The American Idol-Stryper connection

March 6, 2010

(Cross-posted at Idolpundit.)

In news that almost made me regret slamming her performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” earlier this week, I have learned that American Idol season 9 contestant Siobhan Magnus’ uncle used to be in Stryper! This makes me so happy, it’s unbelievable. No, I’m not joking. To Hell With the Devil was one of my first three or four rock cassettes. (Sing “Calling on You,” Siobhan!)

My investigative journalism on this subject turned up another factoid or two. Did you know that…

…everybody’s favorite Season 4 contestant, Constantine Maroulis, once sang with Twisted Sister at the NYSE’s Christmas tree lighting celebration?

Also on the bill for what must have been an awesome Christmas concert…Stryper!

Do the connections end there? They do not.

Did you know that…

Randy Jackson once played bass on a cover of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s classic, “Shining Star?”

It was on a 1990 metal album called Against the Law.

An album by…Stryper!

I do not yet know what all of this means. In an effort to figure it out, I assembled this handy diagram to show the connections between Idol and Stryper. Whatever it is that’s going on here, I think it’s reasonably safe to conclude that Randy “The Emperor” Jackson is the epicenter–the Stryper Svengali. For good or for ill, I know not.

I shall investigate further.

Figure 1: The Idol-Stryper connection

And, yes. This is the sort of hard-hitting investigative journalism you’ve come to expect from Idolpundit On Deaf Ears.


Stryper – “Shining Star” (featuring an invisible Randy Jackson)

Twisted Sister with Constantine “Constantine” Maroulis – “I Wanna Rock”

[Note that Constantine, ever the class act, takes a cheap shot at Stryper at about 3:45.

Dear Constantine: You’re not fit to polish Stryper’s boots.


Gordon Winslow]

[Update: I have been assured by commenters that my interpretation of Constantine’s remarks was incorrect, and that no swipe at Stryper was intended. I regret the error.]

Stryper – “Calling on You”

Stryper – “To Hell With the Devil”


Introducing Idolpundit!

January 11, 2010

As you may recall, last year Jason and I did significant blogging on American Idol. This is a music blog, and while some may not care to admit it, Idol is music. On rare occasions, it’s even music of a very high caliber (Adam Lambert’s “Tracks of My Tears,” for example).

At the same time, the posts didn’t really fit. This is a record-geek sort of place, and the mass injection of pop culture that these posts delivered made for an odd and not entirely appropriate combination.

Because of this, we have elected not to cover American Idol here this year, even though those posts were among our most popular.

Instead, I am pleased to announce the launch of our sister site, Idolpundit!

If you’re an Idol viewer visiting because you liked our coverage last year, you’ll find all of our old Idol posts there. Jason and I will provide the same sort of coverage this season. We’ve also got two new writers who I think you’ll like a lot.

So drop on by and spread the word!

Below is just a small taste of the awesomeness you’ll get at Idolpundit.

Nikki McKibbin – “Cry Little Sister”

“Friday I’ll Be Over U” by Allison Iraheta

December 30, 2009

The reviews are out for Allison Iraheta’s debut, Just Like You, and they aren’t exactly raves.

Barry Walters at Rolling Stone complains that Allison sounds too much like Pink in spots, which is no surprise–while I was hoping her collaborators would try to draw out her original side, this is pop music we’re talking about where the goal often seems to be to do the same thing over and over until it’s deader than dead.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine at All Music Guide is a bit more kind:

Allison may strongly resemble her idols here, but chalk that up to youth: she’s still in the stage where she’s emulating, not innovating, but that doesn’t prevent her from conveying considerable charisma.

Both critics have kind words for album opener and first single, “Friday I’ll Be Over U,” a cross between Joan Jett and co-writer Max Martin’s usual Swedish pop. It’s a good, not great, number, but it does show some potential. I think what I like about it the most is that Allison’s braces haven’t been airbrushed out of the video–that touch shows a glimpse of the genuineness and edginess that I loved about Allison on American Idol.

Allison was my favorite American Idol contestant ever, so I hope she gets the chance to develop.

Allison Iraheta – “Friday I’ll Be Over U”

Cross-posted at Idolpundit.

On the future of Adam Lambert.

June 4, 2009

It’s been a long time since I followed the British music press, but when I did, I seem to recall a crazy level of hyperbole. Bands were routinely called “the best band in the UK” or “the best band since [some legendary musical act]” before anyone had ever heard their first album, based on a couple of hot shows or maybe an early single.

