Monday, May 2, 2016

And the Grammy goes to...Haley Reinhart, Better

Haley Reinhart just dropped the album of the year. There's not even a close second. Don't argue with me, or I'll pound you over the head with stacks of unlistenable formula pop drivel tracks that somehow pass for music today.

WARNING: If you are allergic to heaping helpings of lavish praise, or have shitty taste in music, you should stop reading now because I'm about to launch into a love-fest review of biblical proportions.

OK, so Haley Fucking Reinhart...WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST DO!! As an original Halien who's bought every stitch of music you've ever released, I know to expect nothing less than brilliant vocals and great music from you, and am never disappointed, but even I was caught off guard on this one. 

You see, people, this girl just released an epic masterpiece. An album for the ages that history will one day place alongside the all time greats. No, I'm not joking, either. 

Her 2012 debut album, "Listen Up!", was a solid debut effort that had some great songs, so it was natural to believe that 4 years later she'd build on the solid foundation with more sophistication and edge that comes with experience.

But this??? WTF!!

Haley, this is absolutely ridiculous. Sheer brilliance. Every song is a journey, and when put together it's the most cohesive fusion of genres, eras, production mix, technology and raw, organic vocals and musicianship you will ever find on an album.

What really floors me, though, is that Haley has primary writing credit on every song (save Can't Help Falling In Love), was the executive producer, and released it without a label as an independent artist. How the fuck? are BRILLIANT! 

I gotta confess, I completely underestimated you somehow. Yes, even as one of your most loyal and devoted fans, I was wholly in the dark as to the scale and depth of artistic capabilities you possess. I most humbly and profusely apologize for not realizing it before, and feel the need to plead for your forgiveness. 


So, with that, it's time to get into what blew me away about Better LP.  You see, what we have here is a musical score. A complete album that defies the modern music formula of assembling disjointed tracks around a single to fill out an album.

It's an intense experience listening to the LP alone with headphones on and no distractions. There's layers of sounds coordinated to bring you up, stop you in your tracks, twist you in a knot, leave you hanging on the edge, and then embracing you with flourishes of choruses, anthems and harmonies that are perfectly, yet unpredictably, merged for maximum effect.

The sexuality runs hot throughout the album. The instrumentation and production are a veritable aphrodisiac that teases, excites, arouses and titillates the mind and body. The clever, sometimes playful double entendre lyrics add to the seduction. Haley's voice, though....that's the centerpiece of everything. Her passionate, sultry tone lilting softly and tenderly one moment, then deeply moaning the next, and digging in with fierce, raw growls when it's time to climax with soaring choruses. If this album doesn't get you in the mood you're dead.

While seduction is a primary theme of the album, it's by no means just a sex kitten record. There is a message throughout emphasizing the importance of standing up for yourself in life, not allowing lovers to get away with disrespecting or devaluing you, and not selling out to phonies with a good line of bullshit. Haley especially enjoys turning the tables on pretentious, narcissistic, pretty boy douchebags, so if you happen to be one you may not love this album as much as I do.

If you like classic rock, jazz, funk, soul, and psychedelic mind fuck music, and would love to see all of them fused together in an epic masterpiece by one of the most brilliant and talented music talents of this generation, then buy the damn album. Buy it now. Listen to it over and over again. Thank me for introducing you to it. And, most importantly, love Haley like I do for delivering such a precious pearl to the world, and making it a BETTER place for it.

You may have noticed I haven't mentioned a single song on the review. That's because while the album is made up of magnificent individual tracks, it's to be experienced as a whole. Like a great bottle of single malt scotch, you would never separate out the individual components inside of it. The flavors, colors, accents and spices which comprise the delicious finished product are enjoyed as part of the whole. It's a delight to the senses and the mind. Enjoy the album that way, as a whole, the way it's supposed to be consumed, This is too rare, too good, and too much BETTER than anything else out there, to experience any other way. 

Anything less would be uncivilized.

Poo Out!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Poo's Idol Tribute

As American Idol draws her final, dying breath after what was for years one of the most dominant television series of all time, I feel compelled to make one final post dedicated to the contestants who have mattered to me most.

