My Favorite Collaborations

Posted September 19, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary

I want to thank T. S. of Carlsbad, CA for the following question: “What are your top (five or so) collaboration songs?” I love this question. Not only had no one ever asked me this question before, I had not even asked myself this question before! Asking me to list my favorite artists, albums or songs is to invite yourself into a tortuous and long (and likely unwanted) monologue. But favorite collabs? Never even thought about that.

A few came immediately to mind. But I knew I needed to ponder that further and even listen to potential candidates. And, of course, I needed the right criteria. Essentially the criteria are what I’m excluding from “collaboration.” Songs “featuring” another artist are excluded, as “featuring” songs have been the norm for pop music over the past 20 years. Also, they’re more of a specialist performing a specific individual task than a true collaboration. I’m also not including jazz and blues songs, at least in this round, with one exception. For the most part I see these collaborations as being about album projects rather than specific songs. And I’m excluding made for TV collaborations.

Other than that, “my favorite” means just that. These aren’t necessarily the “best” – even if such a thing is possible to assess. They’re simply the ones I like the most.

So here they are – My Favorite Collaborations.

Scream Michael and Janet Jackson – A cathartic release of pent-up frustration (“STOP PRESSURIN’ ME!”) set to industrial beats courtesy of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Sung by a couple people named Jackson you may have heard of. It’s one of Michael’s best vocals and his sister isn’t too shabby, either.

Smooth Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas – ’70s Latin-Rock guitar legend meets ’90s alt-rock singer and the result is one of the most iconic songs in pop history[1]. This is what happens when collaboration becomes alchemy.

Hunger Strike Temple of the Dog – The band was a one-time collaboration of Seattle rockers[2] that would eventually go on to become Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. But wait! There’s more! Eddie Vedder dropped in on his way to audition for what would eventually be Pearl Jam and helped Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell work out the vocals for this song. You have to love it when something unplanned comes together.

You’re All I Need to Get By Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – It would be a deplorable act to not have one of their duets on a list of great collaborations. This track is full of sweet, powerful, joyous emotions – AND Marvin Gaye. Case closed.

When Love Comes to Town U2 and B.B. King – I don’t think B.B.’s ever sounded better.

Mediterranean Sundance Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia – From the remarkably beautiful 1977 album Elegant Gypsy, this is my one jazz exception. Jazz fusion (Di Meola) meets flamenco (de Lucia) in an intricate duet of world-class acoustic guitarists.

Honorable Mention

My Mistake Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye – This is a beautiful song but it’s a collaboration in name only. Diana and Marvin hated each other to the point of being incapable of being in the studio together! As a result, Berry Gordy had their vocals recorded separately and then mixed them together as to sound like a duet. Marvin and Diana sound so wondrous “together” that it’s worth imagining them singing while looking plaintively into each other’s eyes.

Cry Me a River and SexyBack Justin Timberlake – These are here because of the producer Timbaland. As a producer, he adds such a distinctive sound to the songs he works on that he, in effect, makes himself a collaborator[3]. Nowhere is that more clear than these two songs – songs that have as unique a sound as any songs in pop music history. That guy Timberlake is pretty good, too.

Other Notables

Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty

Immigration Man Graham Nash/David Crosby

I Knew You Were Waiting for Me Aretha Franklin and George Michael


[1] It’s #2 after The Twist on Billboard’s rankings of the top songs of the first 50 years of its Hot 100 singles chart. The Onion satire mag once joked that Smooth won the Grammy 13 years in a row.

[2] To make a tribute album for a deceased musician friend.

[3] In a similar fashion, Norman Whitfield’s production for The Temptations is such a distinctive element in such songs as Cloud Nine; Runaway Child, Runnin’ Wild; and Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone that these could be seen as collaborations.


My Favorite Song About America

Posted July 4, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Much ado about nothing


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!

Will The Voice Winner Be a Winner?

Posted May 25, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: The Voice

Tags: ,

Congratulations to Alisan Porter for winning The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing – a show I find utterly detestable for reasons I have articulated at length over the years[1] – and to her coach Adam Lambert. Oh, you thought her coach was Xtina? Well, of course she was on the actual show. But Alisan got more than a little help from Adam, too.

