The Lucky Ones: a manufactured hit

 

The Launch

A new television reality show was launched last night. Initially I wasn’t going to write about it, but the process of selecting a singer and matching the week’s chosen song to their recorded and live performances in 48 hours was riveting TV.

In the premiere five unsigned artists were auditioned. The Revel Boys were up first, but they didn’t wow anyone.

Then came Logan Staats. He’s from the Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario. In other words, he’s a Native Canadian. His audition was heartfelt. So they decided to record the song with him.

After the break, two more artists were noted but rejected (having no more than the mere mention of their names), and then 14-year-old Vivian Hicks came out. Her audition was impressive, to say the least. These young ones are definitely the stars of the future. They chose her to record the song, too.

Artists & Repertoire

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Scott Borchetta is an A&R man. His job is to find and develop new talent for his company, Big Machine Records. His claim to fame is Taylor Swift. He was also on American Idol for awhile. He wants a hit record.

One filmed sequence in last night’s show demonstrated his ‘sensitive’ style. Logan Staats was having a hard time during the taping of his record. Scott said, “What’s wrong?” and Logan gave some technical excuses for his unhappiness. Then Scott said, “What’s really wrong?” Logan had no words with which he could express this thoughts. (The audience knew, instantly: here was a natural born performer with no training in music being directed by the engineer to ‘do this, do that, and do the other’. It was ruining his performance.)

Scott then explained that Logan needed to get out of his head and into his heart. Easier said than done, but Logan then went on to record his own version in his own way, and it worked.

The Producer

busbee

busbee has a prodigious talent for writing and producing hit records. The song may have been his own, which is probably why he was such a stickler for pronunciation. In the recording studio, he was in charge, and the difference between how he handled Logan and Vivian was quite telling: he seemed to be reining Logan’s emotions in, while cajoling Vivian to give it more ‘welly’, as the British say.

I suspect the two individuals were grateful for the time and attention he took, but of the three components of the process, his was the most dry.

The Mentor

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Shania Twain needs no introduction. (We Canadians love our stars, and she’s a star of the first order.) Her job on this program was to prepare the two performers for their live presentations of the song. It is the easiest of the three processes because Shania comes with years of performing experience.

Her approach to Vivian was to take her through the song step-by-step, literally. Vivian was a sponge soaking up the advice from this accomplished performer.

She was more ‘hands-off’ with Logan, recognizing that his was a natural ability to perform. At one point she held up the lyrics for him and reminded him to look at the audience. He didn’t even open his eyes, in the end, but that didn’t matter.

Pop Princess

artists_Vivian-Hicks

Vivian Hicks is already an internet star. The program could have been forgiven for making her the artist to launch the song. They would have been sure of more than 4 million sales.

Her version of the song was almost a complete copy of the original demo. It was ready-made for her, or someone just like her. All she lacked was the emotional ‘oomph’ that the song required. (And her nervous habit of giggling, when she finished her performance, made the lyrics seem hollow.)

But she will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

Soul Man

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Logan Staats isn’t an unknown artist. He’s just not widely known. At 29, he says that this is his last chance to really make it to the next level. If it hadn’t worked, who knows what might have happened.

But his performance was flawless. The emotional level just perfect. And when I checked on the new music trending on iTunes this morning, “The Lucky Ones” was at the number 10 position.

Conclusion

I was skeptical at first when this new show was announced. But, after watching the first installment, I can see that they really want the best version to be launched, not just the easy winner.

Now, I would even say that we are The Lucky Ones.

The Launch

 

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This Is Us: ‘thirtysomething’ reborn?

 

Hidden in Plain Sight

There is a link connecting these two television series even though they are 30 years apart: Ken Olin.

I didn’t start watching “This Is Us” until the second season, in much the same way that I hadn’t started watching “thirtysomething” until its second season. But, instantly, I felt there was something very familiar with the story-telling style.

And it isn’t just the number and pairings of the main players, although that was probably what first caught my attention: three couples, and one singleton.