My list is not based on record sales, number of twitter followers, degree of fame, or number of awards received. It's my tribute to MY Idol family, and with family you don't measure your love on superficial things.

* * * * * *

Crystal Bowersox
Season 9

Crystal, you are the very definition of authenticity. Your heart pours into your music, and the results of this outpouring is a gift I could never repay. Your music has depth, and reveals you as a woman courageous enough to share with us your soul, warts and all, even when at your weakest and most vulnerable. I respect this greatly. Whether good, bad, silly, tragic or anything else life has to offer, you bring us a perspective from deep and sometimes ruthless introspection.

I vividly remember when I was in a horrible job situation three years ago, and your "Get Me Out" was the only thing that got me through my morning commute to that hell hole. I would literally crank it up full and belt out every word with tears rolling down my cheeks. I felt trapped, suffering, and this song was my savior. It's so brilliantly written, so beautifully sung, and so brutally honest that I felt it like a living, breathing life form.

Therefore, I want to thank you Crystal. Thank you for having the courage to bear your soul so people like me can find inspiration and connection through your life stories put to music. You are an absolutely brilliant writer, and if I knew a word beyond brilliant I would use it. You are also a tireless touring artist devoted to living a musician's life. Your voice is a beautiful, pristine, penetrating cry. I am truly grateful to have virtually met you through Idol, and seeing you in person only reinforces that opinion.

Get Me Out

* * * * * * *

Haley Reinhart
Season 10

My precious Haley....where do I even begin. Your determined run on Idol was unlike anything I saw on the show before or since. I was so fired up when you would get dissed by the judges after a sensational performance I was ready to run through a wall. Your vocal talent captured my imagination, your moxie captured my respect, and your seductive beauty captured my heart. I was hook, line and sinker, and remain that way 5 years later.

Since Idol, I've felt as invested in supporting you as I was with your run on the show. Along the way, I've been amazed by your ceaselessly sunny demeanor, unflappable sense of optimism, and unshakable belief in yourself. Sometimes it drives me nuts, to be honest. I am a tremendous skeptic, believe with perfect faith in Murphy's Law, and constantly fight self-doubt. Apparently, opposites attract!

As you surely must know by now, I'm absolutely mesmerized by your jazz vocal chops. That said, I also know you are an artist with interests in many different styles and genres. I have no problem at all with this, and think it's healthy. I enjoy whatever music you make...even those genres that are not a natural fit for my tastes.

I pegged you from the start as a once-in-a-generation talent with the entire package, and despite what has at times been a rough ride I see you moving inextricably in the right direction for industry respect as both an artist and person. That matters to me almost as much as it does to you, and I am beyond proud of you, Haley.

I feel like in a way your journey is also my journey, and I love living vicariously through it. Best of luck on the upcoming album, girl, and thank you for making me feel like a part of your magical ride. Can't wait to see where the road takes us next.

My Cake

* * * * * * *

Pia Toscano
Season 10

Pia, you left the show way too early back in Season 10, but when you left the world about stopped spinning on its axis for a week. America was in open revolt! It seems like forever ago now in some ways, but just like yesterday in others.

That was then, this is now. What I love most about you is your tender heart and open soul. As gorgeous as you are, and holy crap are you gorgeous, your willingness to wear your heart on your sleeve endears you to me the most. You are fragile but feisty, and are willing to fight for what you believe in. You project such a warm heart, and I perpetually want to give you a hug.

With a road harder than most, you've fought through the wilderness, led the Kings to 2 Stanley Cups, and ultimately landed the elusive victory of releasing new music. I just downloaded You'll Be King, and absolutely love it. I know this is the start of a big run for you, and one day hope to collect on that hug.

* * * * * * *

Phillip Phillips
Season 11

Dude, absolutely love how underneath that laid back country boy vibe beats the heart of a very deep thinker, brilliant writer, tremendous recording artist, and even better live performer. You also stand up for what you believe in. The battle you've taken to 19E for conflict of interest knowing it would be a very tough career risk takes stones.

