Episode 4 (1/26): Here’s the Dealio; Billy Ray is No Good
When I was growing up, our family vacations usually consisted of long road trips in the family van. The van had an eight track tape player and my father controlled the music with an iron fist. For a long time, we had a very limited number of tapes in the van. The musical choices included Hoyt Axton, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Linda Rondstadt, Chicago, Billy Joel, Carly Simon and The Eagles. If anyone ever needs to know the words to “Lying Eyes” “Desperado” or “Poncho and Lefty”, I’m your gal. At the time we were taking these vacations, my two younger sisters and I would sigh loudly and complain whenever we were subjected to Willie. The funny thing is that we all now not only own Willie CDs, we all have a nostalgic fondness for his music. That’s because there is something timeless and classic about Willie. Billy Ray Cyrus? His mullet was classic.
Miles to Go Before They Sleep
Following a short retrospective of Yelawolf’s demise, this episode opens with new footage of the aftermath of Melissa’s return to the bus. As an aside, let me say that the part of the opening where the bus rolls out of Missy’s mouth kind of freaks me out. While the others seem to be singing odes to the departed Wolf, Melissa is leaning her face against the wall and crying. Not something I’d generally suggest on that bus; at least not without antiseptic handy. Matthew who seems to be becoming the narrator explains that the others were all shocked to lose Wolf. They all felt he did a good job at the previous performance challenge. Being ever tactful, Matthew then explains that he doesn’t mean to knock Melissa as a performer. He thinks she’s awesome. She just botched it at the performance the day before. In case you missed the show last week, we get to see footage of her less than stellar performance to confirm Matthew’s statement. After a little more angst from all, Melissa seems to bounce back and joins in the singing. Marcus punctuates the Yelawolf Memorial portion of the show by telling us it’s hard, but they have to move on.
The next afternoon Deltrice says that they all slept a lot that day and they don’t even know how many miles the bus has covered. She then announces her intention to work on what I will call the whack track in honor of Yelawolf and memorize the words she’s written. This seems to be the same plan most of the contestants had for the rest of the long drive. Akil says that Frankie’s got one hell of a melody to the song and they’ve all been singing it. A shot of Foreshadowing, anyone? We indeed see Akil accompanying Frank on his guitar.
Nilyne explains that she’s beginning to feel like they are in a rock band. People aren’t getting to shower more than once every two or three days and are wearing the same clothes two days in a row. I have no idea about the relative hygiene standards of the average rock band and the average hip hop group. Perhaps most hip hop artists shower twice a day while on the road.
We cut to Matthew sitting at the table in the bus telling us that everyone is trying to guess where they are at and looking at the road signs. Nic proves that he is not the Amazing Kreskin by explaining confidently to Nilyne that he’s convinced they are going to Atlanta and eventually on to California. The next thing we know, we see the Welcome to Nashville, or as Eddie calls it, Cashville signs.
Dancin’ In the Streets
Sergeant Steve orders everyone off the bus. Steve takes everyone to a restaurant where he explains to them this episode’s road challenge. The contestants have to sell 60 tickets for three dollars a piece to a show they are going to be putting on the next night. They have a grand total of 45 minutes to succeed. Marcus provides some levity by telling us the contestants were afraid they were going to have to shave pig behinds or something. In hindsight, that might have been easier Marcus. Steve then teases everyone by asking them if they want to know what they are playing for. They all say no. Just kidding. Steve decides to torture them a little longer by explaining that the next leg of the tour is going to be a long one. Finally, a brand shiny new luxurious bus rolls into the lot. Steve lets everyone know that among other amenities, the bus is fully decked out with electrical entertainment equipment. He then asks what I’d identify as a rhetorical question, “Sick of your other bus?”
It’s clear that this is one challenge no one feels neutral about. Eddie confesses to us that he calls their current bus, “the Garage cause I sleep next to the rats and the roaches.” Matthew, ever the politician, delivers one of the funniest lines of the night saying, “We’ve come to love our bus but its still butt stank nasty.”
