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Thursday, June 30, 2011

X-Factor: Seattle Auditions

So yesterday I went to Seattle to be one of the "live audience" members for one of the X-Factor audition tapings (hence the no post yesterday). I've been watching X-Factor for five years now and have seen seasons from the UK (every one but the first), Autralia and Denmark. I think it's safe to say I'm a bit of an X-Factor fan. I'm psyched about the US version and was even more excited to attend some of the auditions. It was a lot of fun, and an interesting look at the behind the scenes aspects of the show. Here are some observations/info from last night:

* We arrived an hour early, as they recommended, and luckily stood in the first portion of the line. Because of this, we were seated in the "first five row on-camera zone," which apparently means we'll be on camera in the shots where they're focusing on the judges. I hope so! We were given a briefing before the show started that covered all of this.

* In line, we were able to watch some of the producers bring out contestants and place them randomly in line for those shots they use before auditions (basically, contestants they know will be on-air "waiting" in the "audition line," though obviously they just place these people in the audience line on the day of the judge's auditions and edit it to make it seem like they don't know this person will make it through).

* The first guy that got placed into the line in front of us was given instructions from the producers to look pensive and contemplative, and prompted with hilarious lines like, "how do you look when you're thinking about something?" or "more pensive!"

* Another contestant was filmed from afar "walking" to the audition line. She had to do this three or four times. Apparently she wasn't walking correctly?

* Once inside, it was uber important that our "on-camera" section was filled. Two people left to go somewhere (bathroom? snacks? who knows, they were gone for 30 minutes) and one of the stagehands had to fill their seats so that the audience looked full to capacity. Poor runaways lost their nice seats, though they deserved it for being gone so long. Our section was lit constantly with a weird blue lighting. Other sections were not lit up, including the floor seats.

* Painfully annoying warm-up guy leads us through equally painful "competitions" while the judges prep backstage. He has a thankless job.

* Judges enter. We're told to have our cameras and phones out, "taking pictures," and going crazy. Apparently they'll be using this shot as the Seattle Auditions Entrance Footage.

* The first group (a tragically named, Boyz II Men-ish boyband) was "the best audition LA Reid had seen yet. Oh, and no worries about LA Reed as a judge. He was charismatic, funny, dry and intelligent. Nicole Scherzinger? Less so. Simon and Paula were exactly what you'd expect.

* Speaking of Nicole, it was her birthday last night. The audience serenaded her. She said that there was no place she'd rather be on her birthday than Seattle. Yeah right.

* Lots of "yes" votes from the judges tonight. Nearly 75% of the acts got through. If we loved them, we were instructed to give them a standing ovation. In the real world, I wouldn't have been moved to give any of them a standing o, but it's what the producers wanted, so it's what we did. (The irritating girls behind us were ready to give anything that moved an ovation.)

* Auditions are LONG, like 10-15 minutes a contestant long. Included were lame questions that never make it on the air (ie: "Any pets?", "if you had a superhero, what would it be?", etc) and oftentimes, multiple songs. The actual judging was usually very quick.

* People were eating all the time. I don't know if this is just an American thing, but the audience was allowed to buy concessions and did so constantly. The rule was only one person out of their seat at a time in any given section, but I could not believe that people seriously couldn't go a few hours without eating. Really, people? You want the camera to catch you walking on by with a hot dog and fries? I don't ever remember seeing that on TV.

* After awhile, it was easy to forget you were in the studio audience and it just seemed like I was watching it on TV, even though the judges were RIGHT THERE. All in all, it was a fun night. I'd go again in a heartbeat, and I can't wait for the airing of the show this September!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pop Blitz 6/28/11

Maroon 5 (ft. Christina Aguilera) - Moves Like Jagger
I haven't been a Maroon 5 fan for a couple of albums now, but this is easily my favorite single they've released since at least 2008. That whistling hook is the strongest part and carries the entire song for me, while Christina is very misplaced and only distracts. A-

Coldplay - Moving To Mars
Definitely different for them, and more than a little Bowie-inspired, this is an interesting promo single. I'd like it better with a different single, but that's more personal preference than anything. B

Kelly Rowland - Motivation
Though this single's doing well, moving from dance to staccato r&b was not a decision I'm happy about for Rowland. Like Beyonce's most recent efforts, there's not enough melody in this. C-

One Republic - Good Enough
Like most of their songs, this single's bread and butter is in its repetition. It's a style of songwriting that I'm getting a little sick of (including the trademark Tedder drum beats). This doesn't do much for me. C+

Beyonce - Best Thing I Never Had
Her album may be a disastrous disappointment, but this is at least one of its better tracks. It's a big, soulful ballad with some rock 'n roll production in the chorus. It's not up with her best, but it's alright. B-

Ed Sheeran - The A Team
The lyrics are definitely the standout here. Beyond that the melody's pretty forgettable and I'm actually surprised this is as popular as it is. I guess Europe needs its John Mayer too. B-

Cobra Starship - You Make Me Feel
Embracing rather than setting trends, this is catchy but sounds like EVERYTHING ELSE and very little like Cobra Starship. It's a disappointment after their last album, which was actually pretty strong. C+

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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Ark - Pantamera

"It's a sensation, a brand new era"

Ark news! I wasn't sure if I was ever gonna get to say that again, so it's a wonderful surprise to be able to feature this new "song" by the band. I put "song" in parentheses because in reality this is a short advert for a Swedish recycling campaign (the randomness!! I love it!). But don't let the word advert scare you away. This is basically a shortened Ark song, with all the pomp and glamour expected. It sounds a bit like their last album, which isn't necessarily the biggest endorsement coming from me, but if added to the tracklist, this would've been one of the best tracks (if not the best). So THAT is a big endorsement! Most importantly, the video is AWESOME. I am so, so, so sad that this band is breaking up. At least they're doing it in style. Though maybe they should take "recycling" to the heart and decide against the split!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the greatest hits here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.