Your season on Idol was the last one I gave even a half a shit about. You stood out for me from the beginning, but when you won it with that tearful victory performance of Home where you hugged your parents mid was one of the most captivating TV moments of all time.

The music you write is edgy, deep and powerful. I loved both your albums, but nothing beats the original vigor. Still pissed as hell they didn't put Take Me Away on the standard album and make it a single. Anyway, no complaints.

Live you're an absolute machine. That Lollipop Mashup is INSANE! Blows the crowd away every time.

Bottom line, you seem like a real cool dude. A regular guy you could drink beer and watch college football with. Fame and fortune didn't change you a lick, and I doubt it ever will, either. That's not in your DNA.

I also appreciate you for liking my sense of humor. I toss a lot of crap out on twitter for a laugh, and you frequently like what I sling.

Lastly and mostly, I look forward to many more great songs, meaningful songs, rocking songs, and fun shows in the years to come. Cheers, bruh.

Lollipop/Lose Yourself/All I Do Is Win/ Mash

Poo out.

Friday, March 4, 2016

#NeverTrump, #Rubio2016, #HaleyAlways

Yes, I realized I haven't posted in forever. Yes, I know this blog has typically been devoted to my favorite American Idol alums. Yes, I get that Haley Reinhart is a knockout. Yes, I love her seductive voice. Yes, she has a new album called "Better" coming out soon. Yes, I posted a picture of her below because I want to look at her while I type. Yes, I have digressed, but I have no regrets.

Anyway, on to the main point. I can't stand Donald Trump.

Really. I mean, I hate the guy, Detest the guy. Loathe the guy. Abhor the guy. Will never vote for the guy. Never, ever, ever, ever, never.


It's utterly insane to see this petulant, certifiably insane billionaire, who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from his daddy, and has used that money to scam ordinary people, bully old ladies, buy political favors, and become a media whore with a bullshit celebrity reality TV show, is the GOP front runner.

Look, I've been Republican for nearly my entire adult life. I've had to hold my nose and vote for "lesser evil" candidates I didn't care for more times than I want to admit (see: Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole). In politics, that's typically how it goes.

Not this year. Trump is a bridge too far.

It's hard to imagine how such an uninformed ignoramus could get to this point. He knows absolutely nothing about the economy, foreign policy, social issues, taxes, trade, health care...need I go on?

His campaign is a mixture of "America First" protectionism and Jerry Springer ad hominem. He's leveraged his TV fame to con well intended (but woefully gullible) Americans to believe he's the savior they've been waiting for to shake down Washington's inept, corrupt political class and fix the our problems.

He does this with incessant screams, insults, threats, bombast and hyperbole under a crude, twisted pretext of patriotism. His political enemies, real or imagined, are smashed with the hammer of xenophobia enabled by an unprecedented media bully pulpit.

His flock follows him unconditionally. Policies are non-existent, as is a single shred of human

decency, but who cares? He's a pissed off celebrity billionaire, and that trumps everything if you're Trump.

He supported and donated to every Democrat, including Hilary Clinton, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi? So what! It was payola to get get special favors, so it's all good. Gotta respect such a transparent lack of ethics and principle. He can't be bought, because he does the buying!

Evangelicals, who back in the 80's launched the Reagan Revolution as the Moral Majority, and  proudly wear the label of "Values Voters" and the "Religious Right", have appsrently decided to burn their bibles at the altar of Pagan Trump.

Why? Because despite his history of scamming, lying, cheating stealing, and supporting every value and organization they oppose, they have a blind messianic belief that he'll "Make America Great Again".

At one time, evangelicals held their candidates to the strictest of moral codes. Not sufficiently pro-life? Buh-bye. Adultery? Gone.

Now? A thrice married, pro-Planned Parenthood conman, who proudly references his adulterous conquests, and brags about his dick size and how he could make Mitt Romney get on his knees and blow him if he wanted, is their Chosen One.

I also have Jewish friends utterly undeterred by his rabid White Supremacist following. Have a David Duke endorsement, Louis Farakhan endorsement, and show reluctance to denounce them in kind? No problem. All they know is that he will "build a wall" and "Make America Great".  After all, Trump knows best.

