would buy. For the record – pun intended – Idolists made over 400 #1 singles and over 50 Billboard Top Ten albums; sold 60 million albums; and won thirteen Grammy Awards.

The Birth of Adam Lambert. 
The event was the Season VIII Top Thirteen’s first week on the big stage for Michael Jackson Week. I have two favorite memories from that event. The first was My Daughter Cassandra nicknaming Adam “Emo-chic”. We still laugh about that to this day; and the last time it came up she admitted that she didn’t really like him all that much on the show but she liked how much I liked him!

The second memory from that performance was the judges gushing over Adam’s performance of Black or White for a longer time (3:25) than he actually sang (2:50)!

It was the judges’ confirmation of what we at home had just seen – the astounding and unexpected emergence of a special talent. Eventually we would get to Ring of Fire and Mad World and all the daring performances that would eventually compel Simon to say, “You know the point of doing a show like this is that you hope to find a worldwide star. I genuinely believe with all my heart that we have found that with you.”

Simon uttered those words after Adam’s final performance of that season and Adam proved him right. But the dawning of one of Idol’s most successful careers began ten weeks earlier.

JPEG image-29FC14FC7DD0-1The Adam vs. Kris Great Debate. While I was incredibly frustrated that this was even a debatable topic, I was equally energized by having the argument. Enjoying Adam Lambert’s brilliance was one thing. Defending it took my enjoyment to another level. Vindication came swiftly within just weeks after the end of the season, when Adam was on magazine covers everywhere including Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and even Rolling Stone Japan!

Idolists/-and by the business I mean the industry/Evil Genius Producers/etc. Maybe these are my favorite Idol memories of all – any of the times a blog reader would use my made up words and phrases in an email, text or conversation.[4]

“The blog.” Yes, Idol Musings was the name. But everybody simply called it “the blog.” Much like Idol’s steady decline in ratings, my interest in the show waned over the years, too. But I always couldn’t wait to write the blog. I could easily have written twice as many entries.

I always joked that this blog was never about American Idol. It was always about me. I made this sandbox to play in and some of you thought it looked fun enough to come in and play with me – from six continents no less![5] All the nights of pouring a glass of wine, putting on my headphones and wrestling with how to quickly turn a page of notes into something that would be interesting to somebody other than my mother and my two imaginary friends will always be among my favorite Idol memories.

In the end, Rolling Stone never offered me an Idol column. Jimmy Iovine never offered me a job. The Evil Genius Producers never considered me as a judge. They all blew it – I would have been great at any of those. But I had fun writing about this show, anyway. And I’ll remember that you had fun reading me writing about it, too.

This isn’t the end of the blog. But it is the end of its present era.

Kieran! Dim the lights!


[1] I’m sure they aren’t all horrible. But mine sure was. And I still swear that big red stain on the carpet was blood.

[2] 1986-87 on their album Raised on Radio.

[3] As if her classical vocal training and acclaimed singing career should matter.

[4] Seriously, haven’t you been wondering lately who Ryan was referring to when he said “Dalton” instead of “Boy Band Dude”; why he said “La’Porsha” instead of La’P; and why he refused to acknowledge the existence of MacKenzie’s Swaybots? I hope you did.

[5] I’m still frustrated I couldn’t get anybody in Antarctica to read the blog just once.

This Week’s Idol – What You Need to Know

March 16, 2016

Well, of course this week is all about Adam Lambert appearing on Idol! But wait – there’s more! During a day off from his amazing The Original High Tour, he and Max Martin – The Omniscient and Omnipotent Overlord of the Pop Music Universe – recorded a new song that will drop on Thursday. It’s titled Welcome to the Show and features the Swedish vocalist, Laleh, who co-wrote Demi Lovato’s current single, Stone Cold, and two songs for Season IX Idolist Tori Kelly’s[1] album Unbreakable Smile. The track was also produced by Ali Payami, who worked with Adam on his hit Ghost Town.[2]

