During the late 80's and early 90's one of my favorite bands was INXS. Perhaps not the deepest or most profound band, they still played great music that was fun to listen to. Led by the swagger of lead singer Michael Hutchence, INXS had a punch that, despite dwindling sales, delivered the goods. INXS was on the verge of comeback when lead singer Michael Hutchence suddenly and inexplicably committed suicide.
Few bands survive such a devastating blow, and INXS seemed no exception, reuniting only to play with a guest lead singer at the 2000 Olympic Games, hosted by their native Australia. But now, after an eight-year hiatus, INXS has decided the best way to replace their charismatic leader through the magic of a Reality TV show. Suddenly, being the lead singer of an internationally known band is the grand prize of a game show. Somewhere, Hutchence is rolling in his grave.
INXS is not the only band to stoop to this folly; the critically acclaimed R&B act, TLC, seeks to replace influential member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez through a reality show as well; is their no respect for the dead?
I have watched little of INXS' "Rock Star" and less of TLC's "R U The Girl?" but both bands seem to be approaching the concept of replacing a key member the wrong way. To have a replacement audition for you by a) playing with a house band, b) performing cover tunes that your band never did, and c) not performing original material, gives you no real idea of how this potential new member will fit. Do these contests give the surviving members any clue as to how these potential replacements will gel with the band?
The idea that such key members can be replaced in a TV contest is not only ludicrous, but also insulting to their memories. Both Hutchence and Lopez wrote or co-wrote much of their bands' material, aside from being a defining singing voice of their respective bands. Are either TLC or INXS aware of how a new member (a complete unknown) will affect the dynamics of their bands? Are they looking for someone who just sings their songs well, or are they looking for a new collaborator, someone that will help them maintain their longtime audiences? Or are they looking for a fast way to make money off of a tragedy and keep their names fresh?
INXS has had eight years to come up with a replacement for Hutchence, and the best they can do is create an "American Idol" rip off? Does TLC really believe an unknown can hold her own the volatile chemistry that made their trio one of the most dynamic in R&B? And who is David Navarro, and why in the world is INXS using him to help them find a lead singer?
We can only be grateful that Reality TV didn't exist 30 years ago; could you imagine what would have happened if the Doors held a contest to replace Jim Morrison? Or if AC/DC decided rather than look for Brian Johnston hosted a TV game show to replace Bon Scott? What if Van Halen hosted a "Star Search" to replace David Lee Roth, rather than hire Sammy Hagar? (Maybe that wouldn't be so bad). Sadly enough, if "Rock Star" and "R U the Girl?" work, these could become reality, or at least reality TV.