Trump does not have a single policy that explains how he'll "Make America Great", just the unsubstantiated belief  he must know what he's doing....afterall, he's a rich and famous celebrity!

It says a lot about how desperate and pathetic the State of The Union has become. The past eight years, liberals were conned by Obama, thinking he was the messiah who would make sure they didn't have to worry about paying for gas or their mortgage, gullible voters on the left just bent over and took it. Most still would bend over and vote for it again if Obama could go a 3rd term.

Hopelessly blind belief in a charismatic leader who will deliver a Utopian world is not a knew phenomenon.  History is littered with false messiahs for a reason: People are lemmings.

Now, Trump has the conservative electorate on their knees ready to service him with the same blind loyalty liberals had in Obama messiah.

Suffice to say, I'm pretty disgusted rightt now with the cult mentality of the Trump Chumps. So naive, so gullible, and so lacking in common sense. When you stop thinking for yourself you cease being free, and that's what's happening. They just want Trump to think for them because thinking for themselves is too confusing.

Thus, my support is for Marco Rubio. I give tremendous credit for leading the charge to expose the fraud that both Trump and the Utopian Democrat candidates truly are. It took stones, and he showed he's got a pair.

Add to that, Marco is funny, brings serious policy depth, is youthful, understands the real life struggles of first generation Americans, and is the kind of positive messenger we need to unify the country. He's conservative, but also pragmatic when necessary.

I respect his vision, and hope somehow, someway, before we sell the nation out again to another huckster making false promises, that we somehow manage to get it right this time. I know I'll do my part.

#NeverTrump, #Rubio2016 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The New Faces of Jazz: Haley Reinhart & Scott Bradlee

"Lovefool", the buttery, sumptuous new retro jazz cover of the Cardigan's original 1996 Top 40 hit single, is the 4th collaboration between Haley Reinhart and Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox (Habits, All About That Bass, Creep), and the 4th time this dynamic duo has smashed it out of the park. It most certainly will not be the last.
At the risk of sounding grossly hyperbolic, we may just be looking at the new faces of a full blown jazz rebirth in popular music.

Haley Reinhart & Scott Bradlee are not just the biggest new thing in jazz today, they are the biggest thing to happen to jazz popularity in decades. How big are they?

  • They have owned the iTunes Jazz charts since Habits crashed into the Top 5 in January. 
  • Currently, all of their recordings are in the Top 30, while Lovefool and Creep remain entrenched in the Top 5. 
  • On YouTube, the 4 videos have 12 million combined views and that number is growing fast. 
  • Their arrangement of Creep was copied by a performer on The Voice finals. 
  • They have received effusive critical acclaim from major music review sites like Billboard, Time and Yahoo. 

Clearly there's something is going on here. If you look at the jazz charts today, there's virtually no new music or artists besides them, and no artists so young (Reinhart 24, Bradlee 33).

Of course, Bradlee's PMJ enjoyed substantial success prior to teaming with Reinhart. His cheeky, vintage arrangements of modern hit songs has clearly struck a chord with both young and old.

Bradlee's first viral YouTube ("Ragtime Interpretations of 80's Hits") took off in 2010. Afterward, he began doing vintage takes on other modern hits, including a Motown tribute of Nickleback and a few live performances featuring vocals by singers he knew or had worked with.

In early 2013, Bradlee began the modern era of Postmodern Jukebox. Adding NY singer and personal friend Robyn Anderson as lead vocalist as well as upgrading the production, things started to really take off. Their cover of Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" became a YouTube smash hit with over 7 million views.

Bradlee did not sit still after this first taste of success, and continued to prolifically add new cover videos with styles as varied and diverse as Klezmer, 70's Soul, Motown, Doo-Wop, Bluegrass and, of course, his beloved Vintage Jazz.  In doing this, Bradlee showed a command of vintage American music far beyond that of the Ragtime that started it all.

