March 2, 2007


Woo hoo! Sorry to gloat, but did I not call it? Ahem...and I quote, from my very first blog:

My support now fully and officially shifts to the Hackers -- I think it'll be a Big Hack Attack this season. How awesome would it be if it came down to Angela and Zac in the finale? That would be some must-see TV for sure.

So here we are, seven weeks later, and whaddya know? The Nashville Star finale was a true family affair -- with Angela Hacker and her baby brother Zac, all gussied up in coordinated gold brocade like an incestuous prom couple, as the last contestants standing. Gee, I wish I'd written something along the lines of "How awesome would it be if I won the lottery and lost 10 pounds this season?" If I had, my newly svelte butt might be sitting on a big ol' pile of money by now.

But enough about my astounding psychic powers. Let's talk about the astounding vocal powers of our finalists, shall we? First, during the show-opening group singalong with Randy Owen on "Dixieland Delight," it was kind of nice to get reacquainted with this season's also-rans, some of who'd been gone so long that they were barely recognizable. Rickiejoleen seemed to have benefited greatly from a recent makeunder, her trademark black panda-eye makeup, trashy bleach job, and pleather pants swapped for subtle earth tones, a swanky salon blowout, and a classy satiny blouse. Turns out the gal cleans up real nice. Dustin Wilkes looked like another man entirely with his new military-regulation haircut -- did he rejoin the Marines after the whole Nashville Star thing fizzled out or something? At least one familiar contestant who certainly didn't change a hair on his head was hirsute rocker Tim LaRoche, an early favorite of mine who I was delighted to see make a rawkin' return after his all-too-premature departure.

But you know, all of this was really just filler to keep viewers on the edge of their sofas for the first 59 minutes of the show. The somewhat perplexing Jewel performance (it was fine, but not very country, and just the slightest bit, well, pretentious), the overly rehearsed banter with the rejected contestants, the pre-recorded Angela & Zac interview, the numerous flashback montages...all of this was cleverly devised to fritter away the minutes while still maintaining viewers in that ideally agonized state of nail-biting, knuckle-cracking, don't-touch-that-dial suspense. But you know, as all these reviews and recaps and rehashes caused my eyes to glaze over, it actually gave me time to reflect back on my own favorite Nashville Star moments from this season. Curious as to what they are? Well, I'm gonna tell you, David Letterman-style, in a snappy top 10 list organized in ascending order of overall awesomeness:

10) Meg Allison Crooning "Walking After Midnight"
You know, as I unearth occasionally painful suppressed memories of this season's eliminations, I realize again and again that this girl was gone way too soon. Meg may have been a little shaky and nervous onstage at times, but what she lacked in confidence she always made up for with that glorious, like-buttah voice of hers, which was perfect for the Patsy Cline and (despite what Randy Owen told her) Alison Krauss coffeehouse-country classics she chose. I would've loved to have heard her composition on Original Song Night. I bet it would've been waaaay better than, um, "Skinny Dippin'." Oh well.

9) Joshua Stevens Taking A Yoga Lesson
After Blake Shelton expressed concern over Josh's breathless singing style (Blake was worried that Josh would pass out -- which, in later episodes, he actually did!), Josh came up with a creative solution for his respiratory problems and enrolled in yoga classes. It greatly impressed me that he demonstrated such willingness to get in touch with his feminine side (which is rare for a man in country music; I don't imagine we'll be seeing, say, macho man Blake maneuvering himself into a downward-dog position any time soon). And Josh impressed me even more when his performances improved exponentially in subsequent weeks. Coincidence? I think not.

8) Whitney Duncan Completely Ignoring Jewel's Expert Advice
You know, Jewel is a woman who knows what she's talking about. The lady's sold, like, a gazillion records, and with her ample bosom and mile-long legs, she's no doubt had to deal with a lot of sexism on her way to platinum status. Therefore Whitney -- a fellow blonde bombshell attempting to be taken seriously in the music biz -- could've learned a thing or two from Mizz Kilcher. So what did Whit do after Jewel advised her not to rely too heavily on her sexy image? Er, she decided to sing the aforementioned "Skinny Dippin'," a song entirely about shedding her skivvies. Why was this one of my favorite moments, you ask? Well, first of all, it was just damn funny. And second, it was an ill-advised tactic that led to Whitney getting voted off.