They have a professional relationship that goes back to Alisan co-writing the anthemic, self-empowerment song Aftermath for Adam’s debut album For Your Entertainment­ – an interesting connection of reality singing show artists. As to The Voice, Alisan gave a shout-out to Adam in a post-show interview (while sitting next to Xtina) who she said called every day with advice on song selection and wardrobe, and post-performance critiques that also included comments about her make-up! And just as important as the coaching was the constant urging on Twitter to his sizable Glambert fanbase to support Alisan, which is how I followed (but not watched) her progress on the show.

Hopefully, The Voice­ will do for her what it did for its previous champion Jordan Smith, which is to FINALLY support their winners after seasons of absolute neglect. The history of the show has been so bad that before Jordan was crowned, well-known music writer Lyndsey Parker of Yahoo Music and even Voice­ coach Pharell said that Jordan – his season’s presumptive nominee favorite  – might be better off not winning because of the show’s failure to promote its stars[2].

Ultimately, the hue and cry reached a tipping point when Adam Levine reversed his prior stance of, “It’s not our fault if they’re not successful” by publicly calling out Universal Records to get behind Jordan and keep their stated promise to the artist and the public by making and supporting an album.

Given that initial support, Jordan’s album Something Beautiful opened strongly at #2 on Billboard when it was released two months ago. However, the album has since dropped out of the charts although his single Stand In the Light stands at #26 on the Adult Contemporary chart[3].

Perhaps Jordan will get a boost when NBC runs his cover of OneRepublic’s I Lived during the Summer Olympics. I’m sure they learned from having Idol’s Phillip Phillip’s Home on auto-repeat during the 2012 Summer Olympics – it only went on to sell 5 million copies in the U.S. – and would very much like to see their own show reap the benefits.

[As an aside, I had to laugh at the over-the-top P.R. for the album which said that Something Beautiful “earned the highest ranking on the chart by any winner of a television singing competition in almost 5 years” – “almost” apparently means picking an arbitrary time period that missed including by a few months a #1 album by Scotty McCreery who won on that other show.]

So what Alisan has to look forward to is an uncertain future in terms of support from the show for her post-Voice career. Lyndsey Parker is rightly cautious when she says, “It remains to be seen if Alisan’s Voice victory will change the course of her career, considering that most of the show’s winners have not become household names.”

It’s really difficult to succeed in today’s music business and by the business, I mean the industry. It’s almost impossible if the people contracted to help you succeed don’t care to do their job. Given her connection to Adam Lambert, I’m hoping The Voice and Universal Records do what’s right for her career.


[1] All too briefly: winners not actually winning what was promised; misrepresented backstories of contestants; byzantine voting calculations and a contestant contract that allows The Voice to manipulate voting results; blind auditions that aren’t always blind; insufficient criticism of contestants that over-represents their abilities and career prospects. And I could go on.


[3] Although only 124 radio stations are playing it. It says something about the state of contemporary radio that you can have a hit song with so few stations playing it. No wonder becoming a successful recording artist is so hard these days.

If I Were To Allow a Prince Tribute

Posted April 27, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary

Until I saw D’Angelo’s stunning tribute to Prince on Jimmy Fallon, I was opposed to the notion of planned tributes[1] to Prince. At best, who could possibly capture without caricature the unparalleled genius and essence of The Purple One? And at worst – the mind just despairs at the thought of made-for-TV-award-show spectacles abominations with popular yet plebeian pop peasants trivializing His Princeness. A contrived let’s-get-some-big-names mash-up of the latest pop ingenue (i.e. Demi Lovato or Arianna Grande), pop idol (i.e. Bruno Mars), popular-black-guy-because-we-have-to-have-one (i.e. Usher, Pharrell or Neyo), token-country-guy-to-prove-how-universal-Prince-was (i.e. Keith Urban or Blake Shelton) – OK, I need to stop before I hurt myself.

But I do understand the collective psyche’s need for remembrance, healing, and closure, and D’Angelo showed that such a thing is possible with the honor, dignity and emotional tone worthy of Prince. With that in mind, here is who I would allow to be part of an organized Prince tribute performance.

Executive Producer – Me. What else would honor the spirit of Prince than doing what you want the way you want it independent of the masses or other powers that be? I am in charge of this, period, and will ignore all questions. Yes, I will delegate and empower freely (see Musical Director, below) but I want all decisions on a planned Prince tribute to be approved by me[2].