As the months progressed, Bradlee demonstrated sharp business acumen, continuing to strike while the iron was hot. By promoting PMJ via guerrilla marketing, social media, live national appearances, countless interviews and tireless touring he was able to recruite some the best talent most people never heard of as singers and performers. Artists like highly respected bassist/singer Kate Davis, sultry Ariana Savales and gorgeous, powerhouse vocalist Morgan James elevated PMJ to still another level.

In late 2014, Bradlee bumped into jazz-hipster former American Idol finalist Casey Abrams. Abrams offered the playful showmanship and expert musicianship that was a perfect fit for Scott's bawdy live shows and videos, as well as a fairly sizable online fan base to help increase awareness for PMJ.

Casey has since recorded two well received and successful PMJ songs/videos (Stacy's Mom, I'm Not The Only One) and several cameos, but perhaps his biggest contribution of all was introducing Scott to an incredibly gifted, once-in-a-generation jazz vocalist: The stunningly beautiful Haley Reinhart.

Herself an American Idol finalist and best friend (perhaps more?) of Abrams, Haley is a jazz educated performer with a resume that includes the Montreux Jazz Festival, a nationally televised performance with Tony Bennett, and a feature Carnegie Hall performance with Grammy Award winning Jazz musician Irvin Mayfield Jr.

With natural instincts for scatting and jazz intonation, an unlimited range, a playful, sexy vixen persona, and a luscious vocal tone that's like a warm oil massage of the auditory senses, she was the ultimate find for Scott. Bradlee is himself a master director and pianist who has a similarly instinctive, unteachable "feel" for arranging vintage music.

What's created between them is not so much throwback as it is timeless. I cannot imagine a more compatible collaboration of talent and style than Scott and Haley, and what we're seeing unfold is the ground floor of something very special. Jazz has been stuck in time for decades, almost a secret society for a select few to appreciate. Well, times are a changin'.

This dynamic duo is at the right place at the right time to become the new faces of a popular, postmodern rebirth of jazz, and I personally cannot wait to see what this young superstar team has in store for us next.

Poo Out

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bye Bye Miss American Idol Pie

"A long long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance, and maybe they'd be happy for awhile. But February made me shiver with every paper I'd deliver. Bad news on the doorstep, I couldn't take one more step. I can't remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride, but something touched me deep inside the day the music died."  
- Don Mclean
It's almost like hearing The Tonight Show or Saturday Night Live has been canceled.

American Idol, an American institution which for over a decade destroyed the competition, revolutionized television programming, and drew more viewers than every show on TV not named the Super Bowl, is going bye bye.

After the show began its free-fall during the disastrously manipulated 12th season, and subsequently crashed into the death spiral of  irrelevance by this, its 14th and 2nd last season, the handwriting was on the wall.

Then, in an official statement by FOX this afternoon (Monday) it was announced to the surprise of no one that the old gray mare was being sent to the glue factory next year after its 15th and final season.

I have to admit a sense of sadness. I casually watched the show in its first 5 years, randomly catching occasional episodes and watching the finale, but in Season 6 for some reason I started becoming a super fan and religiously watched every episode.

Therefore, here is my personal Idol journey from AI 6 thru today, where I will highlight my favorite artists of each season.

Season 6

I became infatuated with sexy Haley Scarnato, who had a pleasant enough voice and very hot legs. Unfortunately, she was beaten to death by cranky British judge Simon Cowell every single week without fail. I was outraged by these unjust attacks on my foxy babe, and for the first time I began to vote.

Alas, my Haley was eliminated 8th despite my best efforts. I was hoping she'd somehow sneak into the Top 5, but it was not meant to be. Fortunately, another girl named Haley would come along four seasons later with the chops to match her sexy legs, but I'll save that for later.

Season 7 

I was all about the Cookster from the get go. He was a revolutionary Idol. The first contestant to really transform songs, and used smoke and lighting to create a larger than life stage presence. He was a rock GOD, and I was all in for the dude bell to bell. Though I feared the uber-pimped Christ Child (David Archuletta) could cruise to victory, for what would be one of only two times in my Idol watching history.... MY fave won!!