And, yes, Adam will be singing Welcome to the Show on Thursday. At least we hope so. He was forced to cancel a show on Monday night in Florida due to an unspecified condition “requiring at least 48 hours of vocal rest to prevent serious vocal damage”.[3]

Oh yeah – the Idolists will be singing, too. This week’s theme is America’s Choice – songs picked by viewers. Only one Idolist will be eliminated this week, although it’s not clear whether that will be through just the viewers’ votes or if the judges will be involved again. In any case, I think Sonika has to be the most likely person to go at this point with Trent a possibility, too.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes tease of the track. Adam calls the song anthemic although the tease hides that fact. As a friend recently told me, Adam could sing the dictionary and I’d get excited. Fair enough – and I’d be especially happy if he went with all 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary.

I also love that Adam’s label is doing this. In today’s music business – and by the business I mean the industry – it’s crucial to treat music like social media, i.e. staying relevant by keeping yourself “out there” and continually generating buzz. Randomly dropping new music is something artists are doing more often to maintain a presence when music consumers have so many easily available options. Good job Warner Brothers!


[1] Who was eliminated before we ever saw her. And managed to become a big star just fine without Idol.

[2] Songwriting and production info from

[3] News from Tampa Bay Times blog

What You Need to Know for Idol This Week

February 22, 2016

So, you know that whole thing about the viewers getting to vote this week? Well, it’s only half-true. It is more true than the show trying to take credit for discovering current popstar Tori Kelly when actually she was cut before they ever put her on television. Nice try on that, though. And it is more true than J-Lo telling us last week that the judges thought Haley Reinhart was going to win Season X. Um, that would be the same Haley Reinhart the judges mercilessly criticized and sometimes humiliated[1] with what seemed like predetermined criticism at times. Nice revisionist history there, too.

So here’s the truth on voting this week according to the best intel I could find. Fourteen Idolists[2] remain. On Wednesday night’s pre-taped show, the judges will reduce the field to eight without our input. Once again Simon Fuller is doing his best to try and end his show with a really strong Last Idol Winner Forever[3].

The six contestants who didn’t make the cut will then sing for two Wild Card spots and . . . wait for it . . . WE WILL GET TO VOTE!!!! And at some point during Wednesday’s proceedings we’ll get to hear the Original Idol Kelly Clarkson sing.

On Thursday, the Top Ten will be announced in the first live show of the season. Original Idol Kelly will pull up a chair and join the judges’ panel.[4] The Top Ten will perform in a two-hour show and we will vote to eliminate TWO Idolists. Since the next show isn’t until the following Thursday, it seems we will have a week-long cliffhanger which is like what The Bachelor did before eliminating the annoying Olivia.

With the judges making yet another cut and the public finally getting to vote, the intrigue will be the fate of the teens. This is an amazingly young field that has seven teenagers in the Final Fourteen: Boy Band Dude (19); Thomas Stringfellow (17); Possibly My Girl Olivia (16); Gianna, Jeneve Rose, Lee Jean and Possibly Not My Girl Tristan (15). A big part of the judges’ cuts will have to be based on who they think has the maturity to go through this difficult process each week. Season X’s country kids Scotty and My Girl Lauren aside, young people have tended not to do well. Even My Girl Lauren never lived up to her stunning first audition when Stephen Tyler and producer-at-the-time Nigel Lythgoe proclaimed they had already found the winner. She is a good case in point for the challenges that the fifteen and sixteen year-olds face.

IMG_0587By the way, doesn’t Tristan look a lot like a 16 year-old Rihanna? Maybe that’s why I like Tristan?

Anyway, after a thorough review of my prior musings, here is who I would “cut” and have compete in the Wild Card Round for viewer votes: Manny. Quirky Jenn. Thomas. Wow. This started easy and got hard. Deep breath and . . . Avalon. Lee Jean. Sonika. However, given the story arcs assigned each Idolist by the Evil Genius Producers heavily scripted hands, I expect the list to be very different than mine. In particular, the judges seem to like Thomas and Avalon; and they seem to have it in for Gianna and her helicopter ex-popstar mom. And what to do with off-the-grid Jeneve Rose? No matter – the judges will cut and we will vote.