Many of those bands ended up amounting to absolutely nothing, but by that time the notoriously fickle press was already several best-bands-in-the-UK down the road.

I’ve never seen anything comparable here in the States, but the coverage of Adam Lambert, this year’s American Idol runner-up, is giving me flashbacks of the days when I used to peruse NME at the bookstore after my college classes were out. Before the contest was even over, Lambert had appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly solo. The judges, music journalists, the larger media, and bloggers routinely tossed around words like “superstar.”

Superstar? Adam Lambert hasn’t put out anything other than Idol iTunes tie-ins and a single of that Kara DioGuardi song that everyone hated.

Despite this, I am on board with the hype, although more cautiously than many. I used the word “superstar” myself, but hedgingly, asking, “Are we witnessing the birth of a superstar?” I wrote that Adam was a major talent, but, of course, major talents are not always successful.

As a follower of American Idol since the beginning, I’m inclined towards caution. I’ve seen a number of Idol winners or runners-up who seemed to have promising careers ahead of them falter either right out of the gate or when it was time for a follow-up album after the hype of the competition had died down and we, like the British music press, had moved on to a new set of contestants.

It would be a travesty if this happened to someone as talented as Adam Lambert who already commands world attention. To prevent it, Adam should take a long hard look at the rise and fall of Bo Bice.

Bo Bice had a ballsy Southern-rock sound that was popular enough to get him to number two during the show’s fourth season, exactly where Adam finished. Like Adam’s sound, Bo’s was new to the show. Although Bo wasn’t as consistent as Adam, his performances could also be electrifying (most notably here).

But when it came time to make an album, according to All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Earlewine:

They threw everything that worked for Bo on the show out the window — the Southern rock, the blues, the classicism — and shoehorned him into a bland alt-rock setting somewhere between Nickelback and Bon Jovi. Clearly, the idea behind this is that what appeals to the show’s audience won’t appeal to the record-buying public, particularly to teens, but instead of building on the audience Bo had on the show, The Real Thing alienates them.

This approach, or something similar, would kill Adam’s career just as surely as it killed Bo’s. Not that Lambert wouldn’t be able to make a comfortable living between modestly-selling albums and a stage career, but his opportunity to become a superstar–a Mick Jagger, a Steven Tyler, a Freddy Mercury–would be squandered, likely for good.

In order to not get his square peg shoved into one of the music industry’s small set of round holes, Adam needs to take control of his career. He needs to insist on picking his collaborators, and he needs to fight for quality material. He needs to refuse to sing songs that do not meet a high standard. He needs to not let the suits, with their preconceived and narrow notions of what will and will not be successful, push him around.

Can he do it? I think he can. Unlike many prior contestants, Adam has been working in the entertainment industry, if only its fringes, for years, so he likely knows the ropes better than most and hence is less likely to get steamrolled.

I also think the Record People are less likely to steamroll him. When Bo Bice got Bo Biced, the show was still in its early phases and The Powers That Be were focused on producing pop stars. The success of Carrie Underwood demonstrated the narrow-mindedness of this approach and since then we’ve had both country and rock Idol success stories. And I get the impression that the Record People think Adam Lambert’s sound will be plenty commercial as it is.

But I still don’t trust them, and neither should Adam. In order to realize his potential, he needs to take control. I pray that he does.

American Idol, 2009 – Episode 40 (5/20/09)

May 20, 2009

Idol LogoSince there are only two contestants left, a separate post for my weekly power rankings seems pointless, so I’ll just do it here.

Power Rankings:

  1. Adam Lambert
  2. Kris Allen

Who Should Win

Adam Lambert. I thought Kris was better last night, but if we’re picking our new American Idol based on the body of work created over the course of the season, Adam gets the prize.

Who Will Win

Kris Allen. A solid night and the mass movement of former Gokey voters to Kris should put him over the top. I’m not rooting for him, but I can be satisfied with that result.

One of the things that I like about this show is that nice guys can finish first. The music industry can be a nasty, backstabbing, evil thing. But American Idol can, if the contestants can make it through the judges’ and producers’ manipulations, provide a platform for some talented nobody who isn’t a lying, thieving vampire to get the shot he deserves. I don’t know either Kris Allen or Adam Lambert personally, but the online gossipers and the journalists who interview people from their hometowns and such all seem to have the same thing to say: Both of these guys are very nice people. And that makes me happy.