Season 8

Allison Irahita was my fave of AI8. She had a voice with the smokey, sultry textures of a 40 year old blues singer in the body of a 17 year old girl. She probably should have waited another year to audition, because she was a bit too young to handle the fame and craziness that comes with show business. She was bounced in 4th, but I was hoping she'd shock the world and sneak into the finale.

Season 9

Mamasox. I absolutely LOVED her. This would become the first Idol artist I followed on twitter, and also the first I remained a huge fan of post-Idol. I have bought all her records, and consider her to have the most pristine voice of any Idol. She also proved to be a true road warrior and a BRILLIANT song writer of tremendous depth. When she unbelievably lost to Dewyze I almost smashed the TV.

Post-Idol, I've gained genuine respect for her dedication to her craft as a musician. Crystal came to the show not only talented, but street wise and worldly. After the show, she used those tools to become a prolific recording artist and tireless road warrior. She tours exhaustively all over the country (except SoFL, damn it), and became everything I had hoped she'd become when I watched her as a contestant.

I am proud to be a Village Idiot (the original nickname of her fan base), and will always be a devoted fan of Crystal Bowersox.

Season 10

The Haley bug bit me again, but this time it was a MUCH deeper bite. I fell in love with Hot Haley Reinhart at her Oh Darlin' audition, and continued to love her all the way through the competition.

I also loved Pia Toscano's voice, and her incredible beauty, but sadly she was sent home WAY too early...which nearly caused me to destroy the TV set again. I've also found Pia post-Idol to be a beautiful woman inside and out and root for her success personally and professionally.

So, do you get the idea I may dig super hot women?

Anyway, there was no greater injustice than Haley not making the finale, and I think it may have led to the demise of the show. The producers and judges railroaded her out so the country twins could get to the finale. Man, did that piss me off. Yes, it was TV set smashing time yet again.

That said, Haley has me transfixed. As a contestant, I LOVED her sex appeal, and still do, but I love her incredible voice even more....especially when it comes to jazz. She is gifted with an almost unfair combination of smokey, sultry, smooth, silky, raspy, and about a thousand octave range that can blow minds. With all those gifts she can sing nearly anything, any genre, at the highest levels, but in jazz she has a natural instinct for improvisation that sets her apart from all others. She can texture and layer her vocals to massage the brain into a near euphoric state.

Haley came to the show still learning who she is as an artist. She's still on that journey finding herself, learning who she is, what she's best at, what will work for her the most, and how to navigate the business of the business. What I've observed as she's gotten a bit older, a bit more experienced in her music career, is that she's starting to find her path, her way, her calling. She is a bluesy jazz singer, and from her success with Postmodern Jukebox, her many performances with Grammy winning jazz man Irvin Mayfield Jr, and her tight relationship AI 10 finalist Casey Abrams, himself an accomplished jazz musician prolific in countless instruments, she is now on the path to something special.

I am a HUGE fan, an original Halien, and am rooting for her to become the very best she can be...which in her case is an incredibly high ceiling.

Season 11

Phillip Phillips and nothing else. He kinda snuck up on me, too. I liked him, but wasn't crazy about him until the season wore on and I suddenly realized I had bought nearly all his iTunes music performances and none of the others.

Best of all, he WON!

Phillips, like Bowersox, is a very deep writer. He draws from heavy and philosophical thoughts on life, and his music often reflects that. Plus, he's also a truly dedicated musician and road warrior. His post-Idol success has been enormous, but right now he's stuck in the legal mud with 19 Entertainment, and until that's settled things will be much quieter for him.

At his heart, Phillips is an edgy rocker - darker and more haunting than casual fans realize (which I love), and less pop rocker or pop/folk anthem singer. His brilliant deeper cuts reflect this style. Expect his music moving forward to be in that vain. His artistic conviction and energized, jamming live performances reveal a truly authentic person and artist who always puts the music first.

He's called The New Boss for good reason. Can't wait for the next chapter to unfold.

Season 12

I did not like this season at all, but my favorite was Candice. She hasn't found her way post-Idol, but she had some VERY strong jazz performances on the show that deserve recognition. Especially You've Changed, which is one of my all time Idol fave performances.While she won the crown that season, it meant little as the label bailed when the ratings tanked. She's been dabbling with hip-hop as of late, but I can't see that working for her. She should stay in the soul lane.

