Well, here it is: the “Stripped Down” edition of Rock Star: Supernova. And, true to that designation, it wasn’t a night of high-energy, blow-the-roof-off performances. Instead, it was an opportunity for the Rockers to show off their vocals skills – and, for the most part, they succeeded.
Too bad Supernova wasn’t feelin’ a lot of it. Jason made it clear very early on that they preferred it LOUD AND ROCKIN’ – and Tommy was more interested in talking about the Vegas trip than in delivering performance-related comments to the Rockers. (FYI, I'm not even going to bother reporting those.) Only Gilby, along with Dave, approached the evening with the proper mind-set, imo.
So, we ended up with a night of solid, though not particularly stellar, performances. It was acoustic and low-key – there was even a 4-piece string section – so adjust your expectations accordingly. I think the show will play perfectly fine on TV, with close-ups bringing added intimacy to the proceedings. I also didn’t think anyone tanked – although, overall, the guys came off slightly better than the ladies (with the exception of Dilana). Storm fans are going to want to vote extra hard this week, however, as SN did NOT dig her song AT ALL.
The video package at the top of the show re-capped the Rockers’ Vegas Adventure, before moving on to the now-familiar ground of Song Selection. In addition to showing Toby streaking for the opportunity to perform with Gilby, a lot was made of Ryan and Zayra wrestling (figuratively) over the chance to do an Original Song. After the clip, Dave started in on his standard refrain of “I am shocked that you guys…” etc., etc. However, the Rockers responded strongly to Dave, citing the clip’s edited version of reality. Far from only a couple people being interested in doing their Original Song, all of the Rockers initially put their name down for it. “Don’t believe everything you see on TV, Dave,” cautioned Magni, before stating that the actual Song Selection session went on for 2 hours. Anyway, as you probably know, Zayra ended up with the Original Song - and we segued into the main part of the show.
Zayra – Lluvia De Mar (Original Song)
Dressed in a black bra top and a huge red raspberry parachute dress, Zayra played the guitar while singing in Spanish. I have no idea what she was singing -- but she put a lot of passion into it and sounded very nice. I certainly didn’t notice any flatness or pitch problems, and no one else mentioned any either. Dave said he felt like he was at the Latin Grammy Awards (meaning that as a compliment). He thought she sang good, but couldn't see the fit with Supernova. (Z responded that she wrote the song 5 years ago, but chose it to show what she can do with her voice when she has more than 2 days to rehearse a song.) Tommy thought the song had hints of Massive Attack in it and that it was "well done". Gilby was glad she lasted long enough to do her original song - that it was "beautiful" and that he "dug it." And Jason admitted that he had personally fought to have her in the competition because of her original material and her flamenco vibe. (So she’s not a Mark Burnett plant afterall.) Dave concluded by applauding her cojones in doing an original song – a line that was later re-shot to change the word to guts.
Magni – Starman (David Bowie)
I thought Magni did an great job on Starman - except for messing up the lyrics on the first chorus. (I don't know how many people noticed in the studio, but I'm an old Bowie fan from WAY back.) Other than that mishap, I thought he nailed the song. Dave complimented him on not impersonating Bowie, and Tommy said he "rocked it" and sounded “nice”. Gilby said that Magni was "solid" as always – with his only criticism being that Magni missed out on the opportunity to get the crowd singing along on the la-la's. Jason deemed it "elegant" and "graceful" and said that Magni showed them something different than what they were used to seeing from him.
Patrice – Message in a Bottle (The Police)
Patrice was fine – (yeah, I know, faint praise) - especially in the second half when she started changing up her vocals a bit. Dave also applauded her "vocal gymnastics" towards the end of the song, but found her lacking intensity. Tommy said it was "pretty cool, dude (sic)". Gilby thought that Patrice has gotten a raw deal over the past couple weeks, but still would've liked her to do something "more original" with the song. (Patrice responded with all this talk about changing beats and registers, etc., etc., etc. Gilby was, like, whatever - pointing out that most people wouldn't pick up on such subtleties and that he was talking about more significant changes.) I don't recall Jason saying anything to Patrice.