For the month of March, Idol will be on just Thursday nights for two hours. And the show ends with a bang the first week of April with its last three shows April 5-7. The March schedule seems calculated to avoid The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing, which is interesting since Idol still has relatively strong ratings. Wednesday night’s show was tied for #1 with Survivor.


My Boy with Jack Antonoff of fun. and Bleachers

Alright, one last piece of news. My Boy and #1 money-earning Idolist Adam Lambert sang at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy Party. This is a big deal. Clive’s party is THE party of The Grammys where scoring an invitation is to be conferred a level of royalty status in the music business, and by the business I mean the industry. Performing is even a bigger deal. Some artists have half-joked that getting an invite to perform at Clive’s party is the equivalent of a Grammy.

I’ll see you next week. In the meantime I have lots of new music to work through. I did listen to My Girl Amy Lee’s EP of covers cleverly titled Recover-Vol. 1; Dutch pop/symphonic metal band Delain’s EP Lunar Prelude[5]; and Rihanna’s Anti which is really interesting because it’s so un-Rihanna (which I guess explains the title). I still need to hear UK singer Rosie Lowe’s debut album Control. And I have to check out Sierra Kusterbeck’s new band[6] Neaux, which is streaming on Bandcamp. So much music, so little time.


[1] Like the time Ryan asked Randy who did well and Randy named everybody but Haley.

[2] How many times will I type Idolist and forget to override autocorrect before it changes it to “Idolizes.” Grrrrrr.

[3] I’m on record that I’m OK with this. However, I do reserve the right to criticize the judges’ choices, of course.

[4] We can only hope that she will block out some of the swaybots when Mackenzie Bourg sings.

[5] Charlotte Wessels sounds so much like Karen Carpenter. She makes so happy I want to cry. Yes, I love the Carpenters and I watch The Bachelor. Deal with it.

[6] Check out her prior band VersaEmerge (a later incarnation was just called Versa). While you’re at it, check out PVRIS, a hot new band produced by Sierra’s ex-bandmate Blake Harnage. I love them.

Idol’s Best Auditions

January 23, 2016

In the aftermath of The Final Auditions Forever, I thought about putting together a list of my favorite Idol auditions. However, Yahoo Music’s fabulous Lyndsey Parker, an Idol fanatic of epic proportions, i.e. like me, beat me to it. So rather than reinvent a very nicely working wheel, I’ll share hers with you.

I do, of course, have my own musings on Lyndsey’s very fine list. I would have had Lauren Alaina much higher. Back on January 27, 2011 I wrote:

Alright, they finally did it. They finally found somebody to make me break my Don’t Get Excited Until Hollywood Rule: 15-year old Lauren Alaina, the last singer of the night. She’s got the look, the charisma, some chutzpah – asking Aero to sing along with her! –  and most importantly, a smoky, soulful, edgy vocal quality that I am a real sucker for. I am really hating myself for getting emotionally involved already. But of all the good people I’ve seen so far – and there are plenty I could get excited about eventually – she’s my top pre-Idolist to this point. Not to get too far ahead of myself or lead you with me but after the Nashville auditions Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe had tweeted about a 15-year old that he thought could win. Some insiders believe he was referring to her.

Lauren did go on to become a My Girl and finish second to Scotty McCreery. More importantly, she’s had continuing success in the business post-Idol. Check out her new songs Next Boyfriend and History, the latter of which was on constant repeat on ESPN this college football season.

While I have no problem with Lyndsey’s #2 choice – no I’m not going to tell you – I was surprised by who she had at the top of the list. No, I’m not going to tell you that one, either. But I will say I’m not one for the tug-at-your-heartstrings auditions, so I would have never gone there for #1.

