Saturday, April 9, 2011

'CMT's Next Superstar' - An interesting diversion

CMT debuted 'CMT's Next Superstar' Friday night and overall, it looks like a winner. The show is the brainchild of  'Idol' executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and his son Simon, but that's where the comparisons end. Unlike 'Idol,' which leaves the outcome to the viewing audience, contestants on 'Superstar' will have to impress a live audience that will change from week to week. The two with the fewest votes will then sing for a panel of judges who will determine the person who goes home.

'Superstar' cuts right to the chase, introducing the Top 10, which includes Matt Mason, Danielle Lauderdale, Bri Bagwell, Andrea Pearson , Wynn Varble, Matt Dame, Courtney Cole, Ben Smith, Steven Clawson and Adrienne Beasley.

Auditions were held in Los Angeles, Nashville, Dallas and Austin, an online competition, and via talent agencies, and Lythgoe culled three contestants (Beasley, Clawson, and Lauderdale) from this season's 'Idol' audition rounds. All three made it to Hollywood. Mason may also be familiar to viewers having finished fourth in the fourth season of 'Nashville Star.'

Contestants on 'Superstar' live in a mansion once owned by Kenny Chesney and a good deal of the footage from Friday's premiere focused on their communal living situation.

In the first episode, the ten finalists were challenged to turn a rock song into a country tune and perform it at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Nashville.  The contestants were backed by Sixwire, a Nashville-based band that finished second on 'The Next Great American Band' and guest judges included Billboard's Fred Bronson, Kristin Chenoweth, and record producer Matt Serletic. Beasley, who didn't hit the mark with her interpretation of "California Dreaming" and Smith, who's "Let's Get it On" was uneven and awkward, were the bottom two. Each had 40 seconds to sing something to impress the judges, who rendered their decision the next morning.

Standouts included Matt Mason, Matt Dame (who bears a striking resemblance to Bo Bice), and Andrea Pearson. Ultimately, it was Ben Smith who was eliminated.

Next week the contestants will sing on the streets of Nashville and the two who receive the least amount of money from passersby will be have to sing for survival.  New episodes air on Friday at 9 p.m. EDT.

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