JANUARY 11, 2007


Season Three Nashville Star blogger (and full-time music/TV junkie) Lyndsey Parker is back! And she's brought her characteristically strong opinions about this year's show with her. Whether you agree with her or not, you've got to admire her enthusiasm.

Howdy, and welcome back to Season 5 of Nashville Star. Yes, it seems like just yesterday that Chris Young walked off into the proverbial sunset with the Season 4 prize, but it was in fact not yesterday but eight long months ago. And now here we are again, with 10 new country contenders all hoping to follow in the cowboy-booted footsteps of Chris, Buddy Jewell, et al.

However, before we get acquainted with this season's starry-eyed hopefuls (they wait breathlessly in the wings, preparing to introduce themselves to viewers via a "We Are The World"-style group singalong of the Keith Urban tune "Better Life"), it's time to meet our hosts.

Our first emcee is a familiar face from Season 4, self-described "blackneck" and "hick-hop" artist Cowboy Troy. Now, I am aware that this 6-foot-5, African-American country rapper and Big & Rich sidekick is a polarizing figure. Some people just don't "get" Troy, and never will. They simply don't think country and hip-hop are two great tastes that taste great together.

These people are wrong. Troy's different, he's fun, and when I had the honor of meeting him once, he was one of the nicest fellas I've ever met. Sure, I had to visit a chiropractor from craning my neck trying to talk to Troy (after all, the man is nearly two feet taller than me, and that's when he's slouching), but hey, it was worth it.

Look, I'll just cut to the chase: Cowboy. Troy. Rules. So if you've got a problem with Cowboy Troy, you've got a problem with me, dig?

Sorry, I digress. I do that a lot. You have been warned. Anyhoo, Troy bounds onto the Acuff Theatre stage with more energy than a 4-year-old on a Pixie Stix bender, wearing a shiny new rodeo belt buckle bigger than his head and an equally ginormous smile, and introduces his new co-hostess: Jewel. Yep, that Jewel.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "What in H-E-double-hockey-sticks is Jewel doing hosting this show? She ain't country!" And I admit I have my own reservations about this perplexing casting choice, but I must remember that I had serious doubts when Poison's Bret Michaels was a judge on Season 3, and that all worked out OK. It worked out great, in fact. Come to think of it, I miss Bret. Sigh. Anyway, Jewel is now living in Stephenville, Texas, with her rodeo-cowboy beau Ty Murray, which I suppose qualifies her for this gig somewhat. So I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, for now.

So Jewel emerges wearing some sort of odd-fitting French maid's uniform, which doesn't look too countryish to me -- but again, I'm giving her a chance, right? Plus, her legs look really good. Guess all that horseback riding really works. Maybe I ought to try that; I'm getting pretty bored with my spinning class. But I digress. Again. Troy and Jewel summon the 10 Finalists, and out they come, singing "Better Life" -- a fitting choice, because a better life is what they're after, right? That's why they're all here.

First up is David St. Romain. My first impression? Decent voice, but he's trying a bit too hard. He's a little high-strung. Relax, David! Next is Joshua Stevens, a true pretty-boy in the Keith Urban/Jimmy Wayne tradition. Trendy haircut, snazzy suit jacket that looks like it was borrowed from one of the Strokes -- he's got the look I want to know better, but does he have the voice? I could've sworn I heard him miss that high note just now. Let me rewind my TiVo ... yeah, he missed it, all right. Hmmm. Not good. But this guy has potential, I suppose.

Contestant #3 is our first female of the evening, Angela Hacker, a sort of generic-looking yet pleasant blonde. I can't tell you how good her voice is, since -- unlike the previous two contestants -- she only gets to sing seemingly four or five words before her turn is up. Not fair! What happened to equal opportunity? Hopefully we'll hear more from her later. She looks a little nervous, but there's something intrinsically likable about this gal. I have decided right now that I like her. Yes, I like you, Angela Hacker.

Next out is Zac Hacker. Any relation to Angela? We'll soon find out. Either way, that's a good, solid, marquee-worthy name. Sounds like an action hero's name. Bet no school bully ever whupped his butt when he was growing up -- not with an alpha-male name like that. Now, I'm not a fan of that shiny Night At The Roxbury shirt Zac's wearing, but that's nothing a good stylist can't fix, and I do dig his voice. It's sort of Joe Cockery, which I guess makes Zac the Taylor Hicks of Nashville Star. Which is a good thing for Zac, since we all recall Taylor won American Idol by a landslide last year.

The fifth contender is veritable golden-haired goddess with legs nearly as long as Cowboy Troy's; Hugh Hefner is probably on the phone right now, trying to find out who her agent is so he can book her for Playboy's next softcore pictorial. But I think this woman -- whose diva-like name is Whitney Duncan, incidentally -- is destined for bigger and better things, because when she opens her mouth she proves she's more than just a pretty face and a pair of Amazonian gams. This gal can sing!

And right after Whitney comes another whippet-thin blonde, who basically just looks like a shorter version of Whitney. Whitney's Mini-Me, if you will. This girl's so skinny I lean over to adjust the vertical hold on my TV, but nope -- turns out she really is that thin. Unfortch, her voice is kind of thin, too. I am not impressed. But with a tiny physique like that, there ain't much room for Wynonna-like lung power, you know? Anyway, this size-0, 18-year-old little thang's name is Rickiejoleen. No, not Rickie Joleen. Rickiejoleen. Got it? Good. Guess spaces and hyphens between names is passť now. Man, these crazy kids...

Up next is Dustin Wilkes, my favorite male in the competition so far. He's got this big, booming voice of authority that just sounds like the voice of a country star, you know? He already seems poised for the big time. After Dustin comes a girl-next-door brunette named Meg Allison...only it turns out she's not from next door, but from far-off Chicago. Chicago? Really? Do they have farms there? 'Cause this city girl sounds pretty country to me. Who knew?

OK, only two more to go! And here comes...ooh, I like this guy already. With his hip-length Lynyrd Skynyrd tresses and pack-a-day vocals, Tim LaRoche is clearly the rock 'n' roll bad boy of the competition. And much like Donny & Marie morphed into one, I'm a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll, so I like Tim. A lot. I check his bio and see he cites Ozzy Osbourne, Elvis, and the Everly Brothers as influences. Even cooler! OK, move over, Dustin. Tim's my new fave rave. Who cares if "LaRoche" isn't a very country name? He's the only male contestant who actually bothered to wear a cowboy hat tonight, so that -- and the Ozzy fetish -- more than make up for the sissy surname.

Last up is a cutie named Kacey Musgraves, who sort of reminds me of a raven-haired Carrie Underwood. Which is obviously not a bad thing. Last time I checked, Carrie Underwood has sold quite a few records. Will Kacey do the same? We'll have to wait and see.

OK, so all 10 finalists are finally all onstage for the big finish. The five men huddle together and sing in unison, looking like they're in a boy band (well, at least Joshua does). Oddly, the ladies keep their distance when it's their turn to sing, seemingly standing as far apart as possible while still remaining in the TV frame. Do I detect typical female cattiness already? I hope not. I do, however, believe that Rickiejoleen is trying a bit too hard. You may notice a common theme that pops up in this blog time and time again is that I don't like it when people try too hard. It's annoying. So RJ really needs to stop flailing around and pumping her fists in the air like a Fuzzy Navel-addled sorority girl on karaoke night. And she needs to stop soon.

Continue reading Part II of Lyndsey's Blog...


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