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Rock Star Supernova

Rock Star Supernova owes its existence to three dubious elements: corporate Rock, the supergroup concept and American Idol.

Since the advent of Rock, there has been a consistent and unending attempt to manufacture it. In fact, it's far easier to put together the "next big thing" than it is to find it. There's no hanging around clubs, seeking the opinions of taste-makers and trend-setters (who usually get it wrong anyway) nor traveling to points unknown to see an emerging talent. No, when you create an act you can sit in your office work your magic and be home in time for dinner.

Shortly after Elvis Presley's arrival, a bright manager saw a Philly kid sitting on a stoop and thought he'd found a "tiger man." Fabian was never Elvis but he had some success. Nearly a decade later, The Beatles started getting serious. So a U.S. producer created a group that mimicked the innocent and fun Fab Four. The Monkees (which even included a Brit heartthrob, Davy Jones) lasted a couple years and sold a ton of records before they wore out their welcome. To seal their fate, they started to take themselves seriously. A fatal mistake. While the imitation was never as good as the original, Fabian, the Monkees and others of their ilk, weren't all that bad either.

By the '80s, there was little need to manufacture safe Rock bands since their was a seemingly endless stream, Journey, Styx, Huey Lewis & The News and REO Speedwagon come to mind, willing to inject a heavy does of pop into their music. They also seemed blessed with poster worthy (or at least not homely) lead singers. The critics hated corporate Rock but fans made countless Midwestern and west coast musicians millionaires (at least on paper).

The mid-80s "Hair Metal" (Poison, Ratt, Guns N' Roses and Motley Crue - names that come up later) was just more of the same, only with more flash and trash.

Punk was a genuinely wild and reckless in its original, narrowly defined, incarnation. As great and necessary as it was, Punk had limited commercial appeal. As Punk receded, Power Pop/Punk rose from the ashes. Amazingly, the mix of Top 40/CHR mentality with Punk (as proffered by Blink 182) went down as well as vodka and orange juice.

About the time the Monkees were rolling around, the supergroup model was first constructed. This was the combination of the "best" musicians from various groups. Cream, with Eric Clapton, was the first. It lived up to the title. Another Clapton inspired supergroup, Blind Faith, had Clapton, Cream drummer Ginger Baker (then the world's most famous drummer) and Traffic's Steve Winwood. At approximately the same time Yardbirds' guitarist Jimmy Page launched Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin was not a supergroup because Page was working with a bunch of unknowns. Only bassist John Paul Jones, a session musician/arranger had any reputation and that was fairly limited outside of London 's recording studios. Funny thing though, Blind Faith lasted one album before disintegrating while Zeppelin became a legend. In other words, supergroups were a suspect venture and often these bands fell far short of expectations. It only got worse as time went on. Musicians formed groups in an embarrassing and often desperate last grab at the brass ring. Sometimes the public fell for it, only to have regrets later, or they didn't, leaving the band looking foolish.

American Idol was an ingenious creation. A singing/entertainment competition, the big idea was brutally simple. Have a bunch of good looking kids duke it out on network television. For comic relief, have ugly or untalented people make fools of themselves. Even if the show was only on FOX (then a distance 4th in the ratings), the finalists would be household names before their first album was released. Of course, Idol became a huge #1 rated show and a bonafide star maker. So much so, that CBS launched Rock Star. In its first season there was a search to find a singer to replace the late Michael Hutchence in INXS. That was OK. But INXS was an '80s band, early '80s at that. For season two, the show tried a more "contemporary" spin. They created a supergroup to back the competition's winner. Yes, perfect. So ex-Guns N' Roses ('80s band) guitarist Gilby Clarke, former Metallica ('80s group) bassist Jason Newsted and Motley Crue (a very '80s act) drummer Tommy Lee were recruited. The group was called Supernova (in case anyone missed the supergroup connotation).

Too bad there was already a marginally successful California Punk group with that name. They made a bunch of angry noises and even filed a cease-and-desist order. Well, nobody was going to let the little matter of a name get in the way of making money so the thing quickly became Rock Star Supernova. In the late summer of '06, the missing piece was set in place when Lukas Rossi won the competition and became Rock Star Supernova's frontman. Wow.

A self-titled debut was recorded but before the group could hit the road, Newsted was injured when some sound equipment toppled on top of him. While his shoulders healed following surgery, the bass chores were handled by Johnny Colt, ex-Black Crowes (at least a '90s group) and Train (another '90s group). "Johnny's the guy," said Lee. "He's the kind of player that can plug in and immediately make his presence felt." Colt's first shot with the band was late November appearance on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Rock Star Supernova Discography

Well, you weren't expecting anything fresh from this group of re-treads were you? Given the band members' past associations it's somewhat surprising that Guns N' Roses, Metallica or Motley Crue influences aren't more prevalent on Rock Star Supernova's self-titled debut. Rather, the operational model appears to be Velvet Revolver. As such, Rock Star Supernova succeeds. The group is solid and Rossi has the vocal chops. Big surprise. After all, he did win the competition.

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