September 22, 2011 - X Factor Debuts with Aretha, JB, Elvis and Supremes Songs, Shirley's "Clapping" for VW
After approximately 500 days of buildup, Simon Cowell's The X Factor has finally debuted and several vintage songs have been set forth by audition round hopefuls. On the first night, the Aretha Franklin classic "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" was soulfully delivered by Stacy Francis, while senior citizen couple Dan and Venita obliterated "Unchained Melody" in spite of Simon's recent request for no more versions of the song. On the second episode, three auditioners offered their unique takes on the oldies: Nick Voss did the Elvis Presley song "Trouble," which judge Nicole Scherzinger described as "Jim Carrey meets Jerry Lewis with a little sprinkle of Elvis." 49-year-old Dexter Haygood went beyond a simple imitation of James Brown with an a cappella rendition of the Godfather of Soul's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and Caitlin Koch wrapped things up with an excellent delivery of The Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love" in a ballad style far removed from the original. The obvious four of these five acts moved on to the next round (though I'm not yet sure if a "round" is what we're in for, exactly).
In the world of TV commercials, "The Clapping Song" is back! The 1965 hit by Shirley Ellis has been getting a lot of exposure lately in an ad for the Volkswagen Beetle.
August 29, 2011 - The Help on Top Musically and Critically,
Screamin' Jay Does Double Duty on TV
Box office smash The Help, starring Emma Stone and Viola Davis, not only boasts two weeks at number one at the box office, but the year's most jam-packed selection of music from the '50s and '60s. Take a deep breath, here we go: country hits "Jackson" by Johnny Cash and June Carter and "I Ain't Never" by Webb Pierce start the list, with Bo Diddley's R&B classics "Road Runner" and "Hey! Bo Diddley," plus "Hallelujah I Love Her So" by Ray Charles, "The Wah-Watusi" by The Orlons and "Personality" by Lloyd Price in addition to The Everly Brothers' "Walk Right Back," Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again," "Swingin' on a Rainbow" by Frankie Avalon, "Rhythm of the Rain" by The Cascades, The 4 Seasons monster "Sherry" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" by Bob Dylan. Reviews for the film are strong and the music selection speaks for itself! The oldies have been in short supply in theaters all summer; in one fell swoop, The Help makes up for it.
Meanwhile, Screamin' Jay Hawkins is having a nice run on the small screen with the one-of-a-kind "I Put a Spell on You" doing double duty in Buick's Summer Event series of commercials while simultaneously promoting the upcoming season of NBC's The Office.
July 31, 2011 - Troy, Dyke, Steppenwolf on Big Screen,
Chordettes Hit TV
This summer's movies so far have been avoiding the '50s and '60s to the point of annoyance, but recent comedies are bringing the oldies back. Last week's release of the Justin Timberlake-Mila Kunis vehicle Friends With Benefits includes a remix of Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" in addition to "Let a Woman Be a Woman - Let a Man Be a Man," a rare film appearance for a Dyke and the Blazers song! This week, Crazy Stupid Love, with an all-star cast including Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, made a wise choice in bringing Doris Troy some well-deserved exposure for her soulful 1963 classic "Just One Look."
Prime Suspect is the title of movie star Maria Bello's entry into the medium of television. Promos running on NBC this summer are featuring The Chordettes' "Mr. Sandman," but I haven't yet figured how that song relates to what appears to be a detective show. Hopefully the talented Bello will be enough to keep the show on the air long enough for us to figure it out.