It may surprise you to know that I would have bumped up Phillip Philllps higher – I did really like his “offbeat style” at the beginning; and the same for Scotty McCreery with his I-didn’t-see-that-coming bass voice.

I’m very happy to see that Lyndsey included Todrick Hall, whose unjustifiably too-early send-off by the voters was one Idol’s biggest mistakes. About Todrick’s last performance I said :

Todrick, in particular, has a great voice which the judges have pointed out each week. And he is an engaging stage performer. His potential is great and tonight we finally got a glimpse of it.

Since Todrick has his own show now on MTV, I can say that I had that one.

And who didn’t love Pants on the Ground?

So here’s Lyndsey Parker’s list. She includes all the videos for her choices but I didn’t watch them. It was enough fun to read her reasons and reminisce about what I remembered.[1]

The 25 Greatest ‘American Idol’ Auditions

But I do want to include three videos that are mandatory viewing.[2] So you know how some contestants ask if they can sing another song when the first one didn’t go well? That second song wouldn’t come out of thin air. They are told to prepare two songs. If the judges are on the fence, they’ll get to sing that second song and on a few occasions the Evil Genius Producers showed us that. Sometimes the second song was better and the EGPs will show us that one and edit the whole audition as if the Idolist sang only one song. Sometimes they tape both songs and choose which one they want to air. The point here is that the wanna-be pop stars come prepared with two songs.

So we all now know that Adam Lambert famously sang Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for his audition, impressing all the judges but Simon who thought he was “theatrical.” What isn’t as widely known is that Adam taped another song, Michael Jackson’s Rock With You. When you watch – yes, it’s mandatory – you’ll notice obvious signs of editing as some of the same material in the beginning of Rock With You appears in the beginning of the Bohemian Rhapsody audition that aired on TV. Oh yeah, that means you’ll have to watch the video of Bohemian Rhapsody. I’ll just go ahead and put it here first for you because I’m nice like that.

And then you’ll also notice that Rock With You was fabulous.

One other audition video needs to be noted. An omission from Lyndsey’s list was Never Got to Be My Girl Brandy Neelly’s audition in Chicago from Season XII. On January 18, 2013 I wrote this:

My star of the night – and she’s got serious My Girl potential – was Brandy Neelly. Yes, she’s another country singer, which is starting to get tiresome. She even went old school country Hank Williams on me That’s really trying my objectivity. But she’s really, really good and cute as a button.

To this day I remain blown away at Brandy’s audition which is one of my all-time favorites. And I’m mystified at how she didn’t get to the voting rounds that or the next season. The good news is that I became friends with her mom; and Brandy is busy working on her career the old-fashioned way from the ground up.

So yeah, this video is mandatory, too.


[1] And in the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t come to Idol until Season V, so I missed a few in Lyndsey’s list, including the epic William Hung.

[2] Yes, I’ve got the NSA watching you. If I find out that you didn’t watch the mandatory videos, bad things will happen to you.

A Cure for the Summertime Blues

August 20, 2015

Surely Eddie Cochran had August on his mind when he released his classic Summertime Blues during this lazy, hazy month in 1957. And while he sang that “there ain’t no cure” for this insidious disease, your friendly neighborhood Muser has some potent, fast-acting – and legal – medication: an epic Motown playlist that is sure to put mo’ glide to yo’ stride, mo’ pep in yo’ step and mo’ rock in yer roll.

These songs have a common legacy: they are all Grammy Hall of Fame recordings by virtue of their “qualitative or historical significance.” This is the complete list of songs recorded by Motown to have been awarded this distinction – 66 minutes of sonic joy and emotional bliss.