Musical Director – Questlove. His extensive knowledge of Prince and his own musical gifts make him uniquely qualified.

Not to Perform – D’Angelo. What he already did was utterly perfect. To do it again would trivial that perfection. We can always watch it again on YouTube. And because of that performance, we don’t need another piano balladeer (sorry, John Legend). I want to party like it’s 1999, anyway.

The O.G. – Shiela E. Prince had LOTS of girls but the one who always stood apart is Sheila E.

Wendy and Lisa. Because they’re Wendy and Lisa.

Other Prince Girls – Janelle Monae to solo on Housequake; Liv Warfield, Lianne La Havas and Judith Hill singing When Doves Cry.

Lenny Kravitz – other than D’Angelo, no other artist subconsciously or consciously wanted to be Prince as much as Lenny. I think he should do Let’s Go Crazy.

The thought of Janelle Monae slaying the house with Housequake or a Let’s Go Crazy party with Lenny almost makes me want this imaginary tribute to happen. I’d add some other songs, too, but these are the people I want.

However, I think the best tribute of all is to just show the Purple Rain scene from the movie. Right after a commercial break. No introduction. Just roll tape. Entire live audience and TV audience stops breathing and begins watching in awed reverential silence. And then singing on the second chorus once we all start breathing again. And then singing the woo-whoo-whoo-whoos through collective tears and gospel hands waving until the end. And standing ovation while everybody openly weeps.

Who or what tribute – aside from D’Angelo’s exquisite perfection of Sometimes It Snows In April – could equal that? NOTHING!!!


[1] I am totally in favor of touring artists respectfully adding their own tributes to their sets. I’ve already wept through two of them.

[2] It would be unthinkable, however, to use this unilateral power without consulting with My Girl Wanda Pease, whose love and knowledge of Prince is its own force of nature that needs to be honored and respected.

Explaining “For now.”

Posted April 8, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary

So . . . what DID Ryan mean when he ended the Last Idol Finale Forever with, “Goodbye. For now.”

The kindling for that comment was laid down all the way back in 2010. We’ll go back there in a moment. But the spark for that fire was lit last week when Simon Fuller made strong suggestions to the music media that this would not be the end of Idol or at least the end of his innovating around the idea of involving fans in finding musical talent among people with a dream. The Evil Genius Producers fanned the flames of those sentiments in Tuesday’s American Idol: American Dream retrospective and Ryan pretty much poured gasoline on those flames at the end of the Finale.

The cancellation of Idol represents an interesting business problem for Fox. They now have to find a replacement for a currently rated Top 15 show that still draws 10 million viewers. Do you risk a lot of your development budget in the hopes of creating something that will eventually draw those kinds of ratings? That’s a very risky proposition. Or do you hit pause to retool and reboot a known entity with fifteen years of goodwill behind it?

So . . . 2010 and Season 9[1] – that was the first year Idol allowed artists to manage their own Twitter and Facebook accounts. The Top 24 featured a breakout acoustic performance of Paula’s Straight Up by Andrew Garcia who immediately became the competition’s frontrunner. Andrew came to the show as something of an internet sensation with his YouTube videos – a new tool for artists to find and reach fans, and his popularity on the show created a problem. Idol’s promise is that the show gives viewers unknowns; viewers become fans; and the fans turn the unknowns into stars. The problem with Andrew is that he came to the show with a substantial fanbase, which in the Evil Genius Producers’ minds gave him an unfair advantage. It also controverts the purpose of the show.

Idol solved the problem by making the Idolists deactivate their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts and consolidating them into a show-related fan page. Eventually they would re-embrace social media but Idol’s reaction to Andrew back then was to make the same mistake that the music business – and by the business I mean the industry – has made EVERY time there was a change in technology[2], i.e. actively resist it. In this case, the social media era of music was already the driving force of the business. And Idol tried to limit that force’s impact. The reality music shows that followed weren’t very innovative with social media, either, and the result has been that no big stars have come from any of these shows since 2010[3].

Simon Fuller, the visionary behind Idol recognized this but his hands were tied. How do you recreate the format of the #1 TV show in America without alienating your 20 million viewers (at that time)? The strategy ended up being to minimally incorporate the interweb into the show as the show slowly marched into irrelevance. Allowing Idolists to have their own social media accounts, Twitter saves, and real-time Google voting were some of these minimally invasive tweaks.