Season 13

Jessica Meuse. Another beautiful girl with a wonderful voice who was unjustly hated like poison by the judges, especially Keith. She made it to 4th against all odds (no, she thankfully didn't sing that over-used dirge), and now post-Idol is a true musician dedicated to living life on the road. That means constantly gigging and pumping out self-penned original music (she just released "Done", her first single). I respect her commitment, and hope she carves out a nice niche for herself. Reminds me of Crystal Bowersox in music style and approach to life as an Americana fusion artist.

Season 14

The season is still in motion, but Quentin gets the nod as my favorite. Has there ever been a more intense artist on the show? A strong vocalist who got into the staging and artistry, he caught a lot of shit from Harry for pitch - which was complete crap - and as a result got eliminated 6th. he deserved to be in the finale. Very interested to see what he does post-Idol. He has a theatrical way about him, too. I expect eclectic and authentic from whatever he does moving forward.

OK, going on 3 AM and I gotta work tomorrow.

Poo out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Phillip Phillips Takes On 19E

Phillip Phillips Tells Big Brother He's Walking

"Hey Nineteen
No we can't dance together
No we can't talk at all" 

- Steely Dan 
In a world where the big label music machine calls all the shots and treats their talent like toilet paper, we have a little ant that's daring to try and move the rubber tree plant. That ant's name is Phillip Phillips.

Phillips, who came to fame winning American Idol in Season 11 with the ubiquitous, multi-platinum coronation hit "Home", the biggest hit single of any contestant in the history of the long running iconic show. He then followed it up with multi-platinum hit "Gone, Gone Gone" off his platinum selling debut album "The World From The Side Of The Moon", and followed that with a strong sophomore effort, "Behind The Light".

Seems all hunky-dory, right?

WRONG! Phillips is mad as hell, and he's not taking it anymore. He was pissed when they made "Home" into the signature sound he was supposed to adopt on all future singles. He was pissed they put his brilliant track "Take Me Away" on the Target bonus track list with no iTunes presence. He was FURIOUS when on his 2nd album they kept him entirely in the dark on the title, and he only found out about it reading social media.

However, what put it over the edge was when 19E forced him to do promotional shows supporting Idol 2 years after he was on the show with NO compensation. Then, made him do private appearances, again, for NO compensation.

At this point, Phillips said he had had enough. No control over his music style, no control over his album titles and no compensation for gigs he was never consulted on led to Phillips firing back with guns blazing. He was not gonna be nobody's pop-folk pretty boy doing free shows with minimal creative control over his album titles and singles anymore.

But what could he do? Nobody takes on Big Machine Label and has a career to live another day. They are the big shots, and fighting them means a certain black list. He surely wouldn't risk everything for principle knowing the consequences were dire, and the cards all in the hands of the slave master labels, right?

WRONG! In a shocking display if substance over narcissism, Phillips dropped a bombshell lawsuit on 19E, one of THE biggest labels/management entities in the world.

It's David vs Goliath.

It's Rocky vs Apollo Creed.

It's Kenny Poo vs Political Correctness.

Yes, Phillip Phillips has given the middle finger to The Machine and in the process gambled he may "never work in this town again".

Why would he take such a risk, when playing bitch to the master would safely give him the means to a life of comfort? Well, for the same reason he refused to wear multi-colored Tommy Hilfiger prep-wear on American Idol, opting instead for his typical gray t-shirt and jeans against the wishes of the big corporate sponsors and producers: He is his own man.

Of course, being newly engaged has probably helped fuel that strength of character even more, as his wife-to-be is a preachers daughter who by all accounts has shown a fiery determination to make sure her future hubby does the right thing.

So, what now?

Well, a very long court battle is likely to ensue. The powerful lawyers of 19E will extend this case out for years, and Phillip will be in a no-man's land in all likelihood until it's resolved. I'm no high powered attorney, so don't ask me what options he has within this time frame, but hopefully he'll have some avenue to push out the inspired music that will no doubt be created from this challenging period.

