Monday, September 04, 2006

I blew you up / and then you blew my mind

Yesterday I came across that bizarre (and that’s the only word for it) story in the Sunday edition of the NZ Herald where the “judges” of the rather sad NZ Idol show took some of the icons of New Zealand popular music to task for being, and I quote, “snobs" for not supporting their show. Of course they do themselves no favours as the names quoted have, and have had for years, overwhelming public respect, and indeed, affection, that Idol can only dream of. Whilst both Russell Baillie and Russell Brown have successfully demolished the rather puerile criticism (although neither countered the ‘what has Graham Brazier done in the past twelve years’ twaddle by pointing out that, unlike any Idol “stars”, he has an album in the NZ Chart right now, and plays to full houses), I might use the story as a place to let my thoughts wander from…

The story underlines the real issue highlighted here…and that is that Frankie Stevens and, indeed, most of the cast and contestants over all these shows from Popstars onwards (because that’s where it all began) still delude themselves by thinking that any of this has anything to do with music. I guess that’s because no one has actually sat them down and said the music, the records, the temporary fame and the like are only peripheral to the their real role, as objects to increase advertising revenue. No-one, outside a small, self deluded circle ever sees these people as musicians, artists, or even singers, really. Their stardom, however much it can be stretched by clever management (as in the US), is no more real than an increase in soap powder sales as the result of a successful campaign. They are soap powder.

So maybe there is a responsibility for those that are purveyors of this sort of soap powder to explain to their products, be they the “judges” or the “stars”, what this is really about, rather than allowing them to think that this might be the beginning of something big, something of importance beyond temporary ratings boosts.

As I said above, the whole global Idol phenomena can be easily traced back to Jonathan Dowling’s NZ Popstars show which launched a band called TrueBliss. They had a spin-off album, the fastest selling album in NZ history, selling double platinum in a week, complete with a number one single and a sold out frenzied tour. I was backstage at a few and had seen nothing like it.

But it soon began to go sour, as the second single didn’t do so well, the third completely flopped and the calls stopped coming with weeks of the show ending. I was called in at the end of the TrueBliss story to try and help work out what was an increasingly uncomfortable situation. Despite the spin on the TV show, which had my old friend Peter Urlich as “manager”, he was a hired actor and management was handled by the very astute Dowling.

Without going into details, the end did not come easily for TrueBliss. They were all very pleasant girls, and not without talent, but it was hard for any of them, with the exception of Carly, to understand that it was over. As it ran out, there were recriminations and accusations about money, which the media leapt on with shameful glee, and indeed the girls even bought in a lawyer who had to leave a meeting with her tail between her legs. But Dowling had kept scrupulous books and the endgame was that the girls actually owed him money which he’d waived.

The real problem was, like Idol, that no-one had explained the real rules, expectations and parameters to the girls. At one of the last meetings, shortly before the end, a couple of them kept asking “why don’t we just go out on tour again?”. It was hard, and heartbreaking to try and gently explain that, four months after the mania, nobody wanted to know anymore. The fantasy world that had been invented for them by the combination of a very smart idea with shrewd marketing, was over. I felt extraordinarily sorry for these five who had such unrealistic and impossible dreams foisted on them.

Frankie Stevens et al remind me so much of TrueBliss, flailing out as it falls apart. Lets face it, he was never a big name as such, before this, and awful and unwatchable TVNZ variety shows beckon again very shortly…. and its even more pathetic to see Megan Alitini back where she started.


Peter McLennan said...

thank you Simon! I've often thought NZ Idol has nothing to do with the music industry and everything to do with serving up an audience for advertisers, and generating revenue for the tv network (and the cellphone companies thru txt voting). It's exploitation, sure, but is the music industry any better?
Simon, did you see that Blockbuster Video and Sounds are combining their retail operations?

pollywog said... that what it's come down to ???

slagging off real talent to, as Neil Finn says, beat up a story to boost flagging ratings...

...instead of looking to foister blame elsewhere perhaps they should look at their own shitty format and the credibility of the judging panel making the requests

I don't like Frankie Stevens since he made me paint under his foldback wedges at some crap corporate gig saying " c'mon bro, if a jobs worth doing it's worth doing right" but my point was I do rigging. You know, climbing round the high stuff, butt firmly clenched round a bit of I-beam with a rope between my teeth hauling up a motor chain and fixing it securely so it doesn't drop and kill somebody so as a painter im pretty shit. I did however paint under his wedges more out of a misplaced sense of solidarity for my brown brother in wanting to look and be all that for the man than anything else...pfffft maybe he expected me to shine his shoes while I was at it. Thinking back I should 've painted them instead. So Frankie, if a jobs worth doing then it's worth doing right and that means paying some dues not expecting a handout for selling some product during the ad breaks and make no mistake IDOL is a backslapping handout not a handup...big difference

Ahhhh...the lovely Meagre Alatini, long on hair short on talent. Methinks all those years of wearing her hair in that tight weave corn braid style must have constricted the bloodflow to her brain. Damn, if I wouldn't want her staring me down though and asking the hard questions like "what is it all about???" Maybe it does matter where you start think ??? huh ??? hello Megan ??? is anybody in there ??? oh well I'm half expecting a classic Zidane brain explosion from her soon with a thunderous headbutt delivered straight to the mighty Stables chest, although if his chest is as hairy as his eyebrows i'd imagine she'd get whiplash on the springy recoil.

Stables...who ??? never heard of the guy before this. He seems like your average obnoxious sheepshagging radio DJ not worthy of comment. Love them eyebrows though and incidentally not too dissimilar to that of the stingray commander in the photo you posted. Funny stuff alright

Hmmmm...for all his nowse you'd think the crocodile hunter would know better than to fuck with a stingray. Maybe he thought the stingray watches TV and wouldn't strike knowing all the good works Steve has done for it's fellow denizens of the wild kingdom. Thats the thing with wild animals, no bloody gratitude.

So about this IDOL format then. How's about a hiphop idol ??? It is after all the most bankable culture/music out there so lets have it. DLT, sirvere, and ladisix doing the judging it'd be off the hezZzy mah nezZzys fah shizZle eh ??? whut whut !!!

Incidentally and not totally unrelated, wouldn't it be great to show a comparison of NZ on air grants to hiphoppaz, indy pop bands and angsty guitar chix with a where are they now type of spin on it, noting of course the chart success of the groups they funded, radio play they got, and the selection criteria they used ???

Can you smell what "the rock" is cooking ??? yeah bullshit I'd say...


Bob Daktari said...

wish they'd asked some musicians who could be less diplomatic in their reponses than the usual (over used) big names of our music industry for the Herald piece - but then I guess expecting the idol judges to have a clue about whats happening in NZ music would be asking far too much.... just as their expectations in return are simply bizarre