And then this year, Idol made a small change that had a huge unexpected impact – the immediate posting of performance videos from the broadcasts to the Idol Facebook page. PEOPLE ATE THIS UP!!!!!! Can I interest you in ONE BILLION HITS to the page just this season? 360 MILLION views of videos just this season? 12 MILLION followers of the page? Or how about the video of Kelly Clarkson’s emotional Piece by Piece performance getting 76 MILLION views and 1.5 MILLION shares?

And it was more than just the sheer size of these numbers that got the attention of Fox and the Evil Genius Producers. Not only were large numbers of people eating it up, they all wanted to eat at the same time, i.e. people in western time zones didn’t want to wait for the cold leftovers. They wanted to eat the food hot when it was being served to everybody else[4].

Another key development in a possible Idol 2.0 came in March of this year when Simon Fuller announced that he had become the largest shareholder in a digital media company in order to “co-produce a series of entertainment properties and virtual reality experiences”, and further pursue the impact technology has on the music business.

What Simon has steadfastly believed in is that fan engagement is still a viable way to entertain and discover future stars. He also understands that the old model of viewers in front of a television only is no longer enough to create the necessary level of engagement. Again, how successful have the recent winners of reality music shows been?

What the surprising numbers from Idol’s Facebook page are telling everybody is that there is a huge demand for Idol’s content AND to be able to engage that content immediately – just not during a particular television time period. Music fans increasingly want to be a part of the experience and not merely observers. I see this at concerts all the time. People spend almost as much time on their cell phones  – tweeting, Instagraming, Snapchatting, shooting videos and taking pics – as they do watching the show.

So then for Fox, the question isn’t merely how do we fill a time slot on television. The question is how to create something that takes advantage of content that can generate ONE BILLION clicks on a single Facebook page and 360 MILLIONS views of performances. Do they want 10 million people to watch a show at a specific time or hundreds of millions of people engaged in constant, real-time and on-demand interaction around that show’s content?

Nobody knows what Idol 2.0 will ultimately look like. What we do know is that Simon Fuller, Fox, and the Evil Genius Producers have been thinking about this for a long time. And it’s clear that they’ve decided to embrace the current and future music business rather than one that no longer exists.

And that seems to be what’s happening “for now”.


[1] The Off-Key Lee Dewyze season. Also Crystal Bowersox, Casey James, Big Mike Lynche and My Girl Siobhan Magnus.

[2] And I do mean every change beginning back in 1906 when the famous bandleader John Philip Sousa wrote a denunciation of the first audio recordings, “The Menace of Mechanical Music.” Record discs, radio, tape, CDs, downloading, and, of course, streaming all met similar vehement resistance.

[3] Interestingly, once Melanie Martinez was voted off the Voice, she successfully built a substantial fanbase using YouTube videos and other social media.

[4] Even to the point of Idol posting the Finale results on the page real-time.

It Takes Two, Baby? [updated]

Posted April 8, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary


According to Lyndsey Parker of Yahoo Music, Scott Borchetta has also decided to sign La’P in a joint deal with Motown and his Big Machine Records! I haven’t been able to find confirmation of this but Lyndsey is a very reliable and important source in the music media biz as well as certified Idol junkie.

[Update] This has been confirmed by several sources including Billboard:

“Because of the overwhelming fan demand and success of the farewell season of American Idol, we have made the decision to sign both the winner, Trent Harmon, and runner-up, La’Porsha Renae, to exclusive recording agreements,” Big Machine Label Group founder and CEO Scott Borchetta tells Billboard. “I can’t think of a better way to bring this American institution to a close. Everyone at the Big Machine Label Group, the Universal Music Group and Motown Records are so thrilled with the outcome and can’t wait to get to work.”

Apparently, Scott had both deals for both Trent (Big Machine) and La’P (Big Machine/Motown) in the works depending on who won. That he decided to sign both makes a lot of business sense given their potential in two different markets.

I am so happy right now.

And the Winner Is – American Idol!

Posted April 7, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary, Results

Tonight, the blog will be my feeble attempt to describe the indescribable. Where do the words come from to capture what this last show (for now) of American Idol was like to experience? As I wrote on Facebook, “I am fangirling so hard that I need the commercial breaks to catch my breath.”