It is the sense of Family.

Ordinary People Living Ordinary Lives

The other ingredient is the sense of Ordinary. These are not superstars playing these roles, they seem like regular folk. That makes them more relate-able.

The characters are psychologically complex, but in some ways their needs are quite simple: they just want to be loved. Don’t we all?

Finally, this latest version of that dynamic has captured the attention of a new generation of thirtysomethings. Now they can understand why we were glued to the TV when ‘our’ show was on, all those years ago.

 

 

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Savant: High Functioning Autism

The Good Doctor

 

The Good Doctor

Here is a TV show that is busting the stereotyping of disability as debilitating. The acting is superb, and the story lines are believable. But the star is Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun (“with a U”) Murphy.

Who would have thought that an autistic individual with Savant Syndrome could be a doctor? Obviously South Korean television executives. This show is based on their original series by the same name.

Freddie Highmore

For television viewers, Freddie will be a newcomer. But he has been acting most of his young years, mostly in films.

Finding Neverland

freddie-highmore-child-actors

He played Peter Llewelyn DaviesĀ  in the film, “Finding Neverland” in 2004.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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He was Charlie Bucket in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in 2005.

August Rush

August Rush

And he was Evan Taylor in “August Rush” in 2007.

Bates Motel

golden-globe-awards-2017-snubs-bates-motel

But it was his five seasons as Norman Bates on the TV series “Bates Hotel” (2013-17) that honed his ability to act as a social misfit with psychological hangups.

Conflicted Response

In the Fall Finale, the character, Shaun, is presented with a dilemma. His mentor, Dr. Aaron Glassman, wants Shaun to see a life coach. Shaun doesn’t want to. So, when Dr. Glassman tries to forcefully take him there, Shaun reacts by slapping his own head several times. Where have we seen that before? Oh, right: “Rain Man” the airport scene.

 

 

This was filmed four years before Freddie was even born, but it would have given him a template for reacting to the stress of not wanting to do something when being pressured to do so.

Conclusion

“The Good Doctor” has been picked up to complete the first full season of 18 episodes. Let’s hope there is a season two, so that we can learn about his world while Shaun learns about life.

 

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Borrowed Stars: Canada Hitmakers

Heart Nothin at all

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Heart

Originally from Seattle, Heart got their start in Vancouver with Mushroom Records. In time, they gained fame in the States and all over the world.

 

 

 

Shari Ulrich

Born in San Rafael, California, Sharon (Shari) Ulrich became a staple of the Canadian music scene while with the Hometown Band, touring mostly in BC. She then went solo and became an musical icon in her own right.

 

 

 

Bruce Miller

Bruce D Miller (to avoid confusion with other Bruce Millers) is also from San Rafael, I believe. His move to Canada, started in the Toronto folk club scene. He moved to BC later. (My claim to fame is cashing one of his A&M Records cheques at the Broadway & Burrard branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia in Vancouver in 1976.) He is best known in BC for writing the Valdy hit, “Hometown Band”

 

 

 

Conclusion

They may have come from somewhere else, but they were very popular in British Columbia when I lived there in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

I hope you have enjoyed the show…

 

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Jenny Lind: Art Imitating Life?

The Greatest Showman

Courtesy of buzz.tt

 

The Greatest Showman

We went to see this musical yesterday. It was a great show, man! But the greatest? No.

Last year’s La La Land definitely had more impact. The difference is probably the result of the passage of time: it’s been almost 170 years since the events the story told.

There’s no denying that Hugh Jackman is a charismatic performer. And Phineas Tyler Barnum must have been charismatic, too, but he was no looker.

So, to have anyone suggest that he could attract the romantic attention of “The Swedish Nightingale” is another example of those self-promoting stunts that Barnun was known for.

The Swedish Nightingale

 

Jenny Lind

 

According to Wikipedia, Jenny Lind was a good singer. And she attracted a lot of romantic attention herself. Hans Christian Anderson even wrote stories with her in mind, but when she wasn’t interested in him in that way, she became his “Snow Queen”. (That makes her relevant to the kiddies as Elsa in Disney’s “Frozen”.)

