The Finals: December 21, 2007
Congratulations to the Clark Brothers, a group of guys who left their hearts on stage each night, holding nothing back. Musically, I think Sixwire is better, but they were unable to pull in enough votes to get past one of the most likeable and endearing group of young musicians I’ve seen on television. Because of the exposure they received on NGAB, and, if 19 Entertainment promotes them correctly, these guys should sell a lot of records. Something else. I hope the judges, producers, and music execs at Sony BMG listened carefully to Geoff Byrd’s (The Likes of You) spine-tingling, lyrically cogent, and vocally exquisite When I Fall from Grace, one of the best songs I’ve ever heard; not just on this show, but anywhere (a brilliant music composition). More emo than rock, but I was left speechless by this performance. Geoff’s tonal inflection is so reminiscent of Keane’s Tom Chaplin, another artist who personifies passion. Can you imagine a Clark Brothers cd with songs written and arranged by Geoff Byrd? Would the show’s producers and 19 Entertainment even consider this musical collaboration? They should. If the Clark Brothers have a weakness, it is song writing, something Geoff Byrd clearly does very well. It’s a shame that The Likes of You and Franklin Bridge couldn’t find a fan base on this show. Finally, congratulations to Sixwire, the better band, and in another world, one without The Clark Brothers in it, the winner. They prepared well each night, made good music, made no mistakes, and fought valiantly; they simply got out-performed and out-loved by the Clark Brothers, and I doubt there’s anything they could have done differently to change the outcome.
The Music: As I said earlier, the best performance on this night was Geoff Byrd’s When I Fall from Grace. The Clark Brothers’ delivered an emotional performance of their gospel ballad, You Are Still the Same; magic always happens when Ashley’s vocals are supported on the strings of a mandolin. Country music is one of the few music genres where songs containing overtly religious lyrics are still welcome and added to radio play lists. I can remember Keith Urban’s But for the Grace of God; Martina McBride’s God’s Will, or Carrie Underwood’s Jesus Take The Wheel. All three reached #1 on the Billboard’s Country Music Charts. Sixwire turned in an energetic, fun-filled, and in my opinion, better than the original, cover of The Rolling Stones’ The Last Time. Surprisingly, even Denver and the Mile High Orchestra got it right tonight; this time, The Ides of March’s Vehicle got the muscle and attention it deserved. The lead singer from Northmont must have picked the wrong song or had it forced upon him, because his cover of Santana and Rob Thomas’ Smooth was anything but. The Christmas medley seemed hastily thrown together, but served its purpose, I guess.
The Show’s Format: I mentioned this last week but feel strongly about it, so I’m continuing my one man campaign. The producers can’t do anything to change viewer taste in music, but I think they can do some things to ensure that all contestants have a fair shot at showcasing their talent. It’s not much of a stretch for Sixwire or The Clark Brothers to cover Elton John, Rod Stewart, or Billy Joel, but asking the same of a hard rock band like Light of Doom or a punk rock band like Dot, Dot, Dot is an inequitable stretch. It robs them of what they do best; it strips them of authenticity; and robs them of the opportunity to advance. There’s nothing wrong with Elton John, Rod Stewart, or Billy Joel (they are wonderful pop musicians), but, If Light of Doom and Dot, Dot, Dot are forced to cover pop songs, then Sixwire, The Clark Brothers, and Denver and the Mile High orchestra should, in the spirit of fairness, be asked to cover legitimate rock artists. I suspect some rock bands are too hard for television, but there are other television friendly, clean, and masterful rock bands/artist that qualify. Why not Foo Fighters (The Pretender is one of the best rock songs of 2007), The Who (their catalog is loaded with wonderful compositions); Bruce Springsteen (one of the best rock lyricist of all time); why not Nirvana (the most influential of all rock bands); not to mention Nine Inch Nails, Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Led Zeppelin. And if these bands are too much for Middle America, there’s The Beatles (the most successful rock band ever), The Rolling Stones (a ton of great rock songs), or even Nickelback (there's very little rock in them, but they are hugely popular)? There are also R&B bands that safely qualify. Why no Sly and the Family Stone theme night; why no Earth, Wind, and Fire; The Commodores, or Blood, Sweat, and Tears? The show’s format is too myopic; too dialed in to pop and country, so its favorable to country and pop bands. Yet, it tests and saddles hard rock and R&B bands with compositions that challenge them and make it harder to advance. I understand and accept the premise that contending bands know the format coming in, and that it is their responsibility to make America love them, but I have to wonder if that is even possible when the format is such that it forces them into compromising situations where they must compete with one hand tied behind their backs. I enjoyed the show, but the format should be revisited.
1. When I Fall From Grace, Geoff Byrd, The Likes of You.
2. You’re In My Heart, The Clark Brothers.
3. Tangled Up In Blue, Franklin Bridge
4. Stay, Dot, Dot, Dot
5. Flight of Icharus, Light of Doom
Judges: I like all three (Dicko, Sheila E, and John Rzeznik). They’re funny and make a good team. The host is a lively, likeable fellow, but needs to mix in a steak once in awhile.
More Congratulations: Congratulations to Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks. A.D.D. didn’t make much of a dent on the charts (so far), but I loved Break Anotha and play it all the time. I’m still not sure where she’s headed with Jive Records, since Tattoo lacks substance, but the same can't be said of No Air, a terrific R&B composition. Jive Records did a wonderful job with both Elliott Yamin and Jordin Sparks. Of course, nothing compares to what Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood accomplished in 2007.