  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
  • Dancing In The Street – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
  • For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder
  • I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
  • I Want You Back – The Jackson 5
  • Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) – Marvin Gaye
  • My Girl – The Temptations
  • My Guy – Mary Wells
  • Papa Was a Rolling Stone – The Temptations
  • Reach Out, I’ll Be There – The Four Tops
  • Shotgun – Jr. Walker & The All-Stars
  • Shop Around – The Miracles
  • Stop! In the Name of Love – The Supremes
  • Superstition – Stevie Wonder
  • The Tracks of My Tears – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
  • The Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
  • War – Edwin Starr
  • Where Did Our Love Go – The Supremes
  • You Are The Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder
  • You Keep Me Hangin’ On – The Supremes
  • You Really Got a Hold on Me – The Miracles

Directions: Take as needed, the more often the better. Playing the list on Shuffle is highly recommended as this enhances the medication’s effectiveness. Operate moving vehicles only with the windows fully open or convertible top down. Side effects are recalling fond memories and irresistible urges to sing along.

The Musings of Scott Borchetta

April 21, 2015

In 1964, a fledgling company called Motown Records was at the crossroads. It’s leading artist Mary Wells went to another label in search of greener pastures (which turned out to be rather brown). In addition, there was pressure to fulfill the potential of a group Motown had been, to this point, futilely priming[1] for success – The Supremes.

In addition to pushing The Supremes to fill the revenue gap caused by the loss of Mary Wells, the decision makers faced another crucial decision. Who was going to sing the lead on their make-or-break single Where Did Our Love Go?, Mary Wilson or Diana Ross? There were advocates for each but in the end, Diana Ross was chosen. Mary Wells faded into history while Motown and The Supremes would go onto making new history of their own.

Why was the nasal, thin-voiced Ross picked over the more sweet-sounding Wilson? “[Diana] has a very unique sound – once you heard her you know it’s her, you see,” said the song’s co-writer Eddie Holland who actually preferred Wilson. “She doesn’t sound like any of the other singers. That’s one of the key things. Her ability is to have her own sound . . . a distinct sound that’s separated from other singers’ sounds.”[2]

There lies the natural tension faced by every music label. On the one hand, you have to sell the sound of what people are buying today. On the other hand, you have to figure out what’s going to be different from today that people are going to buy tomorrow.

That tension was reflected in two interesting comments Idol mentor Scott Borchetta made last week. In response to Woodbridge, VA’s own Joey Cook’s comment that Idol “dipped into the weird pool,” in allowing her to compete this year, Scott said, That’s where the next great artist will be. It’s always been that way.” And to My Girl Jax he said, “The greatest artists in the world are polarizing.”

These two comments show Borchetta living with the tension of being in the business, and by the business, I mean the industry, as you know. For all the considerable money he grosses from making Taylor Swift’s records today, Borchetta clearly understands that he needs to figure out where tomorrow’s revenues will come from. And tomorrow’s business will likely come from an artist who is perceived as being different by today’s standards.

With his label on the line to make a record for the Idol winner, I think Borchetta is quite happy that this season of Idol has been quite different (and to me very enjoyable) from the past. With three black males in the final eight, no country singer making the top ten, the biggest and best voice going home early (Sarina-Joi Crowe) and three highly stylized performers (My Girl Jax, My Boy Quentin, and Joey) in the final seven, Season XIV has broken away from the usual template. It’s very fascinating and exciting to me that Jax and Quentin with their sounds unlike other singers, i.e. what Eddie Holland found so compelling about Diana Ross, are still around, while Sarina-Joi who would have normally been a contender for the recording contract was sent home early.

Whether it’s one of the “oddballs” (Jax, Quentin) or one of the “traditionals” (Clark, Nick, Tyanna and Rayvon) that win remains to be seen. One thing that’s clear is that Idol voters have responded to this season in non-traditional ways. With an eye on what’s going to have to be different about the business than it is today – both his business and the Idol business – I think that Scott Borchetta has exerted considerable influence on the Evil Genius Producers to champion uniqueness even when it’s polarizing. While looking for an Idolist to follow in the footsteps of Kelly and Carrie, I don’t think he is looking for the next Kelly or Carrie. Ultimately, of course, the voters will have the final say.

And if Eddie Holland had his way and Mary Wilson sang Where Did Our Love Go?, would there even had been Motown weeks on Idol?


