Hello, hello, and welcome back to The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott! Last week, we were introduced to our group of young hip-hop/R&B hopefuls, the janky bus that they call “home,” a down-to-business trifecta of judges, and one scary road manager. White-girl rapper Heather has received the boot, but the bus is still rolling, so let’s see what the gang is up to this week. . . .
As tonight’s show opens, we are “treated” to a Missy Elliott video interspersed between shots of the bus rolling down the road. Now, Missy herself is fine, but the ladies in this video with her? Yeesh! If anyone needs some bleach for their eyes, I’ll be happy to share . . . once I’m done pouring the bottle onto my brain.
The newfound lack of Heather on the bus has driven it home to everyone that this is, indeed, a competition, and somebody is going to be going home every night . . . unless they have one of those pesky “non-elimination rounds.” A ha ha! Frank B, however, is thrilled that he escaped elimination last week, and is determined to prove himself for the rest of the competition.
When the bus next stops, Steve the road manager orders everybody out—they are at Jimi Hendrix’s famous Electric Lady Studios, which instantly gets everybody fired up. They step inside, and who is there but famed producer/judge Dallas Austin! Armed with drumsticks and his signature shades, Dallas throws on a track for the contestants. Without hesitation, everyone jumps in . . . freestyling, making up lyrics, and altogether having a blast. Dallas seems to enjoy the impromptu session as much as the contestants, jamming away in the booth.
After almost everyone has stepped up to the mike and put their own twist on the funky beat behind them, it’s time for some collaborative work. Awwww. Nilyne makes up a sweet little lovey song to Nic on the spot, and Nic stands nearby saying “Yeah!” “No!” “What?” “Babayyyy” “Fiiiyine!” and so forth at the appropriate moments. It’s a little one-sided for sure, but I fear I sense a top 40 hit in the making.
Dallas then announces that this is an exclusive track done by Missy, herself, and the contestants will each be given a copy of it and must work with it to make it their own. With any luck, it could be their first single!
Forget Celine Dion Money. We’re Making N. Paul Todd Money Now.
After the studio jam, Steve announces a new element of the show to the contestants (and us). They already know about the performance challenges, but on this tour, there will also be road challenges—to teach these kids that the road is freakin’ hard. This week, the contestants will be divided into four teams of three and assigned—I kid you not—a street corner. The teams must simply make as much money as they can, using their looks, their talent, both . . . the possibilities are endless, I suppose. Whichever team wins will win the total amount of money collected, as well as a night out with Missy. However, the losers will also be penalized for their insolence, and must stay behind for. . . . *dun dun DUN* road chores! The excited faces all around confirm that this is a reward and reprieve worth playing for, but Steve doesn’t care . . . he just hands each of the teams a bucket and kicks them out to make their money. That’s the music business for you!
Marcus, Matt, and Yelawolf hit the streets dancing and singing, but complain that they’ve gotten the worst corner in town. There’s not even the slight break of a store nearby to attract people . . . just a tree. Trees don’t carry cash. Yelawolf offers to sell the shirt from his back for a quarter, and Matthew beseeches the passersby for money, loose change, a napkin . . . anything.
Akil, Frank, and Nic seem to have slightly better luck, with Frank and Nic’s tag-team rapping attracting an interested crowd. However, Nic may have driven them all away when he goes up and performs a song for the lay-dayz, starting it off with, “Every black woman right now . . . we’ve got a song for you, but we need donations!” Frank claims that Nic is a faker, and it seems that Frank generally can’t stand to be around him. Hmm. With a “team” like this, prospects may not look great for this trio.
Meanwhile . . . Cori, Nilyne, and Melissa are attempting some harmonization to go along with their looks, and aren’t always entirely successful. However, they are three singing ladies, between the ages of 19 and 23. Of course they’re going to draw a crowd. When they bust out the dance moves, things look good for this team. And so do their prospects.
Jessica, who is teamed with Eddie and Deltrice, acknowledges her skill as a “hustler,” and combine that with the trio’s combined talent, and you have a good formula. Eddie freestyles on a passerby’s name—Joe Pasero—and Joe is so impressed, he donates $20 to their cause.
Time ticks down until Steve yells for everybody to come back, and it’s money time.