They say the same thing about Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta, Matt Giraud, and hell, almost everyone from this season. They say it about Kelly Clarkson. They say it about David Cook. They say it about Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood and many others. That is a wonderful thing, a thing not to be overlooked.

Of course, there’s always the chance that one or more of the folks I’ve been so kind to in this post insists on only getting brown M&Ms soaked in Perrier backstage, prior to screaming at some stagehand and demanding a private dressing room for his poodle. I may be being much too romantic here. I hope I’m not. Talented people who are also good people should finish first once in awhile, and my sense is that, through this show, sometimes they do.

My blog will be very late tonight. Mom and Pops Winslow are in town, and after dinner with them, I have to prepare for an interview that takes place tomorrow for a job I badly need. So I have no idea when I’m going to be able to watch the show. When I do, live DVR blogging and spoilers will be below the fold.

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American Idol 2009: Jason’s Episode 39 Recap

May 20, 2009

Idol LogoI wasn’t going to do a recap of last night’s performance by the final two, but after reading Gordon’s live blog, I felt compelled to respond.  My response?  Gordon is smoking large amounts of delicious crack rock.

Last night’s episode was good in spots, but overall, it was fairly disappointing.  I guess I will review each performance round by round.


In this round, the contestants get to pick their favorite performance from the season.  I hate it when they do this.  Shouldn’t we get a new performance here?  As evidenced by Archuleta’s performance of “Imagine” during last year’s finale, something usually gets lost during a repeat performance of these songs.  It could be that the initial surprise of any vocal tricks or arrangement adjustments has worn off, but these rarely seem to be able to compare to the first performance.  Until now.

Adam Lambert:  Adam wisely picks the Gary Jules version of “Mad World” for his favorite performance.  This was the performance that had many people proclaiming Adam Lambert to be a genius the first time around.  I actually did not like it as much as many other viewers did, preferring instead his earlier performance of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of my Tears.”  That said, I think Adam’s performance of “Mad World” last night was more restrained, more emotional, and more affecting than his original performance.  I could have done without the fog machine and Hellraiser jacket, but Adam sang the song very well.

Kris Allen:  For some reason, I was kind of expecting to hear Kris perform “Heartless” tonight, because in my opinion it has been his most relevant performance to date, showing his ability to take a current pop hit and successfully rework it to suit his style.  However, I think Kris actually made the right choice in picking “Ain’t No Sunshine.”  First, Kris just performed “Heartless” last week, so it wouldn’t have seemed as fresh.  Second, “Ain’t No Sunshine” was the first performance from Kris that made people recognize him as a genuine contender for the top spot, and having a reminder of that moment was a good boost to Kris’s underdog status going into tonight.  Finally, Kris actually outdid himself, turning in an even stronger performance than his first.  Kris did a lot tonight to remind us why he’s there, and he also showed how much he has grown over the season by improving on one of his standout performances of the season.

WINNER:  KRIS (barely!)


Ah, the dreaded producer’s pick, a job that used to fall to Clive Davis before his old, scaly ass got the boot from the show.  Now the job has been given to producer Simon Fuller, and someone needs to take it away from him, pronto!  Perhaps credit Obama for this, but for some reason we get a couple of late 60’s protest songs from two of the greatest male soul singers of their generation, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye.  Why?  Both songs are iconic, and neither belongs on a glorified pop karaoke contest like Idol.  And here’s why.

Adam Lambert:  Who in the hell could have possibly thought that Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” was an appropriate choice for Adam?  Seriously, Simon Fuller, what were you thinking?  Was it some sort of sly reference to the plight of the gay population as they fight for marital rights, much like African Americans fought for voting rights in the 60’s?  No matter the reasoning, it was stupid, and Adam did the best he could with it.  Despite a few moments that sounded overly screechy and took away from the melody, there were some more restrained moments that actually showed a gospel side to Adam’s voice that had not been heard up to this point.  It was an uneven performance, but I think the good just slightly outweighed the bad.

Kris Allen:  Kris was saddled with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On,” and here’s one of the areas in which I think Gordon is smoking crack when he says that this song doesn’t have enough melody.  What?  Seriously?  Kris takes the familiar acoustic route on this one, and I don’t think I would blame the song for this performance’s ultimate failure.  No, I think Kris Allen is to blame.  This is a powerful song, and Marvin Gaye was able to convey genuine pain, confusion, and sadness in his untouchable rendition of this song.  When Kris Allen performs it, the song just sounds like a bouncy little pop tune with little emphasis on the weight of the lyrics or the message they contain.  It was a coffee house performance, and I was not impressed.