I know one thing: Every Idol ever born, from the Kelly/Carrie top of the food chain down to the low place finishers trying to find their way, all owe Phillip a measure of gratitude for having the stones to take on corrupt mountain and not back down.

Strength to you, Phillip. We the people are rooting for you.

Poo out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Phillips Rocks the Hard Rock

Phillips struts his stuff for the Seminole Hard Rock crowd in Hollywood, FL

Having seen Phillip Phillips last summer opening for John Mayer at the Cruzan Amphitheatre (West Palm Beach), and post-Idol the year before doing a few acoustic songs at Mizner Park Amphitheatre (Boca Raton), this would mark my first time seeing Phillips headlining a concert tour of his own.

One thing you can see right from the start is Phillips, while still ever the humble and gracious southern gentleman, has evolved from a deferential leader into a truly confident front man fully embracing the spotlight of his own tour. He may say he gets nervous (as he claimed after he played my personal favorite Phillips song, "Take Me Away", a killer, dark rock bonus track from his debut album, "The World From The Side Of The Moon"), but it certainly doesn't show. He is in complete command, always appearing comfortable in his own skin as a performer, artist and leader of the band.

The capacity at the venue is 5,500, but they curtained off the back third of the theatre so capacity was probably about 3,000 for the show. It was pretty packed, so my guess is he drew at least a solid 2,500. Not too shabby for a first solo tour.

The crowd itself was a mix of all ages, as one would expect from his older Idol base mixed with teenage fangirls of his popular singles, and couples looking for a fun Saturday night out to catch a good show. As a couple in our 40's, my wife and I were probably about the median age.

The crowd understandably seemed less familiar with tracks from his sophomore album, "Behind The Light", than TWFTSOTM. That's to be expected considering BTL has sold roughly 125k copies compared to the million plus selling blowtorch of his platinum selling debut.

It doesn't mean the crowd wasn't into it, just trying to absorb what for many was new material with lengthy jam sessions that probably left them simultaneously impressed and a bit confused. My wife was one of those, as she's much more familiar with TWFTSOTM than BTL, and didn't realize he was such an instrumental-driven jam band performer at heart.

I see this as a transformational period for Phillips that will include some of these growing pains. He's morphing into the artist he is at heart, and some fans of Idol and his popular singles may not be coming along for that ride.

"Home" and "Gone" are still huge crowd favorites, and will be for the rest of his career. The crowd goes nuts for the familiar hits, and the songs are close enough in style to where he is heading as an artist so that old and new fans will remain equally excited to hear them at his shows.

Therefore, I seee Behind The Light as more of a bridge album than a destination record. Poppy songs from his album, like his single "Unpack Your Heart", while performed with gusto, are somewhat overshadowed with instrumental jams that are really the centerpiece of his show. More complex rock songs like "Fly" and "Trigger" seem far more in line with where he is heading as an artist, along with the haunting "Thicket" and intricate acoustic jam "Face". These songs are enhanced by the extended intro and outro jams, not overshadowed. Like they are truly part of the songs rather than a diversion.

What I would like to see as the next step for Phillips is to establish a permanent band, even change from being a solo artist to The Phillip Phillips Band. If so, David Eggar, his virtuoso cellist, is an absolute must to be in this group. He's simply brilliant at his instrument, while also a highly charismatic live performer, and the one musician of the group who is truly irreplaceable outside of Phillips himself.

I'd also like to see Phillip embrace taking on some instrumental solos of his own. He is an extremely skilled guitarist, and I think the crowd would appreciate seeing him be part of the jam session element in that respect. It would expand his presence in a positive way, and complete his role of band leader and headliner.

My summary takeaway from the show is that he was still a hit with the crowd, but we're really only scratching the surface of this journey. It'll be fascinating to see the makeup of the audience when he is touring with the 3rd album under his belt. By then he'll be a more established with a bigger catalog of music to choose from for his tour, and perhaps a somewhat different audience demographic mix at his shows.

I personally can't wait to see how it all plays out, because I'm a huge fan of where I see this train headed.

Poo out.