E! is joining the music-based reality series trend with none other than Nigel Lythgoe at the helm. But Nigel is far from lonely on the latest quest to bring the best unknown musicians to the public in the new series Opening Act, premiering tonight, July 9 at 10/9c.
In Opening Act, Nigel and his Artist Development Team scour the internet to find the very best performers, singers and songwriters to help skyrocket them from coffee shops to the main stage of this summer’s biggest concert tours.
In the premiere episode that hot ticket is Rod Stewart and Arielle O’Keefe is the opening act. But before we meet Arielle, we find ourselves in the middle of the Artist Development Team meeting where Nigel, Martina McBride, Jason DeRulo, Pete Wentz, Antonina Armato, Tim James and Nick Cooper go through different videos from the internet to narrow down who could fit the bill.
While the show boasts no auditions or eliminations, this is where the wince-worthy comes into play, because we don’t just see the good videos – but we get a dose of the bad and the embarrassing. It’s not taken too far or gone on too long, so we’re not complaining. But the most exciting part of the meeting is seeing these music mavens all gathered together in one room and voting for their favorite act.
After singer-songwriter Arielle nabs the votes, host Olivia Lee – who is very Cat Deeley – goes undercover to surprise the lucky 21-year-old. Olivia surprises her with the news and a video straight from Rod Stewart inviting her to open for him. It’s a bit reminiscent of the moment the person meets their coach for the first time on MTV’s MADE, but that was one of MTV’s last great successes, so we’re not knocking that either.
From here on out the show seems to move at rapid pace, which is understandable considering there is only 5 days until the Rod Stewart show at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas where Arielle will have her big moment and only an hour-long episode to cover it all.
But once we meet Arielle (and her family), she seems so genuine, heartfelt and legitimately surprised by the cameras bombarding her, that we are definitely sticking around for the ride. Within the first minute of meeting her, it’s impossible not to be rooting for her to succeed on stage and complete the transformation from amateur to superstar.
Despite our affinity for Arielle – or perhaps because of it – there are still a few concerns throughout the episode. While I can’t decide whether it’s due to the nature of a Vegas show or just the show’s prerogative, as the opening act Arielle only gets to sing one song. At times I may wish some opening acts only had one song, but that is largely not the case.
And then the one song turns out not even to be her own! After she plays a hauntingly beautiful and sincere original song called “Monster” that would easily capture the attention of anyone who appreciates music and emotion, Nigel, Antonina and Rickey Minor say it’s great, but not a “live track” (agree to disagree, folks) and instead push a song at her written by Antonina and Tim (aka Rock Mafia) that was originally intended for Selena Gomez.
Now, I love Selena, but she and Arielle are completely different artists. Not to mention, Arielle just minutes prior opened up about how music saved her life and writing songs got her through high school. So here’s a suggestion, Nigel, let her sing a song she believes in – a song she actually wrote! a song that would actually show off the true Arielle!
Speaking of the true Arielle, in a very poignant moment during a vocal lesson with Nick Cooper, the two work together to break down Arielle’s walls and work on being vulnerable. It results in a very real moment where Nick made her repeat after him, “I’m allowed to me.” Yes, Arielle and Nick are very endearing here, but nothing seemed to add up because she seems far from herself ever since she came to LA. She isn’t allowed to sing her own song; she’s not allowed to sing what matters to her. She flat out isn’t allowed to be herself. How can you be vulnerable and open when you’re trying to be someone else?
But Arielle continued to show that her likeable self could shine through it all as she reacted so genuinely and so happily to seeing her name up in lights right under Rod Stewart’s when they first got to Vegas. Even during her haircut, she received some huge news and broke down into tears. It was such a true-to-life reaction that any overly Hollywood motivations Nigel may have put into the show is nearly negated by her down-to-earth, girl-next-door sincerity.
Show time rolls up quickly at the huge venue with her family out in the audience and we can’t help but be nervous for her as the countdown rolls on. When she walks out on stage to huge applause, she sounds beautiful and looks beautiful, but she has lost a little bit of that reality and normal girl look that made her so endearing. Her hair isn’t as curly, her clothes look a little more pageantry, she is stripped of any of her instruments and hearing the song in its entirety makes it easier to hear how much more it sounds like a hokey ‘I-Just-Won-American-Idol-and-have-to-sing-this-song’ type of song.
We won’t give it away, but we will say that Arielle gets to sing more than just one song and that performance is outstanding – and much more her speed. We also get to see a little bit of Rod singing and, man, is he still a superstar or what?
As Arielle leaves the stage to a standing ovation, she’s goes backstage to her family and Rod Stewart who comes to visit her, congratulate her and wish her the best of luck. Yes, by the end of the episode, we’re more in love with Rod and newfound fans of the real Arielle. If that means we have to listen to another hokey winning song, we’ll do it. I mean, ‘A Moment Like This’ was pretty good in the end.
There are definitely a few things about the show that may take an episode or two to get used to. For one, I’m especially surprised that they don’t tell us more about Arielle in terms of the audience being able to find her and follow up on her music if interested (we never even find out the song title of the song Rock Mafia wrote. Will it be a single for her? Are they going to try and promote it?).
This combined with some of the decisions in the premiere make me question not how much Nigel knows but how much Nigel is looking to foster the musician the individual already is rather than foster another pop star, but all in all it’s a good start. The format is intriguing, the potential for quality music from new artists is somewhere in there and with such a quick moving episode, it’s definitely a good summer watch.
In the end, it’s definitely worth tuning in for and it’s nice to see something that is music related but not necessarily a competition. However, that doesn’t mean this show was pitch perfect – but hey, it’s the series premiere. We’ll consider it the show’s opening act, too.
Not into Rod Stewart or the type of music that would open for him? Well, don’t worry. The show runs the gamut with music genres with other superstars like Jason Mraz, LMFAO, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean and Nicki Minaj looking for their opening acts. Next week’s episode focuses on finding an opener for Gym Class Heroes.
Opening Act Premieres Tonight, Monday, July 9 at 10/9c on E!
Be sure to enter our Opening Act contest and win some great swag, too!