On ''Rock Star: Supernova,'' the contestants have learned to make the most of even the weaker songs, but the Canadian singer-guitarist didn't drive hard enough

By Gary Susman
Updated July 20, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Jenny Galt: Monty Brinton
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”Rock Star: Supernova”: A slap in the face

In 1967, CBS thought the Rolling Stones’ ”Let’s Spend the Night Together” was too salacious for a prime-time performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Forty years later, on CBS’ Rock Star: Supernova, Lukas Rossi was worried that the song was too bubblegum. Ah, progress!

That Lukas successfully turned the song into a metal raver that would suit Supernova (”If we ever had to cover a Stones tune, that’s how we would have done it, man,” said Gilby Clarke) points up two things: first, that the pool of songs the contestants can choose from always includes a couple of wack tracks that seem designed to trip up at least one singer, as if to make it easier to vote someone out; and second, that the right performer can still salvage the wrong song.

Case in point: Zayra, whom I still believe the judges saved from certain death last week just to see what crazy thing she’ll do next (she may be a loon onstage, but she’s great TV). This week, she picked R.E.M.’s ”Everybody Hurts,” a weepy ballad that should have eliminated her (or anyone who sang it). But while her performance was somewhere out there on Planet Bjork, she delivered it with enough conviction to stay in the competition for another week. Phil, also nearly booted last week, picked Jefferson Airplane’s ”White Rabbit,” with its tricky bolero tempo, but its melody suited his sinuous voice, and he wasn’t even rattled when (in a supposedly surprise move) Jason Newsted left his judge’s chair to accompany him on bass. ”Finally, there’s some intensity,” said Dave Navarro. And Jill, who lost a scuffle with Patrice over who’d get to sing ”Helter Skelter,” got stuck with Free’s ”All Right Now,” but she nailed it. ”That’s the first time I’ve seen you perform where I can imagine us behind you,” Gilby said.

Conversely, Jenny continued to play it too soft for a third straight week, failing to animate Incubus’ mellow ”Drive.” (Less Lilith Fair, more Ozzfest, urged Gilby.) Ryan, who followed Jill and sang Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ”Fortunate Son,” looked distinctly uncomfortable (”Are you having any fun?” Gilby asked), and I found myself wishing Jill were singing it instead. Even Toby, who’s one of the strongest singers in the pool, couldn’t manage to add a hard edge to Soul Asylum’s ”Runaway Train.”

In their third week, the competitors seem to be gaining confidence. Dave thought Patrice’s ”Helter Skelter” was too cute and smiley, but the Beatles cover was her most comfortable performance yet. Josh, too, fought for his song choice, Nirvana’s ”Come As You Are,” though his warbly acoustic version wasn’t ”heavy and ugly” enough, Dave said. (”Just remember, ” he added, ”these guys are going to be playing at Wembley, not a coffeehouse.”) Booming-voiced Dana gave good belt to Bon Jovi’s anthem ”It’s My Life,” though she still sounded too sweet; Tommy Lee compared her performance to ”a Celine Dion extravaganza.” Storm offered a wriggling, writhing rendition of the Cars’ ”Just What I Needed,” and although her occasionally bug-eyed facial expressions tend to ruin her performances for me, Jason found her ”professional,” and Tommy found her…well, more on Tommy later.

Not that some of the contestants had ever lacked confidence. Listening to Lukas the King of the Lemurs (resplendent this week in a purple suit), Dave said, ”You really come off kinda arrogant…and that is absolutely awesome, dude.” Magni delivered a swaggering rendition of Stone Temple Pilots’ ”Plush” from behind giant Dolce & Gabbana shades and was rewarded with Wednesday’s encore slot. And Dilana closed Tuesday’s show with her usual scary-good, incantatory performance, a spine-chilling version of the Cranberries’ ”Zombie.”

Let’s take a moment here to praise Tommy’s writers, who’ve armed him with some corny but amusing quips (like last week’s immortal ”Show me some boat, bitch!”), that help soften the ickiness of his increasingly shameless flirting with the female singers. To Lemur King Lukas, Tommy said, ”You’re raising the bar, and I’m pulling up a bar stool.” To stiff Ryan: ”I was wondering if you had duct tape stuck to your shoes.” To Magni: ”Magni-ficent.” To Zayra: ”Yummy.” To Dilana: ”I wanna.” And to Storm: ”I’d really just like to see more of you.” To which Storm replied, ”Six letters: Google.” (Yes, dear readers, I did a search. Yes, she has some topless photos. No, I’m not going to give you the link.)

At the end of early voting Tuesday, the bottom three were Jenny, Dana, and Ryan. And while Zayra was also briefly near the bottom, the final low finishers were Jenny, Dana, and Josh, all of whom chose fairly risky tunes to save their necks on Wednesday’s elimination episode. Jenny risked being compared unfavorably with Magni when she picked an STP song for herself, giving an energetic but slightly off-key performance of ”Vasoline.” Josh followed his Nirvana song from Tuesday with another, ”Heart Shaped Box,” but he added some grit to it (as Patrice did when she sang the tune last week), showing some necessary roughness for the first time. So did Dana, singing a little-known roots-rock number, Sass Jordan’s ”High Road Easy.” You could see Jenny’s crestfallen expression as Dana sang; she knew Dana had shown her up. Sure enough, Jenny got the boot, though she was gracious enough to call her brief tenure on the Rock Star a learning experience. ”It’s the best slap in the face I ever got in my life,” she said.

What do you think? Were the judges right to send Jenny on a long drive back to Canada? Who do you think ought to front Supernova? And who deserves a metaphorical slap in the face?

Rock Star: Supernova

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