Steve splits the group into three teams. Each team will have different streets to work. The first team is Eddie, Deltrice, and Jessica. The second consists of Melissa, Marcus, Akil, and Frank. The final team is Nilyne, Nic, and Matthew. At the beginning of the challenge, we see a few snippets from a Missy video. We then find out that this challenge isn’t going to be easy. Frankie tries to entice potential customers with promises of strippers at the club. It quickly becomes apparent that isn’t going to work so his team decides to perform for the passers by. This works much better. Nic shows some insight by explaining that to succeed the teams are going to have to sell more than a ticket a minute. One of the big problems appears to be that several of the people they encounter on the street are leaving town before the next night. There is also a more subtly disturbing reason they seem to be having trouble. As one of the men explains, half the people are scared of us and think we are going to rob them.
As time moves on, Nic the Playah emerges. He tells us that he’s going to go after his target audience, women. I roll my eyes. Nic may need glasses. After we see him flirting with some women, we watch him approach a large man in an SUV and also offer to sell tickets to two horses. Akil states the somewhat obvious by observing that people around here do not like hip hop and freeze up when you say rap.
Steve rounds everyone up right on time. Would you expect anything less? Back on the Garage, Steve counts the money while everyone waits anxiously. Melissa, Marcus, Akil, and Frankie have reached their goal of $60 right on the nose. Eddie, Deltrice, and Jessica have somehow managed to come back with $58.10. As far as I know, that’s not divisible by three. The last group of Nic, Nilyne, and Matthew pull out the challenge for the contestants with a grand total of $74.00 (also not a multiple of three). And there was much rejoicing. Yeah. Steve proclaims the last team to be heroes and tells them all that they can move on to their new bus the next day.
In the morning, we see shots of sleepy contestants. Each of the contestants is being given an opportunity to join Dallas on his bus and work on their whack track songs. Everyone admires the inside of Dallas’s bus which appears to have a full on set of recording equipment. We see a little of Matt, Akil, and Nilyne performing with Dallas. Finally, we see Jessica, her voice as powerful and beautiful as ever, singing “What’s the deal, what’s the dealio, I’m not your average ho.” Dallas compliments her greatly much to Jessica’s pleasure and tells her it reminds him of when he helped TLC make “Creep.”
As the time to find out about the performance challenge draws near, Akil reminds us how perceptive he is and says that he thinks they’re going to change the challenge up on them. Melissa is determined to do her best and not be in the spotlight after this challenge. Frank says he’s ready to perform his own songs and for the Dallas whack track. Care for another glass of Foreshadowing?
The Doom that is Steve approaches the Garage and tells the contestants that before they get on the new bus, he has a big surprise for them. He loads everyone on a trolley which takes them on a little tour of Nashville stopping at one of the most popular studios. Steve breaks the contestants up into new teams. The first team is Nic, Nilyne, and Frankie. The second includes Jessica, Melissa, and Matthew. Jessica is delighted with her team and compares Melissa to Teena Marie, Matthew to Justin Timberlake, and herself to Lauryn Hill. The third team is Eddie, Akil, Deltrice, and Marcus. Finally, Steve ends the suspense and explains the challenge. They will be performing at a classic honky tonk bar. The collective “D’ohs” could be heard all the way to New York City. Okay, not really but the looks on everyone’s faces were priceless. Each team will be given a classic country song to revamp and perform.
It Ain’t Nothing
Akil confesses that he is worried about having to perform a country song. Steve then tells the teams which songs each will perform. Melissa, Jessica, and Matthew will be performing “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” Deltrice, Marcus, Akil, and Eddie draw “Sweet Home Alabama,” and Nic, Nilyne and Frank get “Achy Breaky Heart.” Frank sums it up pretty well by saying “Achy Breaky is the toughest and it’s a horrible song.” Amen. Now let me just say that Willie Nelson is classic country. Sweet Home Alabama is a fine song although I’d classify it more as Southern Rock. Achy Breaky Heart was one of those god awful overplayed flash hits. Classic country is Don Williams, Patsy Cline, George Jones, Keith Whitley, etc. Maybe there were copyright issues like seem to sometimes happen on American Idol. Oops. I think I’ve said too much.
