By Jason Menard
Melissa O’Neil may have walked off this week with the title of Canadian Idol, but the new female vocal talent that we should be worshipping got dismissed from another show last night.
While Canadian Idol stumbles through another season that will propel its winner to a 15 minutes of spectacular mediocrity, another show that hasn’t had nearly the following, Rock Star INXS, has showcased Canada’s true undiscovered talent. Two Canucks were firmly entrenched in the final four candidates to front the Australian band, J.D. Fortune and the just-dismissed Suzie McNeil.
The difference between the Michael Hutchence wannabes and O’Neil? Refined talent, stage presence, and excitement.
The problem with any of the Idol shows is that they generally crown the most inoffensive and mildly pleasing of the group. By offending the least amount of people they’re able to make their way through the show. But while they’re pleasant performers, they don’t incite the passion that true successful artists need to fuel their careers. Rock Star’s performers have shown what music’s supposed to be about: dynamic stage presence, powerful performances, and – most importantly – passion.
In fact, watching the performances on the INXS show, it’s painfully obvious that any of these performers could blow Canadian Idol’s participants off the stage with just one vocal. And the main reason for this disparity? Age.
Sorry to say it, but Idol’s restrictions to a mid-20s age limit means that there are a number of performers in this country who aren’t eligible for no other reason than a birth certificate. Fortune and McNeil, aged 31 and 28 respectfully, don’t fit into this cookie-cutter mould of Idol prospects.
But what the Idol producers haven’t figured out is that young doesn’t necessarily mean fresh. Sometimes it takes time for performers to discover who they are and to find themselves musically. And with the notoriously short career of today’s pop stars, hitting 30 doesn’t preclude them from burning just as bright and fading away just as quickly as Kalan Porter and that Buddy Holly wannabe from year one – OK, his name is Ryan Malcom, but admit it, you forgot too! And, given their age and experience, perhaps they’d make more of an impact on the marketplace.
Our pop idols don’t have to be disposable – but we set them up to be by hosting annual shows. As soon as one idol is crowned, many are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the next season, for their next object of affection to be revealed. And the very thing that makes INXS’ singers appealing – their more-polished performances and finished edges – is exactly why there’s an Idol age limit. Younger singers are more malleable and can be shaped into whatever image that the producers want after the voting audience has its say.
The INXS concept is something different. The audience has a voice in defining the bottom three, but it’s the band that makes the final decision, based on who they think is right for them. And perhaps that’s the way it should be. Perhaps the judges and the people who make their living in the music industry should have more of a voice
I admit, I came to the INXS show late. Not being a big fan of the band, I resisted watching despite my wife’s insistence that the performances were good. In fact, when I found out the members had to memorize 20 INXS hits, my first thought was, “they had 20 hits? Well, I guess if you’re number-one on the Canadian Top 40, the Billboard Chart, or the Mumbai Hot 100 it’s all the same.” I enjoyed a few of their songs, but not enough to warrant any investment of my time in their future.
But what has made me a fan over the past few weeks has been the power of the performers. Their on-stage presence has been riveting. Their power, passion, and understanding of what it means to be a musician has made me care about who wins, even if I didn’t care about the band before this.
What is clear that despite McNeil’s departure from the show, she has what it takes to take it to the next level with or without INXS backing her vocals. And even if Fortune doesn’t become INXS’ front man next week, he and his Pretty Vegas breakout track should be rocketing up the Canadian charts very soon.
The latest Canadian Idols have been crowned. Unfortunately, they didn’t come from the show with the same name.
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