Why was that? And by “that” I mean, the same fangirling that millions of other Americans were doing tonight. The reason I came up with was that we knew the objects of our affections.

Take another historically great show like M*A*S*H. We loved Hawkeye. But somebody else – Alan Alda – was playing Hawkeye. We loved Radar. But somebody else – Gary Burghoff – was playing Radar. We loved Klinger. But somebody else – Jamie Farr – was playing Klinger.

On Idol, we loved the characters but the actual people were those characters. Tonight, we relived 15 years of our attachments not to characters but to real people playing the real role of trying to become the hero/heroine of a real rags-to-riches story. We relived the story of the girl living in her car (Kelly Clarkson); and the farm girl from Oklahoma (Carrie Underwood); the cruise ship singer (Jennifer Hudson); and the road warrior bar singer (Taylor Hicks).

Some didn’t go on to fame and glory but they were our stars nonetheless – Tamyra Gray and Jessica Sanchez and Pia (Diva Major) Toscano and Allison Iraheta and so on.

Tonight’s last show (for now) of American Idol was like opening the family scrapbook and reliving all those special family memories. It was a genius move to bring back the Supreme Potentate of the Evil Genius Producers Nigel Lythgoe and allowing him to put his genius at producing dance shows to work. The Idol team needs to get the Emmy it has unjustifiably never won for their excellent work at putting on this show that never lagged behind the beat, never missed a note and stayed in the pocket.

The show was so good that it made the revelation of The Final Idol Forever (for now) anticlimactic. I felt sorry for Trent even though he got the last (for now) winner’s moment. Idol’s history of moments is so great, it felt like his was a deleted scene on the DVD of a great movie.

Of course I am disappointed that La’P – THE GREATEST SINGER IN IDOL HISTORY – didn’t win. But I cannot be outraged. What made us love Idol was that we got to choose our favorite characters and vote to keep them on the show every week. What other successful TV show allowed the viewers to vote off the stars of the show?! The love of music is subjective no matter how often that frustrates us music snobs who desperately try to tell you who’s good and who’s bad. And when you get two great singers like La’P and Trent with very different styles, there is no wrong answer. It simply comes down to personal taste.

But now the real battle begins. How will Trent do in the real world? Nick Fradiani, the last winner who should have been Jax, has yet to release his album. I can’t help but think that there are some issues because the winner should have been Jax. My feeling is that La’P is more commercial sounding than Trent but that’s now Scott Borchetta’s problem to figure out how to sell him. Hopefully he’ll do better than he’s managed so far with Nick.

As for La’P, I am hoping that there is a place in the business – and by the business I mean the industry – for her, too. She is an AMAZING singer but this is such a difficult business to break into. Consider all the talent we saw tonight and how the vast majority of them don’t have record deals. Jessica Sanchez? Are you kidding me?

So where does Idol Musings go from here? In the immediate future, it will go nowhere. There are many things I still have on my mind related to Idol especially in terms of keeping up with Idolists from this and past years. And perhaps some essays here and there where I wax profoundly on the state of the reality music business.

And there’s this whole thing of why Ryan said, “Goodbye – for now.” Ah yes, your friendly neighborhood muser has some information and things to say on that subject.

But for now, this is it my friends.

For now . . .

A Finale Bright Like a Diamond

Posted April 6, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Performance

Tags: ,

“You guys are singing like it’s the Final!” (K-Urbs)

BEAST VS BEAST. (Michael Slezak, via Twitter)

“FINALLY! After 15 frickin’ years, America got it right!” (My Daughter Diandra, who somehow has been able to block the Kris Allen/Adam Lambert thing from her memory. Good for her. I can’t. I won’t. #NeverForget)

It seems that the Evil Genius Producers were able to work their evil genius one last time by giving America a pathway to find two amazing singers. Has there ever been an Idol Finale with this level of quality? I think not.

And with that, herewith are my final Idol performance musings.

Round 1: Winner’s Single

These were the songs written for each Idolist for the purpose of being released to radio (Ryan’s words) should they win. “Released to radio” is a technical term that means Ryan’s radio station is the only station in the country that will play these songs. Not just because they were awful but because an Idolist has a better chance of making a hole-in-one on Augusta National than getting a new song on the radio, i.e. the real world of music as opposed to the reality TV world of music[1].

