On ''Rock Star: Supernova,'' the contestants try new gimmicks, but the judges winnow the field from ten down to eight

By Gary Susman
Updated August 10, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Jill Gioia: Monty Brinton
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”Rock Star”: Two singers get the ax

The 10 contestants left standing after last week’s elimination episode of Rock Star: Supernova got a very nice gift: customized Gibson electric guitars. Those who survived this week got a trip to Vegas on a private plane. No word yet on what bonus the rest of us will get for watching every episode.

Make no mistake, the competition is getting more Darwinian. The contestants are stepping up their game, but the panel of pros is also turning up the heat. This week’s shows began with Dave Navarro criticizing everyone but Dilana for shrinking from the chance to perform ”Won’t Get Fooled Again” with Gilby Clarke, and they ended Wednesday with not one but two singers getting the ax.

”If it were up to me, Dilana would win this thing right now,” Dave said. He was referring to her bravery, but her cover of the Who’s anthem proved once again that she’s the performer to beat. Gilby appreciated her onstage chemistry with him, saying, ”After that, I have no doubt that a woman can front our band.” What, that hadn’t occurred to you before? (I enjoyed the view from the camera mounted at the end of Gilby’s guitar neck, by the way.)

Jill’s idea of taking it to the next level meant that she started her performance of Tracy Bonham’s ”Mother Mother” seated on the floor and ended it with a Storm-style stage dive. Jason Newsted worried that her physicality came at the expense of her vocals. Dave was scared by her fierceness, comparing Jill to Carmela Soprano. Ryan also tried a new gimmick, performing the Rolling Stones’ ”Paint It Black” wearing what looked like a druid’s hood, then throwing it off for a dramatic reveal of a black stripe of makeup across his eyes. ”Interesting,” said Tommy Lee, unconvincingly. ”That was the [bleep]!” enthused Dave.

Storm offered another unexpectedly demure performance, though she showed she could handle the difficult melody of Queen’s ”We Are the Champions.” Tommy said, ”I hope we didn’t spook you into not rocking.” Don’t worry, Storm said, ”I’ll spank the crap out of you.”

Zayra wore another memorable outfit: a black top hat and a gold lamé jumpsuit. She looked like a cross between Willy Wonka and an Oscar. Graciously backed by fellow contestant Magni on acoustic guitar, she destroyed Mott the Hoople’s ”All the Young Dudes” (she could barely keep up with the lyrics, and she sang in a melody and key of her own invention), but by now, we know they’re just keeping her around for her alien showmanship. ”If this show was called Rock Star: Planet Pluto, you’d win in a landslide,” observed Dave.

In Tuesday’s only real surprise, Josh discovered that Tommy would be drumming during his performance of Stone Temple Pilots’ ”Interstate Love Song.” Josh barely moved during his song, justifiably paralyzed, since Tommy upstaged him as he did the similarly colorless Patrice last week. This time, Patrice sang a cover of John Lennon’s ”Instant Karma” that was similarly unremarkable except for her apparent relief that she didn’t have to compete with the antics of Animal from The Muppet Show behind the drum kit.

Magni, whose family had been flown in from Iceland for the occasion (loved the visual of his headphone-wearing baby), sang a version of Live’s ”The Dolphin’s Cry,” backed only by his own acoustic guitar. The judges loved it, without indicating any sense that they remembered Ryan pulling the same stunt last week with his solo piano-driven version of ”Losing My Religion.” Also showing a softer side, for the first time, was Lukas. The Lemur King showed he could croon, sort of, with a performance of Radiohead’s ”Creep,” though when he hit the falsetto break, his growly inner Billy Idol emerged once again. (I liked how he winked as he sang the line ”I don’t belong here,” as if to say, ”Like hell I don’t.”)

Toby capped Tuesday’s show with a rendition of Talking Heads’ ”Burning Down the House,” the second half of which he sang through a bullhorn that was wrapped in the flag of his native Australia. Dave found the prop cheap and gimmicky, but Jason thought it worked.

At the end of Tuesday’s episode, early voting placed usual suspects Jill, Zayra, and Patrice in the bottom three, but the final tally saw Patrice off the hook and Zayra miraculously saved yet again. Instead, Jill was joined in the bottom by Josh and (in a shocker that drew loud boos from the taping audience) Ryan. The judges, too, didn’t think Ryan deserved to be in danger, and after he belted out a fiery version of Depeche Mode’s ”Enjoy the Silence,” they told him he was safe for the week.

Jill sang a perfectly fine version of Aretha Franklin’s ”Respect” that recalled her week 1 rendition of Janis Joplin’s ”Piece of My Heart.” The contrast between her two performances this week suggests that she should avoid all ’90s post-punk shriekers, but she’d be great as the singer of a classic rock cover band. As for Josh, Tommy observed that this was the second straight week that someone he’d backed had ended up at the bottom. ”I’m starting to get a frickin’ complex, man,” Tommy said. (No wonder no one wanted to sing with Gilby.) Josh’s response was a version of Bad Company’s ”Shooting Star,” characterized by a new head-bobbing move that recalled the ousted Phil and which made me motion-sick to watch.

I figured Jill’s old-school blues-rock would save her as it has in the past, but the judges decided that the viewers, having placed Jill three times in the bottom three, were sending a message. But the judges also made the surprise move of sending Josh home as well. It was almost certainly inevitable that Supernova would cut two singers one week, given that INXS did the same on Rock Star last year. Still, the double elimination must have come as a shock to Jill and Josh, though their days were clearly numbered anyway. At least they lasted long enough to win those sleek guitars.

Were you surprised by the band’s decision this week? Who needs to go home next? And what, short of flag-wrapped megaphones for everybody, is going to keep these contestants from getting blown off the stage by their would-be employers?

Rock Star: Supernova

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