JANUARY 11, 2007
MY COMPLETE THOUGHTS ON ALL THE FINALISTS
America has the opportunity to make a lifelong dream come true for another aspiring Nashville Star. This year, we have a diverse batch of contestants; some who are obviously seasoned yet still have room to grow, and some who are diamonds in the rough and will develop before our eyes.
I had a blast working with Blake and Randy, talented artists who I'm honored to judge with. Another new face in the Nashville Star family has proven to be genius ... watching the positive, talented and beautiful Jewel host the show was nothing but sheer pleasure. We are so lucky to have her co-hosting with Cowboy Troy, who was witty and charming as always.
Now, let's get to the heart of the matter as I focus on our 2007 contestants. During the show we don't have time to share all of our thoughts about each singer. That's why I love writing a blog ... here's what I didn't have time to say.
Kacey Musgraves: I dig Kacey's music taste and talent! Where her roots lie is where I'm most comfortable. What I was yearning for is the raw emotion; next week I implore her to avoid the sedate body language. I don't suggest for her to jump around the stage and shake her badonadonk, but at least show us some emotion. (Even connecting eye-to-eye with the audience, us judges and Jewel is critical.) I must add that The Wreckers tune was a great song choice ... stay in this lane!
David St. Romain: What a strong voice, a God-given talent no one can take away. Now the rest is up to David. I don't see the star quality just yet -- the song choice, image decisions and performance chops are not up to the standard worthy of a record deal. If David wants it bad enough, we'll notice him let go and improve, but it will only happen if he pushes himself out of his comfort zone.
Whitney Duncan: A stunner, great singer and a seasoned performer. But I wasn't moved by her act. I could copy & paste what I said about Kacey's performance and relay that to Whitney as well. I need her to evoke the story behind the song rather than looking like she is just singing while reading a teleprompter. (Note – Jennifer Nettles, Sheryl Crow and my girlfriend, Jessi Colter, all do it so well.)
Joshua Stevens: I stand by my comment that Joshua has the best male voice -- at least this week. His song choices and image decisions will be critical every week. (He needs to walk away from the hairstyle in the video clip and commit to the new one we saw on stage.) Joshua can loose this race with one wrong decision so he needs to follow his gut, show us every trick he has in his back pocket and go for it like there is no tomorrow.
Angela Hacker: When I suggested to consider her image and look like a star, I meant it ... even though the quality of the music and a true authenticity are more important than having a "look." I love that Angela wowed us merely on her grit and soulful performance, but not having a vision of her image can hold an aspiring artist back. If we were kicking back having a beer together, I'd suggest to stay true to herself but invest in a facial (I bet Escape would step up and gift it) and study classic Loretta Lynn, KT Oslin or Bonnie Tyler ("It's a Heartache" era) to figure out what her image could be today (don't copy too closely, but note how they didn't cop to a "come-here-kitty-kitty" look to have an image.) Lastly, it doesn't have to cost much -- she might even find it at Wal-Mart!
Zac Hacker: Zac sure can play the hell out of that guitar! Even though his sister spanked him on stage, the "Hacker Family Soul Factor" moves me. If that's the only thing Mama & Papa Hacker created, it'll be enough to get 'em into heaven. I must admit that last night I didn't see the star quality in Zac that I look for in an artist, at least a stand-alone artist deserving of a record deal. But if he gets another chance he can change my mind only if he improves: his vocals, image and performance. So this University of Florida alum implores Zac to "Gator Me" & prove me wrong! Ha!
Dustin Wilkes: I wonder if Dustin feels that he must look like a badass to be a member of the "outlaw country" family. That angry vibe clouded the rest of the performance so I really don't know what his strengths and weaknesses are. I hope he sings a ballad or a song where I can hear and see his true abilities. When he does this, I can share more insight. On the positive front: the image and comfort level on stage looked fine. But those attributes alone don't land record deals -- it's distinctiveness, a clear vision of his art and powerful charisma that lands the coveted prize.
Meg Allison: Beautiful voice, pretty lady but Meg sang with an apologetic face expression and her body language made her look scared. I don't know if it was the dress she chose, the contest environment or the fact that millions of people are watching her, but if she doesn't snap out of it she's gone. I suggest opting for a more natural look and an outfit that she has NO reservations about. I am crossing my fingers that she picks a current song next week, if she makes the cut that is, one in the vein of Mindy Smith or Abra Moore. I LOVE how she changed the arrangement of that Patsy classic, I'd be curious to see how she would take one of those alternative country songs and put a mainstream spin on it.
Rickiejoleen: What a miserable moment for all of us having to say goodbye to the spark plug, Rickiejoleen. When I hugged her backstage I told her that the difference between success and failure is persistence. If she holds her head high, learns from this experience and turns this into an opportunity it will lead to something good. She needs a bit of polishing and artist development, but at 18 she has the time to grow. I agree with Jewel: it's merely a bump in the road if she chooses to look at it that way.
Tim LaRoche: Tim was so positive after this swift decision, I was very impressed by his goodbye. He shared with me backstage that he had a tough song decision: select one to showcase his guitar picking or his vocals. Man, I empathize because we had a heck of a time deciding whom to eliminate. We all know that hindsight is 20/20; but since we are looking for a star more than a musician, I wonder if Tim made the right decision. No matter what, he made a great impression on the industry and our audience. At the end of the day I have one important message for both of them: congratulations on beating 20,000 other hopefuls!