Frank is initially worried because as he tells us he can’t sing. Matthew lets us know that they are all worried about remembering their songs since they only have like an hour and a half to learn the words. Once the teams get in the studio and meet the professional musicians they will be working with everyone seems to relax. Akil thinks it’s great to be working with the Nashville cats. Jessica doesn’t want to change the song too much but is nervous because she’s never heard the song and she’s never sung with a live band. Nic and Frank have a little bit of a disagreement about whether they should work on dance stuff first together. The Sweet Home Alabama group is working on their routine, and Eddie is feeling good. Frank and Nilyne practice some dance steps. Afterwards Frank confides that “I’m doing alright. I’m singing, I’m dancing, and I wrote a rap for it.” Darn this Foreshadowing is strong. I’m starting to feel a little tipsy.
We see a little more rehearsing and then Steve walks in and tells Nic that Mona wants to see him. As Nic describes it, he gets called to the principal’s office. Missy explains the nefarious purpose to us. It is part of a twist for the performers themselves to tell Mona who should be the next off the bus. Missy acknowledges that it will be hard and it is intended to be. Mona quizzes the remaining contestants who answer as follows:
Akil-Melissa is one of the weaker (after much hemming and hawing)
Seems pretty obvious who is gone if Melissa ends up in the spotlight after the challenge doesn’t it? Not so fast my friend.
After the rehearsal, Steve tells them it was great. He then sits everyone down and says that Missy wants them all to look good so he’s going to give them each $150 and take them shopping for clothes for tonight’s challenge. Nilyne is clearly giddy at the prospect of shopping. I’m guessing she’s no stranger to the mall. I’m not sure she felt quite so excited when it turned out they were going to Boots ‘N More. Nonetheless, everyone seemed to get into shopping after awhile. Jessica is pleased with her bright red cowboy hat, Matt thinks he looks sexy in a cowboy hat, and Eddie feels good after adding a headband to his cowboy hat and busy cowboy shirt. Nic, is Nic. He tells the salesperson his goal is to pick up girls. He then asks a woman if he looks like a cowboy in his hat. I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing for him Nilyne wasn’t near the spur section at the time.
The contestants stroll down the street in their new outfits to the honky tonk. Nilyne is working it in her pink cowboy boots, denim skirt and pink hat. Frank is clearly not enjoying his new clothes but essentially confesses he would wear nothing but a g-string if it got him a chance at the single with Missy. Missy tells us that she likes to see people go outside their character and see hip hop mixed with different kinds of music. Stretching your creativity and originality is important. The contestants walking into the bar is hilarious. All of the old cowpokes and their gals drinking beer out of a can stare at the contestants like little green Martians have appeared at their favorite watering hole.
What’s My Line?
Eddie tells us that when you walk into the room you’ve got to light it up. The judges are sitting at a table where they get a good view of the performances. Eddie et. al. go on stage first. Eddie tells the crowd that they go by the name Western Soul Stars. They then break into their rendition of Sweet Home Alabama. This group hasn’t tried to be country at all. By the way, did you know that there is actually a group called Eminemmylou? The things you learn. The looks on the patrons’ faces and the slight shakes of the head are comical. However, the judges and the other contestants seem to enjoy the performance. It’s not bad. No chicken wire needed. But if they were trying to get the audience involved, it was only partly successful. Afterwards, the members of the group have different reactions to how they did. Marcus thought it went well while Akil thought he only did so-so. Deltrice is pissed that Eddie stepped on her solo. Eddie felt good because a couple of ladies wanted their pictures taken with him and promised to look out for him in the future.
Dallas, Mona, and Teena Marie have a good laugh about some regulars saying, I know y’all ain’t gonna mess up our records, right? Jessica, Melissa, and Matthew then take the stage. They blow the judges and even the regulars away. They start out with a nicely harmonized intro and then break into a slightly funked up version of Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies. Matthew does a good job of getting the crowd involved and all three sound great. Teena Marie is about as vocal as she ever is and says, “Melissa’s sounding good tonight too.” A shocked Dallas has to agree.
Afterwards, all three are pumped up about their performance. Melissa is really content that she made up for her disaster in the last performance challenge. Jessica tells us that she regrets earlier telling Mona that Melissa was the weakest contestant left.
