INXS, Burnett Seek New Sensation
Tue Jun 15, 1:00 PM ET
By Josh Grossberg
Are you ready for a new (old) sensation?
INXS, whose frontman Michael Hutchence committed suicide in 1997, is teaming up with ber-producer Mark Burnett to search for a new lead singer on the upcoming reality series Rock Star.
The band made the announcement Monday on its Website. Last week, Burnett first announced he was developing Rock Star, envisioned as an edgier version of American Idol.
Following Hutchence's death, INXS used hired-gun vocalists like Jon Stevens and Terence Trent D'Arby to middling success. With Burnett's help, the band is hoping the reality TV route will propel them back to the chart-topping success they enjoyed in the late '80s, when Kick sold millions of copies and spawned such heavy-rotation hits as "New Sensation," "Need You Tonight," "Devil Inside" and "Never Tear Us Apart."
"I am a long-time fan of INXS and feel very fortunate that INXS approached us with this idea and have entrusted us with their future," Burnett said in a statement posted Monday on inxs.com. "I feel there's room on TV for more than one great music-based show, and I feel that rock music has been totally left out of that mix."
Burnett's Rock Star (not to be confused with the 2002 flick starring Mark Wahlberg) will audition wannabes from around the world who think they have what it takes to front INXS.
While the unscripted reality series will be a talent competition similar to American Idol, there are notable differences, says Burnett. For one, Rock Star aims to be grittier, avoiding Idol's go-to genres like big band, disco, pop and R&B. Also, unlike Idol's much maligned phone-voting system, viewers at home will not have complete control over the eventual winner.
Instead, INXS will powwow with music-biz types to narrow the field, while putting the potential singers through a series of workshops "covering everything from songwriting and performance to image and production--all aspects of what it takes to be a Rock Star," according to a press release.
Burnett's brain trust will also include more behind-the-scenes footage so the audience can really get a feel for contestants' personalities and help determine who best might fit in with surviving members Andrew Farriss (keyboard, guitar), Tim Farriss (guitar), Jon Farriss (drums), Kirk Pengilly (guitar, sax) and Garry Beers (bass).
The eventual winner will perform with INXS in the live concert finale, record an album with the band and then front a subsequent INXS world tour.
To help guide the selection process, Burnett has poached Idol's supervising producer David Goffin to executive produce the series.
While it may sound on the gimmicky side, INXS' members believe Rock Star gives them a shot to reinvent a band that's struggled for an identity since Hutchence hanged himself seven years ago.
"After Michael died, we wanted to search the world for a new singer but didn't know how we could effectively do that," Tim Farriss said. "By having Mark and everyone at MBP [Mark Burnett Productions] embrace the concept, we've now found a fantastic way to make that happen.
"Times have changed and television is now a valued medium to reach people all over the world. Mark's record speaks for itself--he is an amazing producer and we are confident that together we are going to create something very different and very special."
Formed in the late '70s, INXS rose from a Stones-aping Aussie pub band to an international hit machine on the strength of 1987's Kick, which led to arena tours and a sweep of the MTV Video Music Awards.
While subsequent albums--X, Welcome to Wherever You Are, Elegantly Wasted--failed to achieve the commerical success of Kick, INXS did have a few more hit singles, including "Bitter Tears," "Suicide Blonde" and "Elegantly Wasted," before their blues-rock-dance fusion fell out of favor during the grunge years of the early '90s. Until now any chance for a comeback seemed scuttled when Hutchence took his life.
Burnett, of course, is the man who started the whole reality craze with CBS' Survivor, which he followed with NBC's The Restaurant and, The Apprentice. His most recent unscripted series, Fox's The Casino debuted Monday.
He's also overseeing a second installment of The Apprentice, NBC's upcoming The Contender, an unscripted boxing drama featuring Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard, and the WB's Commando Nanny, Burnett's first attempt at a sitcom about a former special-forces soldier who becomes a Beverly Hills nanny.
As for Rock Star, Burnett is currently pitching the project to the networks. It's expected to air sometime next year.