Various Artists

Rock Star: INXS

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Even for its fans, one disappointment of the television series American Idol is the relatively mediocre quality of the many of the songs used on the show. The reason for this is simple. In order for a song to be performed on TV, it must be licensed from the music publisher, and many publishers have been reluctant to grant licenses to American Idol due to what has come to be known as "the William Hung factor" (i.e., they fear the value of their copyrights isn't likely to be enhanced -- and may actually be reduced -- when the songs are performed by amateurs so talentless that they're funny.) Somehow, the producers of Rock Star: INXS got around this problem (perhaps by being choosier with the contestants from the get-go, perhaps due to connections), and as a result viewers were treated to performances of well-known songs associated with such major rock artists as Paul McCartney, John Lennon, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Queen, Nirvana, R.E.M., and Radiohead. That music makes Rock Star: INXS a far more palatable experience than a similar package of American Idol performances might be. The singers -- Mig Ayesa, Marty Casey, Suzie McNeil, Ty Taylor, Jordis Unga, and winner J.D. Fortune, whose prize was to become the new lead singer of INXS -- sometimes employ arrangements similar to the familiar versions of the songs, and sometimes they take liberties. But they are all competent performers who get something out of the material, even when it isn't music they knew beforehand. In particular, Unga brings an emotional reading to Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World"; Taylor shows a clear affinity for Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry"; and McNeil nails Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Nevertheless, it's easy to see why Fortune won. He comes off as more of a rock star than the others, and his rough voice seems ideal to cover the INXS songs associated with deceased singer Michael Hutchence. In addition to an hour's worth of musical performances, the DVD contains a 22-minute INXS set with Fortune and a variety of behind-the-scenes, rehearsal, and audition footage. It is not a condensed version of the series, but rather a collection of video highlights for people who saw the show on TV. (Host Dave Navarro is seen now and then, but not heard, for example, and there are no reviews of the performers, though there are occasional allusions to the criticisms.) That said, it wouldn't be surprising to find that two or three performers from this batch went on to bigger things from here.

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