And even more dreaded than the producer’s pick is the always cringe-inducing Idol song.  There have been many bad songs in the past, such as Jordin and Blake’s “This Is My Now,” but that was absolutely topped last season with David Cook’s “Time Of My Life,” which actually contains lyrics about a “magic rainbow.”  Not kidding.  For the past couple of seasons, these songs were submitted to the Idol songwriting contest, which has apparently gone the way of the dodo.  But not to worry, because Kara DioGuardi, the queen of insipid pop drivel, is on the show and has contributed a song for this year’s Idols to sing.  It’s called “No Boundaries,” and it makes me want to strangle a puppy.  This one even manages to be particularly insensitive to residents of our recently storm-plagued Gulf Coast, containing an inexplicable line about “Weather(ing) the hurricane.”  Nice.

Adam and Kris:  I will quickly review both singers together, because they were both saddled with this terrible pile of dreck.  No singer could work with this song, and it was proven by both Adam and Kris.  Adam missed several notes and seemed lost, while the song was in the wrong key for Kris’s voice.  The music itself was much more suited for Kris’s singing style, but the key issues keep him from gaining a solid edge.  Both singers went down in flames on this one, and I hope that Kara will not be back next season to contribute more awful crap like this, not to mention her worthless, rambling commentary delivered with her ridiculous finger-wagging and head-bobbing.


So that makes the final count 1-1-1, and we have a tie ball game!  Who’s going to win?  I can honestly say that I do not know, but I actually have a feeling in my gut that it will be Kris.

If you have ever watched “America’s Next Top Model,” they have a way of referring to models as either “commercial” or “editorial.”  Commercial models are more conventionally pretty and better suited for mainstream ad work, whereas editorial models are more edgy and appropriate for high fashion and avant garde campaigns.  Obviously, Kris would be the commercial model, and Adam is the editorial.  Kris has so much more mainstream appeal than Adam, whether it be his boyish good looks, his shy southern charm, or his safe and inoffensive vocal delivery. Adam seems to be much more on the love-him-or-hate-him side of things.  While both singers failed with Kara’s horrorshow song, Kris would have benefited immensely from a simple key change, while the song itself was just not suited to Adam’s style.  This is the type of album that the winner will have to make, and Kris is much better equipped to handle this dreck than Adam.  For that reason, I think Kris should win, lest Adam be drained of every single ounce of the flamboyant personality that made him such a hit this season.

American Idol, 2009 – Episode 39 (5/19/09)

May 19, 2009

Idol LogoWell, here we are! The last game of the season for my second-favorite sport.

And I have to say, this is a good one. That Adam Lambert is here is no surprise, of course–he’s almost the only thing the media has talked about since about two weeks in to the voting rounds. The surprise is Kris, the cannon-fodder who could. Despite the judge’s ridiculous and constant pimping of Gokey, the much more deserving Kris has made it to the end game. I’m not rooting for him this week, but I salute him for turning this competition back into a competition. I would like to think that the rejection of their pet Gokey would cause the producers and the judges to be a little more hands-off next year. Yeah, I know that’s ridiculous, but a man can dream.

The media is, of course, being their ridiculous selves. Did you think the elimination of Gokey would stop the inane Red State versus Blue State stories? Of course not. Kris has now taken on the Gokey role. Hey, media! Screw you! Politically I’m slightly to the left of Ann Coulter, and I’ve been supporting Adam since the top eleven. Stop with your stupid stereotyping. “Red Staters” are not scared by Adam’s apparent homosexuality. Who do you think bought all those Queen and Judas Priest albums? “Red Staters” often like stuff that rocks, and Adam often rocks.

That said, Kris has a real shot here. I don’t think the Gokey voters are going to go to Adam, and there were a hell of a lot Gokey voters. I question their taste, at least I did while they were voting for Gokey, but they like their music on the mellow side, and that is what Kris provides and provides well. We shall see!

Live-blogging and spoilers below the fold once the show starts at 7:00 Central, and our weekly polls once the show is over. I am going to be running a little late tonight, though, so it won’t be nice and synchronized like it usually is.

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