The Lonely Island have become grown-ass men. In a new video for YouTube's Comedy Week, the trio take on the mature subjects of wife sex and cemetery real estate ("wobble-dee-wobble-dee drop into my grave plot"). It goes hard, because it's #DIAPERCORE. Reggie Watts also debuted a video for YouTube's celebration with his variation on the Rickroll, faithfully re-creating Rick Astley's outfits and letting his upper lip dance to '80s synth like no one is watching.
When Britney Spears was originally tapped to join The X Factor’s new, improved, Abdul/Scherzinger-free judging panel earlier this year, the first question wasn't, as was the case for newly minted American Idol judge Mariah Carey, how it would affect her career, or even whether she had the industry acumen necessary for the job. It was something even more basic than that: Could she survive as a non-singing-and-dancing television presence over the course of a three-month season? There are two kinds of pop stars: The ones we love to hear speak, and those we'd rather have shut up and sing the hits. Spears, to everyone but her most die-hard fans, has always been the latter, all stories of her supposed former pop prescience notwithstanding. The ability to be personable and funny and good on Ellen helps if you eventually want to shill for Neutrogena, but Spears has proven that it's by no means necessary to create a series of monster pop hits. So while, on paper, Spears was a great get for Cowell's embattled show, there was serious doubt as to whether it would pay off in practice.
The ongoing game of hot potato that the U.S. and U.K. have been playing with ex-Pussycat Doll/ex-X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger has reached a shocking conclusion (for now). The Daily Mail reports that the sinewy chanteuse behind such memorable hits as “Baby Love” and “Wet” has been tapped to replace former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland after the well-liked judge departed the show after only one season (something about “scheduling conflicts”). This of course comes after Scherzinger was unceremoniously dumped from the stateside version of the overblown singing competition after only one season (something about “you can’t do your job, everybody hates you, and you made a 13-year-old girl cry.”)
The news of last night's The X Factor massacre arrived first as a crimson trickle from a shaving cut, but finished in a blood gusher of horror that would make the Overlook Hotel's elevator blush from inadequacy. First, host Steve Jones, upon closing his medicine cabinet after retrieving a tube of Crest Ultra Brite, met the stoic reflection of Factor impresario/assassin Simon Cowell, who dispassionately drew a straight razor across the Welsh mannequin's throat. "You'll never be Seacrest, I know that now," he whispered in Jones' ear as the erstwhile emcee burbled his last, futile apology.
Last week, Howard Stern announced that he will be joining the judge’s table on the NBC show America’s Got Talent, replacing Piers Morgan as ‘the judge with an actual opinion.’ Even as a prosumer of media, I really don’t know the difference between American Idol, X-Factor, and America’s Got Talent -- they are all shows attempting to manufacture stars who can capture the hearts of Middle American audiences. The only real difference is in the voice of the show, and now we will know AGT as ‘the show with Howard Stern as a judge’ in the same way that we know American Idol is ‘the show that used to have Simon Cowell as a judge.’
Depending on your perspective on the current media landscape (which basically depends on how old you are), Howard Stern’s title as “The King of All Media” might be a bit outdated. Not based on diminishing power as an influencer, but just because the internet has turned our perception of everything that doesn’t appeal to conservative Middle America into a ‘niche voice or content source.’ Even the massive cult of Howard Stern could be considered a ‘niche product for high end consumers’ if you aren’t a SiriusXM subscriber. The internet empowers unique voices to build tribes, but it also lets the loudest voices exist in quiet corners.
On my JFK to LAX flight yesterday, I sat next to a young girl and her father. The adult was wearing a beanie, a gray sports coat, a black MMA-styled t-shirt and a heavy silver chain that reminded me of the kitsch sold at Wings, the beachside stores that litter every coastal town in North and South Carolina. As I sat down, he was yelling into his cell phone about “meeting Katy after the concert,” and how some presumptuous new assistant had the gall to question whether he and his daughter should be talking to Katy and how the assistant later called him to apologize. The girl, who looked about ten, was quietly playing a game on her iPhone. I tried not to judge, even when the father, raising his voice a bit, said, “I mean, Katy Perry just loves _______.” (name withheld because I don’t remember it.)
I’m going to suspend my disbelief and accept that there are boot camps somewhere in Los Angeles where Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Abdul, Simon and L.A. Reid tend to their new protégés in complete privacy and that when the acts take the stage that nobody but their mentor has seen them perform.
If we put that much faith in the X Factor, then it’s not really fair to have Paula Abdul around, especially in a contest that apparently has an unlimited budget to hire back-up dancers. The Stereohogz performance was exciting and fun, but mostly because of Paula’s choreography and orchestration, not because of any great vocal performances. During his Idol years, Simon would always insist, “This is a singing competition.” The X Factor isn’t a singing competition — it’s more a contest to see which act can best wear the show’s heavily produced, full-bore theatrics.
It might be a more “realistic” way to conduct the show, but some of the intimacy of Idol has been lost.
I’ve been wondering about Astro and whether or not he’s actually fourteen years old. He might have a fourteen-year old body, but consider the following scenario: the scientists at Fox stole DNA from both the dudes from Das EFX, Billy Danze and Jeru the Damaja, grew a hybrid brain in a jar, and implanted the resulting pulpy mush into the head of a very nice young man from Brooklyn. And then made that very nice young man rap about not doing his homework because he’s out pumping up the crowd at X Factor. It’s an impressive act, I guess, but it’s still too weird.
Bill keeps getting mad at me for not doing reality-TV podcasts. In my defense, it’s a weird thing to do. When you get these reality-TV folks on the phone, they go into this default interview setting that oscillates between short non-answers and plugs for products (or soccer teams, in Coach from Survivor’s case). That's what happened the morning I interviewed Deena and Sammi from Jersey Shore. It wasn't their fault. They were sweet young ladies with good attitudes, but when you're on your seventeenth consecutive phone interview, the conversations lose all novelty and you just start plugging hair products and answering questions with Belichickian efficiency. I still managed to have some fun with them, though, and edited it down to a tolerable morsel.
Vinny was a different story. He seemed bored at first, but opened up when he realized I was from ESPN. He talked about his pickup basketball dominance, dished on the upcoming season of Shore, and asked me to tweet at him (ZOFMG! ). I will be heartbroken if my tweet should go without reply. Honestly, if you ever weren’t sure Vinny was the type of guy you could have a beer with, this interview will settle that debate. He isn’t. He's the type of guy you could have ten beers with.