[1] Clever reference to this group’s original name, The Primettes, which was associated with another group who called themselves The Primes. That group later changed their names to The Temptations.

[2] Nelson George, Where Did Our Love Go? The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound

This Week’s Idol Set List

April 14, 2015

Here is this week’s song list, which was apparently chosen by us, the viewers. I don’t recall choosing anything so apparently I wasn’t paying close attention when this process went down. The Idolists never take my sage advice, anyway, which they definitely should have last week. Maybe this week, they’ll do better with the amateurs’ viewers’ selections.

As always, I have my musings. But this is challenging. On the one hand, said musings are based on imagining how a particular Idolist will sound on a given song and sometimes, I can’t imagine that going very well. On the other hand, you, and by “you” I mean “I,” want them to make the songs “their own.” This means I have to allow myself to be pleasantly surprised when their real performance is better than my imagined one.

This is also the week when the Idolists get two songs. Here is the set list:

My Boy Quentin – Lenny Kravitz Are You Gonna Go My Way and Simon & Garfunkel The Sound of Silence

  • I’ll be very interested to see how he does on a rocker[1]. Sound of Silence[2] will really require him to sing on pitch. If he does, it could be amazing.

Clark BeckhamMoon River (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and Stevie Wonder Superstition

  • Crooning Moon River will require him to connect with the audience using more than just his very nice voice. And if viewers think anybody on Idol can sing any Stevie Wonder song, they are delusional[3].

Joey (Winchester, VA’s own) – Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love and My Funny Valentine (from Babes in Arms)

  • Could there be two songs any more different? Oddly, they could both work – depending how she arranges them –but I’m more confident about the latter than the former. However, she will be inviting comparison to the classic Idol version of Valentine by Melinda Doolittle from Season 6.

Nick– Billy Joel’s Only the Good Die Young and Tom Petty’s American Girl

  • If Nick does lousy on these, then he needs to go. Both of these songs should be perfect for him.

My Girl Jax – Michael Jackson’s Beat It and Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart

  • I’m hoping for the pleasant surprise on Beat It because I just can’t make myself see this going well. My imagination is much better with her on Janis.

Tyanna – Creedence Clearwater Revival Proud Mary and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers Why Do Fools Fall In Love

  • I imagine she’ll go all Tina Turner on Proud Mary, which are some big legs to fill. I’m withholding judgement on this one. On the other hand, she should slay Why Do Fools Fall In Love like she did earlier on Rockin’ Robin.

Rayvon – Willie Nelson Always on My Mind and The Doobie Brothers Long Train Runnin’

  • Always is perfect for Rayvon. I’m not so sure about the Doobs, though.

We also have to deal with The Bottom Two. It’s impossible to predict what the voters think but my Bottom Two are Nick and Rayvon and I would use my #IdolSave on Rayvon.

So – what are you excited or concerned about this week?


[1] The first time Are You Gonna Go My Way has been performed on Idol. Likewise for Tom Petty’s American Girl (see Nick).

[2] History lesson: Sounds of Silence (originally plural) was on Simon and Garfunkel’s 1964 release Wednesday Morning, 3 AM which bombed (around 1,000 copies sold) in the shadow of the arrival of The Beatles. A disheartened Garfunkel went back to Columbia University and Simon went to England to busk and try to catch on in the folk scene over there. Seriously – can you imagine Paul Simon busking? In 1965, the album started selling in Florida on the strength of Sound of Silence. Without Simon and Garfunkel knowing, the album’s producer Tom Wilson – who was Dylan’s producer – overdubbed the song with Dylan’s band from Like a Rolling Stone. The remixed version was released in September 1965 and reached #1 in December. For the record, Art Garfunkel wasn’t impressed, calling it “cute” and was disappointed that the lyrics were deemphasized in favor of the production. To cash in on the “new” hit single, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM was re-released in 1966 and went to #30.

[3] Can we get an Executive Order or somebody like the Pope to declare Stevie Wonder songs off-limits to reality singing shows?