By bringing her to the United States for a “World Tour”, Barnum made her famous. As has been pointed out, by Gordon Lightfoot in his song “A Lesson in Love”, they needed each other, professionally, if not emotionally.

Conclusion

In this day and age of #metoo and #timesup, relationships between promoters and artistes have always been tricky to navigate. None of it is new, but then show business has always had a nasty reputation, even as far back as Greek and Roman times.

Can we hope that “reel” life has ‘turned a corner’? I like to think so.

 

 

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Finding Father: Hook versus Peter Pan

Finding Neverland

Courtesy of YouTube

Finding Neverland

J.M. Barrie wrote the original story of Peter Pan, as a play and then a book. The film Finding Neverland explores how this came about. According to Wikipedia: the story focuses on Scottish writer J. M. Barrie, his platonic relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, and his close friendship with her sons named George, Jack, Peter and Michael, who inspire the classic play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Never Grew Up.

Since its creation, this story has caught the imagination of children (and parents) everywhere, and has spawned a few films, two of which I shall discuss here.

 

Hook and Peter Pan

 

 

 

 

Effectively, Disney’s animated version of Peter Pan (1953) became the template of our understanding about Neverland and the Lost Boys. It was almost 50 years later that two different live action versions came out within a couple of years of each other.

The first film, Hook, took the unusual stance of having a grownup Peter, having to rescue his children from the clutches of Captain Hook by recapturing his childhood spirit as Pan.

The second, Peter Pan, effectively recreated the animated Disney film, but with nuances that were not obvious in the cartoon.

 

Time Has No Meaning

The story has a timelessness about it. Neverland is a place where children go when they become “lost” (die). There they can play all day long, without worrying about what is happening in the ‘old’ world.

Hook’s role is a strange one. Because of the crocodile, he doesn’t like the sound of any ticking clocks, so he has had them smashed up, effectively making time stand still. He becomes a reverse Father Time.

This also accounts for the fact that no one knows what day it is. One day slips into the next as easily as the Lost Boys fall to sleep after a busy day.

 

Father Figures

The other thing that becomes obvious is how the connection to Father drives both stories. In Hook, the Captain decides to become a sort of psychiatric confessor for Peter’s son, Jack, effectively becoming his surrogate father. The conflict for the child is centred around a home run (“Run Home, Jack”) baseball game, and it’s the means by which Peter wakes up, when the baseball hits him on the head.

In Peter Pan, Mr George Darling, Wendy’s father, IS Captain Hook in Neverland. Never before had I even imagined that. The effect is startling.

 

Conclusion

The missing piece to the puzzle seems to be Father. For Lost Boys everywhere, finding father is our great task in life. Can we do it? I hope so…

 

 

 

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80’s Music: US or UK?

80-s-music-wallpaper-80s-music-30704404-1871-1180-3

Wallpaper courtesy of gotradio.com

 

Which Side of the Atlantic?

On a taxi ride to the Exeter Airport from the train station in 2007, the driver talked about great 80’s songs. I joined in, thinking that he was speaking of the New Romantic movement. Imagine my surprise when I finally cottoned on to the fact he was talking about American groups.

Here is a sampling from both sides, now:

Duran Duran: Is There Something I Should Know?

 

 

Peter Gabriel: Don’t Give Up (ft. Kate Bush)

 

 

Mike & The Mechanics: The Living Years

 

 

Roxy Music: More Than This

 

 

Spandau Ballet: True

 

 

Phil Collins: In The Air Tonight

 

 

Foreigner: I Want To Know What Love Is

 

 

Journey: Faithfully

 

 

Toto: Africa

 

 

Fleetwood Mac: Little Lies

 

 

Cyndi Lauper: Time After Time

 

 

Richard Marx: Right Here Waiting

 

 

Conclusion

Twelve videos, six from each side. Which are your favourites? I like them all.

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