7) Whitney Getting Voted Off
'Nuff said.

6) Tim LaRoche's One Performance
Ah, Tim, we hardly knew ye. This poor fellow never got a shot to be judged by his peers -- he was cut in week one, the sole episode in which Anastasia Brown and her fellow judges, not the public, chose who stayed and who went. I still think the judges made a grievous mistake, and I believe the rockers of America (myself included) would've readily rallied behind the man whose Ozzy Osbourne fetish, hip-length tresses, skillful guitar-shredding, and barn-storming rendition of Charlie Daniels' "Devil Went Down To Georgia" earned him the (Lyndsey Parker-appointed) nickname "Tim LaRock." Guess we'll never know what might have been. You know, in his bio Tim confessed that his personal goals are "to get on health insurance and get out of this trailer." I personally wish him luck with both endeavors, because he deserves it. And if that rumor that he might be collaborating with fellow rockin' reality-show runner-up (and occasional Nashville Star audience member) Bo Bice is true, then I wish him luck with that as well. Rock on, Tim. Rock on.

5) Cowboy Troy's "Buffalo Stampede" Performance
I know CBT's music isn't everyone's cup of beer, but in my not-so-humble opinion, his wild 'n' crazy performance (with the one-and-only grand marshal of the Freak Parade, MuzikMafioso John Rich of Big & Rich infamy) was one of this season's most flat-out entertaining moments. Cowboys like Troy just don't come along every day, and I will therefore always defend CBT no matter what. The dude is the first African-American country sensation to hit Music Row since the legendary Charley Pride, and the fact that this self-described "blackneck" actually plans to title his upcoming album Black In The Saddle is just brilliant, plain and simple. I say, more power to him. At least he's trying to do something different. Seriously, any closed-minded, short-sighted country fan who balks at the concept of Troy's "hick-hop" needs to check the calendar, realize that it's 2007, and get with the times. Get on board the Freak Parade now, before it leaves without you!

4) Angela's Performance Of "You Don't Even Know Who I Am"
Angie rasped this world-weary tearjerker way back in episode 1, and it was right then and there that I fell goopily in love with her. And apparently, so did the rest of America.

3) Joshua Stevens Reuniting With His Mom
Josh was refreshingly candid through the season when discussing his strained relationship with his absentee mother, and that experience served as divine inspiration for what was undoubtedly his finest Nashville Star moment, his original song "Wish I Missed You." It's too bad that it took a TV show to reunite Josh with his mom after a two-decade estrangement -- and I'm a little surprised that Mama Stevens was so willing to reconnect with her long-lost son after she heard those bitter "Wish I Missed You" lyrics -- but it was tremendously touching to see the reunion take place on camera. Almost as touching as...

2) Zac Singing "If I Wasn't For The Whiskey"
I actually think this is the best original song to come out of all five seasons of Nashville Star. It sounded goosebump-inducingly great when this Alabama slammer belted it out the first time, and when he put an intimate acoustic twist on it for this week's show, it lost nothing in the translation. Seriously, if some high-powered record exec doesn't sign Zac and put this song out as a single, pronto, I might start a record label in my bedroom and do it myself. It's that good.

1) Angela Hacker Winning Nashville Star
You knew this was going to be number-one on the list, right? After all, what could be better than seeing a down-on-her-luck single mom (who at one time considering abandoning her musical dreams altogether) get handed a shiny new Warner Bros. Records contract, while confetti gloriously rains from above? Well, to answer my own rhetorical question, I guess it would've been better if she and her brother had tied, and they both had scored record deals. But since that didn't happen, hopefully Zac will make a guest appearance on his big sister's debut album, since their "Hard To Handle" finale duet was so smokin'. Or maybe Angela can record her own version of "If I Wasn't For The Whiskey" -- after all, she and Zac have the same daddy, so the autobiographical, dirty-laundry-airing lyrics would obviously still apply. But no matter what this lucky lady records, I know I'll be in line to buy it. Congrats, Ange. You done good.

And so concludes an extremely enjoyable fifth season of Nashville Star. I thank all of you out there for watching -- and, of course, for checking out these blogs week after week, whether or not you agreed with everything I had to say. Until season 6, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the Nashville stars.

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