Friday, August 03, 2007

A Bad Summer For Paula and Kelly

This summer hasn't been a good one for the two biggest women associated with the hit TV show American Idol.

Recently I have been watching Hey Paula, a "reality" TV show on the Bravo Network that covers the behind-the-scenes of the life of Paula Abdul. (Last night was the season's final episode.) She prepares for another season of promoting and judging American Idol, develops the movie Bratz, works on creating her perfume, selling her jewelery line, accepting awards, etc. etc.

Needless to say, Paula is very busy. And exhausted. And hungry. And she's often late to pick up all those damn piss-ant awards she's getting. She suffers from insomia and half the time when she talks her mouth doesn't open and her teeth and clenched. She acts like she has a big sense of entitlement and relies on her assistants very often--at one point when a crisis happens she cries "Who is going to train her to take care of me? ME?" And she tends to break down into a crying fit over some mess-up every now and then. In a nutshell, her life is very topsy-turvy.

Paula goes to a perfume lab to work on creating her perfume and is seen sniffing so many chemicals that you'd think that she was making a designer line of poppers instead. While promoting American Idol she gives a bunch of TV interviews when she behaves erraticly and it is assumed that she's drunk, crazy, or both. Team Paula attempts to give their own spin on the incident, saying that Paula was not drunk when she gave those interviews. (It is explained that Paula was exhausted and coming down with the flu.) She goes to QVC Home Shopping Network (which BTW is practically down the street where I live, oh to be a fly on the wall there) to sell her jewelery and when she finds out that her request to set some jewelery aside for her was not followed she whines "I'm tired of people not treating me like the gift that I am."

As the clip below shows you, her craziness and self-absorption rises to a fever pitch when she comes back from her QVC stint and finds out that she is not wanted for the Bratz movie (she wanted to executive produce, choreograph and design the costumes), she has yet another meltdown crying "Where's God when you need him?" When her assistants try to comfort her, she screams "I'M TRYING TO TELL A GODDAMN STORY!" A trainwreck that's just a rung below Anna Nicole Smith. (And you can bet that when the film's execs saw this they thought "That just confirms that the bitch is crazy, thank Christ that we dumped her before she made a mess with the production of this movie.")

If Hey Paula is meant to be damage control, saying that Paula is just a regular working girl who's not strung out on pills or drunk or whatever, then the show failed its mission grandly. One cannot believe that she allow cameras to tape her every move in the state she was in. Certainly the folks at Fox and American Idol are not happy about the bad PR. What Paula needs to do is to step back, stop insisting on packing so much stuff into each day, and fix her schedule so that she has time to eat and sleep. If she did just that she might not be living in drama 24/7.

Speaking of AI alumni, this isn't a good time for first season's winner Kelly Clarkson either. During the spring and summer she mostly has been on the receiving end of a very public feud with Clive Davis, the head of her record company Sony-BMG. It seemed that Clive didn't think that her latest album My December was up to snuff and made some behind-the-scenes comments about that. He even went so far to suggest scrapping the album and record a whole new album featuring tunes that he'd approve of instead. Kelly insisted on releasing My December as it was and went public with her feud with Davis by giving interviews stating her struggle to record the album on her terms. She said that she was being handed songs that were rejected by the likes of Lindsey Lohan and (rightly) refused to record them, insisting that she could write better material than Lindsey's sloppy seconds. She said,"I am a good singer, so I can't possibly be a good writer. Women can't possibly be good at two things. I haven't lost my temper about it. It only drives me more. If your thing is to bring me down, cool. I'll just work harder." My December would be a more aggressively rock-sounding album than her previous efforts, and she would write or co-write on every track on the album this time around. She was aiming to truly be Miss Independent this time around.