Team Lonely (Marcus, Matt, and Yelawolf) comes in at fourth place with $47.45.
Team Civil War (Akil, Frank, and Nic) beats them out with a dime at $47.55. The spoils of battle.
Team Cute (Melissa, Nilyne, and Cori) come in second with $52.45, which means. . . .
Team Hustler (Jessica, Eddie, and Deltrice) win with a whopping $82.59! They’ll be enjoying a beautiful time with Missy Elliott and can also now be called Team Rich, taking the combined earnings of $229.64.
While Jessica, Eddie, and Deltrice pile into a limo to pay Missy a visit, it’s work time for the rest of the contestants, and I highly doubt that Steve will let them go off until they finish their chores. Actually, all they have to do is load the luggage onto the bus. Nothing awful. And here I thought they’d have to clean the bus with their tongue or something.
Nothing screams “stardom” like going bowling. Or at least that’s what we are led to believe, for Jessica, Eddie, and Deltrice have met up with Missy and her dancers for a fun evening at the alley. It seems that Missy isn’t the greatest bowler in the world, but she says it’s the shoes. They’ve been on somebody else’s feet. But she shouldn’t complain too much . . . at least they don’t have mushrooms growing on them.
In between rolling splits, Missy gives the trio some inside information . . . personality is everything. Though not everyone, of course, can sing, dance, and rap, people will be more likely to buy and listen to artists with a good personality. With that, Missy and her dancers pack up to leave, and there are hugs all around. No word on who won.
Emcee Attack at the Crab Shack
The tour bus rolls on through the night as a mournful canine howl pierces the still sky. Yelawolf?
The next morning, Steve pulls everyone out of the bus and informs them that they are in Crisfield, Maryland. They’ll be here for an hour, so the contestants can do whatever they please . . . eat, look around, work on their music, whatever. Many of the contestants hit the crab shack and then head off to work on their songs, but a few linger at the restaurant. Jessica seems to have spent all of her reward money on the “All-you-can-eat” special . . . it looks like she could easily thrash Marcus in an eating competition.
While most either eat, drink, and be merry or dance in the street, an argument between Nic and Frank has come to a head. Steve, who is nearby and trying not to laugh, says that they should settle it with an emcee battle, right here and right now. Nic stutters a bit, and admits openly that Frank would beat him in a battle. Steve says “I can respect that,” and shakes Nic’s hand, but Frank goes right ahead with the freestyle battling.
And oh, how he verbally lashes ol’ Nic! It is more vicious than even the French Taunters from Monty Python. Nic is able to keep a smirk until the last line, at which he predictably leaps up from the table and starts carrying on about “You don’t know me!” or something like that. The other contestants rush in to break the two up, and Nic yells, “You’ve made an enemy on the bus, man!” Yawn. I wanted to see them . . . breakdance fight.
Missy pops up on the screen once more, informing us that Steve has told the contestants that they are heading to her hometown in Virginia. However, they are actually heading to their second performance challenge. She hopes, with a laugh, that they haven’t been slacking off!
The bus pulls next to what seems to be an abandoned parking garage in Pokemoke, Maryland . . . and who should we find there but our judges—Teena, Dallas, and Mona—leaning against three cars in a very ‘80s music video kind of way. The contestants are pushed out of the bus and quickly learn what’s really going on . . . tonight, they are to perform what they’ve done with the track that Dallas gave them. “This will separate who’s on top of their game, and who’s been playing games,” says Mona. “Whoever is ready, please step forward.”
All the contestants are paralyzed with fear, and I’m surprised that none of them take a step back, since some apparently haven’t even worked on their songs yet. But after everyone exchanges worried glances, Frank steps up and performs a rap that all the judges love. Even Dallas, who said he didn’t believe Frank last week, is won over, and Frank must be on top of the world.
Yelawolf performs next, spinning a pretty good rap that the judges seem pleased with . . . until he tells them that it was an old song of his that he used because he “really wasn’t feelin’ this track.” I fear that honesty may be Yelawolf’s downfall!
Jessica blows the judges away, again, but Mona says that she can tell Jessica made everything up on the spot, and she has to take this more seriously from now on.