The last group to perform is Nic, Nilyne and Frankie. The only one that kept this from being a complete disaster was Nilyne. Frankie forgot both the words to his own rap and the dance steps they had practiced earlier and is a little off rhythm when he does remember the words. Nic is just sort of blah. The other contestants try to rescue them by pulling some of the regulars out on to the dance floor and dancing themselves. However, even Matthew can’t think of a really positive thing to say about the performance. Nic acknowledges they didn’t perform that well. Nilyne says both Nic and Frankie messed up, but at least Nic covered. Frank exhibits delusional qualities. He confides that even though he didn’t know the lyrics he was still the life of the performance and still getting the crowd into it. If I drink any more Foreshadowing, I’m going to pass out.
While the contestants hang out at the bar, Mona comments on the Nic and Nilyne relationship to the other judges. Dallas comments on what a spitfire Nilyne is. Finally, everyone gets to check out the new bus. Marcus says a prayer and everyone else seems delighted to have a non-smelly, graffiti-free residence. It’s the little things in life you know.
The judges meet and Mona breaks the news about the twist to Teena Marie and Dallas. The judges will only be nominating one contestant for elimination. The other was determined by the earlier questioning. Teena Marie and Dallas seem shocked that Melissa nominated herself, and Dallas even says that he was going to give her props this time. The judges review the performances. Out of the first group, they were most impressed by Eddie. Everyone agrees that Jessica, Matthew and Melissa were strong both individually and collectively. The judges also reach a consensus that Nic, Nilyne and Frank were the weakest. They again discuss Frankie’s shortcomings this time. Dallas asks about “Sweet Nic,” and it becomes apparent he needs to do something to impress the judges or he’ll be gone soon. Mona says that his bravado is a shell. The judges make their decision, and Steve goes to get everyone off the bus.
Twisting in the Wind
Mona breaks the news that only one of those up for being off the tour was selected by the judges, and the other was the consensus of the group. Everyone gets a funny expression on their face. The spotlight does its thing and lands on Melissa and Frankie. In case anyone was unclear, Mona identifies Melissa as the group choice. Frank has changed his tune and now says he knew he was going to be up. He blames it on “Achy Breaky Heart.” More like achy breaky dance steps and forgotten lyrics. When the others get back on the bus, Jessica feels the need to lie and swear she didn’t vote for Melissa. I know she later regretted her choice but own up to it. Nilyne talks about Frankie’s need to quit worrying about what Brooklyn will think and be open to trying new things.
Frankie is the first to go see Missy. Missy tells him she hears the country thing wasn’t happening. When asked why he should stay, Frankie says because he hasn’t gotten a chance at something he shines at yet. He’s also confident he’s got a hit written to the whack track. He finally decides to offer up his opinion that Nic should be the one up for elimination opposite Melissa. Missy questions Melissa about why she would nominate herself. Melissa explains that she had been down on herself the last few days but she came back strong that night. She simply tells Missy that she wants to be on the bus badly.
Missy dismisses them to go stand in the parking lot. Frank tells Melissa that if he has to pick, he’ll pick her to stay. She deserves to. Missy emerges from her bus and asks Frank to do his “stupid step” from that night. He makes the mistake of doing a half-hearted job. Missy tells him that every performance is a performance. She then has him perform his whack track rap. It seems not bad to me. Missy requests Melissa to sing like it’s her last record. She sings a song about rejection. Under the circumstances, she does a decent job. In the end, Missy decides that Frankie is off the tour. This time when Melissa gets back on the bus she gets a round of applause. It is a far cry from her greeting after she survived the last elimination. Akil puts a bit of a wrap on things and tells us that he’s starting to understand that Missy wants someone utterly versatile in every genre and craft. Frankie is not discouraged and feels like he had a good experience and met a lot of great people. He also leaves instructions for the contestants left on the bus to burn his cowboy hat and shirt.
Double the Fun
Next week we are treated to two episodes. The first airs at 9 pm Monday and the second at the usual time of 8 pm Wednesday. The only highlights we see are of a distressing call Marcus receives during the Monday episode telling him his brother has been hurt in an accident.
Missy finishes by saying she felt like she had to vote Frank off. He won her and then he lost her with this last performance.
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