Lukas – Hero (Chad Kroeger)
Lukas, donning a white preacher’s collar, sat in a chair and played acoustic guitar on this song. His vocals were very much in line with his performance of Creep last week - alternating soft & quiet with hard & growly, with a lot of intensity on the choruses. Dave said it was "awesome" and that the song allowed Lukas to show his "vocal dynamics". Tommy liked Lukas’ “preacher vibe” but didn't like that he was sitting down. Gilby said he really enjoys watching Lukas explore different sides of his voice every week and called it a "very good job". Jason, after saying it was "mellow but powerful", gave Lukas another lecture on his voice. He said he heard it close up again and that he really wants Lukas to continue to work on keeping it open. (In response, Lukas said that, in the excitement of performing for the crowd, he sometimes loses focus on that particular aspect of his voice.)
Storm – I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor/Cake)
Let me say up front that (a) I am not familiar with Cake’s version of this song; and (b) I thoroughly enjoyed Storm's performance of it. It was certainly the most energetic of the night, and I thought she showed great skill and range on her vocals. But then Dave spoke. He first mentioned how Marty had changed up Hit Me Baby last season and how Dilana had dealt with Cyndi Lauper a few weeks ago, before telling Storm that her performance "didn't work." (Audience boos Dave.) "I hated that." (Louder booing.) Then Tommy chimes in - agreeing with Dave! Gilby then joins the dogpile – admitting that he didn't like it either. He told her that he realized she was constrained by the song choice, but that regardless, she really needed to pretend that she was in their band and make something out of it. Lastly, Jason added his voice to the chorus of disapproval: he thought she could've put her own twist on it and said that he "expected more." (Storm took their criticism with good-humored aplomb, commenting that she “went to Vegas, then woke up the next morning with Gloria Gaynor”.)
Toby – Solsbury Hill (Peter Gabriel) – with Gilby on acoustic guitar
Toby admitted afterwards that this was the most nervous he's been on stage yet. You sure couldn't tell from his performance, which seemed extremely strong and confident to me. With Gilby sitting on top of the grand piano the whole time – Hey Gilby! No sitting! - there wasn’t much interaction between them. But Toby threw in some bongo-playing near him, just so he could say that he “played” with Gilby. Dave said he sang it "great". Gilby also thought he did a "killer job" and was "awesome". Jason said that the song allowed them to hear a "really cool midrange" from Toby (which Toby said was the favorite part of his voice). I think all the guys made some reference to his stripping to get the song, with Tommy saying that there was now no question about Toby's commitment and that it was nice to see Toby be a “maniac” - just like a Rock Star.
Ryan – In the Air Tonight (Phil Collins)
No piano playing tonight, as Ryan just stood center stage and delivered the song. I thought he did a good job – maybe even better than on Losing My Religion. The one slight problem I had with it was that it was very similar to what we saw him do with LMR two weeks ago. It didn’t have that degree of surprise to it, and so lost some of the WOW factor. Dave called it “the best performance of the night” (an opinion he would revise a few minutes later). Tommy didn’t agree with Dave, but still thought it was “well done”. Gilby liked it, saying that Ryan’s voice was strong and cut through the tune. And Jason praised his “great tonality” and said that Ryan made the song, which everyone has heard to death, “something to listen to.”
Dilana – Cat’s in the Cradle (Harry Chapin)
Honestly, I shuddered when I heard that Cat's in the Cradle was on the song list. But I breathed a sigh of relief when it turned out that Dilana would be doing it. I figured if anyone could juice up that old chestnut, she could. And she did not disappoint. She was able to utilize the changes in volume and tone between verse and chorus to her advantage, and "rocked" the song as much as she could. (Not that that was very much.) Dave started off the critique by telling Ryan that he spoke too soon -- that Dilana's performance was now the best of the evening. He said he got chills, and called it "beautiful" and "incredible". Tommy said he loves everything she does: "Well done, Mama." Gilby thought it was great to see her diversity from Won't Get Fooled Again last week to Cat's in the Cradle this week. He also complimented her on how strong her voice sounded in its lower register, and then how she knocked them out when she went higher. Jason thought she “did great”. He especially liked that she limited her growl, and could tell that she's been listening to her vocal coach.
Wrapping the evening up, Jason told the Rockers that SN really appreciated all they had done, but that next week, they would once again CRUSH IT WITH VOLUME!!!
Bottom 3 prediction:
Probably Patrice and Zayra. But beyond that, your guess is as good as mine – with Storm being the big question mark.
Probably Dilana – but all of the guys were fairly strong.