Nic tries to turn on the charm by dedicating his song to Mona, but she’s not impressed. She adds that he seems very one-dimensional as an entertainer, and it’s all very linear. Teena adds that he seems like an LL Cool J wannabe, and right on cue, thunder crashes through the air. He reminds me of a Corey Clarke wannabe, really, and that would prove that Nic watches too much American Idol. Bad move.
But the falling rain doesn’t faze Marcus, who hits some high falsetto notes in his hook-filled song. Everyone is thrilled, including the other contestants, who loudly cheer him on.
Melissa begins by explaining that she wrote something, but she now thinks that it’s too sensitive, so she’s going to do something different. Mona is a bit confused about the explanation, and says that they never would have known the difference if she hadn’t told them that. Whichever song she decided on, Melissa doesn’t make a big impression, and Mona says that she needs to pay closer attention to the instructions.
Matthew has written another catchy song, and while they are impressed by his vocal ability, the judges think he can do better.
Deltrice looks a bit comatose while performing, but the judges like it, and Dallas notes that you can tell how sincere her writing and singing is.
Cori tells us in confessional that she had trouble writing this song. She tried to fuse her “rock” style with the R&B, but she doesn’t think that it worked very well. The judges don’t think so, either. Dallas notes that if she had appeared more confident, he would have believed in her a lot more.
Nilyne begins singing the same song she made up for Nic in the studio earlier, and Nic can barely conceal his glee underneath his towel. Mona can’t believe that Nilyne wrote the song for Nic, and tells her “Goodbye!” with a laugh.
Eddie is probably one of the quickest emcees on this show, as in spitting out words per minute, and he drives home this point with his performance tonight. The judges are impressed, saying that he really made the track his own.
Finally, Akil steps up and does some rapping, himself, and the results are great . . . the judges even forgive him for using one of his already-written songs. “You’re a talented kid,” says Mona.
Mama Said: Knock You Out . . . or Send You Home
Now it’s time for the judges to deliberate and send their elimination picks to Missy, who will have the final word. The mood in the bus is pretty tense, and Melissa is crying with disappointment, thinking that she’s blown her second chance to impress the judges.
We have the dramatic parking lot spotlight ceremony, and the bright lights fall upon . . . Cori and Nic! The pair are brought out to be interrogated by Missy, and Melissa now cries tears of relief.
Nic is first to enter Missy’s bus, and he’s not happy about it. “It’s almost like having to admit that you screwed up,” he complains. Well. . . .
Missy immediately reminds him of Teena’s critique—that he sounds like an L.L. wannabe. “We love L.L.,” says Missy, “but being a wannabe just isn’t cool.” She asks Nic to rap something for her that goes beyond his Rico Suave kitsch, and he comes up with some strange rap about Adam & Eve, leaves, apples. . . . It’s pretty awful. Missy cracks up, saying “That’s so 1979!” Well, Nic is the oldest, so maybe it’s to be expected.
Next is Cori, who tries to explain her songwriting woes to Missy. Missy replies that she should be able to put her own twist on whatever she’s doing and asks to hear another song from her. Cori belts out a rather nondescript number that Missy doesn’t look too impressed with, and Missy says, “Hmmm. That sounds like a little Britney to me. . . .” And ever since the marriage deal, or heck . . . smooching Madonna . . . or heck . . . ever . . . being compared to Britney is not a good thing.
After a bit of pondering on Missy’s part, everyone meets in the parking lot for the final decision.
Missy begins with Cori, saying, “Cori, you should always be able to make the music your own . . . this is the chance of a lifetime, and you have to hit the mark every time.”
“Nic,” continues Missy, “you’ve got a confidence about you which makes people believe that you’re hot. But you’re also got a cockiness about you that would get on my last nerve.” Nic winces just enough to notice with the human eye.
“Cori,” says Missy, “I’m sure you’re going a lot of places. And one of them is . . . home.”
And with that, Cori must turn in her laminate and leave the tour. Poor girl . . . she really seemed genuine, but this show isn’t really the best place for an aspiring rock singer, for obvious reasons. Farewell, Cori!
And thus, Nic lives to schmooze another day. Be sure to come back next week for a visit to Missy’s old high school, drama, heartache, and apparent controversy! *gasp* But even more importantly, next week is the week of my esteemed partner in prose, Mariner! You won’t want to miss it!
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