Trent Falling. The song fit his style but had a very dated sound. A for performance; D for currentness[2].

Boy Band Dude Strike A Match. He’s just not a good singer. And the song was more Adult Contemporary rather than Top 40, which was surprising given who his most likely fans are. C for performance; C for currentness.

La’P Battle. This had the most anthemic hook and therefore would be the most memorable if you heard it on the radio. But the song doesn’t grab you right away, which may turn off radio programmers. They should have paid Sia to write a song for her. B+ for performance; B for currentness.

After the initial round, Boy Band Dude got his bad news (and a certain muser got his good news). In spite of having twice the Twitter followers as Trent and La’P combined, BBD’s vocal deficiencies given the competition eventually caught up with him. Unlike Jax’s horribly rushed and insensitive send-off last year, at least the Evil Genius Producers allowed him to have his moment and a proper goodbye.

Round 2: Simon Fuller’s Choice

With a show created to discover a current pop star, Simon mystifyingly chose songs from the 70s and 80s. Is the demographic really that old for that to be necessary? These song choices had a stunning lack of vision. “Old” people will buy songs like Uptown Funk (or anything by Bruno Mars) or Happy or big diva songs by Beyonce or Rihanna. At this penultimate juncture, we should have been imagining Trent and La’P as radio-ready artists rather than people we’d see on Soul Train re-runs.

Trent If You Don’t Know Me By Now (Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes). Somehow, this was energetic and lifeless at the same time. Too full of faux-soul. C+

La’P A House Is Not a Home (Dionne Warwick). She actually started singing the epic Luther Vandross version before just flat out making it a La’P version. In concert, I’d LOVE to hear this. I just wish Simon had picked something with a more recent vintage. A-

Round 3: Idolist’s Reprise aka The Sia Round

The show finally began here.[3] Current songs both written by Sia – a current hit songwriter. Imagine that! If such a thing is possible, they both did their respective songs better than they did the first time.

Trent Chandelier (Sia). Critique-proof. A++

La’P Diamonds (Rihanna). Critique-proof. A++

After 15 years, it’s perfect that American Idol will end with America having to choose between two extraordinary singers going out with two extraordinary performances. One – La’P – was consistently amazing all season. The other – Trent – seemed to come out of nowhere as he got better and better each week. Either would be a good choice to be The Last American Idol Forever.

Who are we kidding? La’P is the best singer in the history of this show – yes, consistently better than My Boy Adam Lambert and with more epic performances, too. In the words of Kelly Clarkson, “You’re gonna win . . . if you [La’P] don’t, there’s something wrong.”

Tomorrow, we’ll see if the first American Idol is right about the last American Idol.


[1] Home written for Phillip Phillips was a notable exception. Ironically, P2 hated the song.

[2] Yes, I know that’s not a real word.

[3] I neglected to mention the show began with the season’s first Cheesy Idol-Sing-A-Long! It wouldn’t have been a proper season of Idol without one of those.

My Favorite Idol Memories

Posted April 5, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Much ado about nothing

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.

The Last Shocking Elimination?

Posted April 4, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary

It wouldn’t have been a legit season of Idol without a shocking elimination, right? So with downloads of La’P’s iTunes single again badly lagging behind Trent, Boy Band Dude and even MacKenzie’s humdrum Hallelujah, we need to be even more prepared for the possibility (likelihood?) that one of the best singers[1] Idol’s ever seen may not sing for the crown on Wednesday night.

If this happens, don’t believe it represents a victory of young voters over the, uh, older ones who would be more likely to vote for La’P. I believe the, uh, older voters are divided amongst all three.

And having a Trent vs. Boy Band Dude Finale would mark the complete and irrevocable hegemony[2] of white males. The show really does need to end – even with still top 20 ratings, by the way – if the most likely possible winners can be identified when the season begins just by looking at the contestants.

I’m getting ahead of myself with an annual rant that may be unnecessary. All I’m really saying is that it’s fine to be angry should La’P miss the Final Finale Forever. Just don’t be shocked.

And for the record, if that happens, I will be angry.


[1] I think she’s the best. Period.

[2] I promised a blog reader on Facebook that I would use the word hegemony.