However, a few things happened to mess up her plans. She fired her manager shortly before the album was released, which sent out distress signals that the album was not going to be a commercial blockbuster. Plans for a summer all-stadium tour were cancelled because ticket sales were low. And Kelly herself wound up being caught up in her own bravado making a couple of comments that were less tactful than they needed to be. In an interview with Blender she described her fighting with Clive: “I was like, 'I don't know you very well, and I am not a bullshitter. I get you don't like the album. You're eighty; you're not supposed to like my album.' ” In another interview she, by implication, upped Clive's age by twenty years. (Clive Davis is actually 74.)

Then there was the reception of My December. The album's first single, "Never Again," hit the US Top Ten, but that more due to sales from downloads rather than by radio airplay. The second single, "Sober," did worse, probably because the subject matter she was singing about was deemed too downbeat for US pop radio. The album sold 291,000 copies in its first week in the US but it failed to take the top spot of the album chart (that went to the Hanna Montana CD, a product of the Disney company). So far the album went on to sell 536,000 copies in the United States and 840,000 copies worldwide. But with declining sales each additional week passed by and the lack of a radio hit this time around, My December was starting to be perceived as a commercal turkey. (In comparison her previous album had sold 5.7 millions copies in the US alone.)

(I've heard the album when it came out. After reading about the controversy with the label politics, hearing the actual album turned out to be a big anti-climax. You read about the feud and think that her album is going to a great album that'll break new ground, but it mostly ends up sounding like someone who was trying to be the chick singer for Evanscence. Mostly typical stuff in a commercial rock vein that doesn't stand out all that much. It seems that as a songwriter Kelly's ambitions were higher than her actual grasp. There were a couple cuts from My December I did like--"Never Again" was a good first single with its nervous-sounding guitar strumming (and a great dance remix by Dave Aude to boot) and "One Minute" is a catchy dance-rock groove a la Franz Ferdinand. In the end, overall it just sounds like another rock record on your typical coporate radio station.)

Another theory why this album didn't perform to previous expectations is that maybe the public considered that Kelly went too much in a rock direction for them to handle; they likely perferred to dote on the faux-rock pop of Avril Lavigne instead. Also these days there aren't that many spots for female rock performers (as opposed to pop) on coporate radio stations, and since Kelly gained her fame through what was a glorified karoke contest, the rock audience would have trouble seeing the authenticity in her new musical direction. Maybe that was why Clive didn't see the album as something with great commercial potential as it was.

With new management in tow, efforts were made to save Kelly's career. Kelly stopped giving interviews. She made a public statement on her website saying that all of the fuss regarding her "feud" with her label has been "blown way out of proportion." She (or the new management?) wrote: "Contrary to recent characterizations in the press, I’m well aware that Clive is one of the great record men of all time...He has also given me respect by releasing my new album when he was not obligated to do so. I really regret how this has turned out and I apologize to those whom I have done disservice. I would never intentionally hurt anyone. I love music, and I love the people I am blessed to work with. I am happy that my team is behind me and I look forward to the future." Some people perceived this statement that Clive was now the winner of this feud.

Kelly is now slated to a make an apperance on fifth season of Canadian Idol, coaching the top five contestants and performing on the results show the next night. A club tour in the fall is also planned. Plus she has agreed to start working on a new album right away, which will be released in 2008. It's back to pop for her, and no doubt Clive will be picking the tunes this time around. "A Moment Like This, Part 13" anyone?

Poor Kelly, who wanted to been seen as more than just a voice that sang whatever was handed to her. But thanks to an industry that believes that, as the Depeche Mode songs goes, "Everything counts in large amounts," she was going to be now seen as someone who tried to "stick it to the man" but wound up as Clive's bitch instead. It sounds like a Shakesparean tragedy in the making.

Like I said before, this hasn't been a good summer for the women of American Idol, where Paula and Kelly had to learn the hard way that the "Any publicity is good publicity" statement doesn't always work. You can likely bet that Carrie Underwood, another AI winner who has a new album coming out in the fall, is crossing her fingers that the jinx that those two are having doesn't spread to her as well!

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Blogger The Divine Ms. Jimmi said...

LOL! Designer Poppers! Paula is a hott mess!

6:55 PM  

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