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Pop superstars from yesteryear return to the stage for one night only, taking on their biggest hits and the music of today.

Recaps by Gordon Pepper, GSNN


Vernon Kay
August Paro
Daniel Soiseth, Michael Agbabian, Dwight D. Smith, Stewart Morris, Paul Jackson, Curt Northrup
Packager: Granada America
Airs: Thursdays at 9pm ET on NBC

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"Wang Chung/Sophie B. Hawkins/Cameo/Howard Jones/Irene Cara" - June 15

The first episode was very, very promising. The second episode...not so much (let's put it this way, any talent show where the winner is Vanilla Ice has to have something lacking). Let's hope that the third episode is closer to the first one in terms of performance. It does look like it will be, though, as the roster (Wang Chung, Sophie B. Hawkins, Cameo, Howard Jones, and Irene Cara) is very promising. Also promising, the internet audience, as they thought that The Knack should have won last week, instead of Vanilla Ice.

After the mandatory last episode recap and the obligatory prattle from host Vernon Kay, we start off this shindig with Wang Chung. They actually had a couple of hits in the U.S., including 'Dance Hall Days', but the song they are pitching and promoting is 'Everybody Have Fun (Wang Chung) Tonight'. Time has not been good to his hairline, nor has it been good to his vocal range, as he has trouble hitting the notes AND he screws up the lyrics. What we get instead it a musical edit of the song, which makes me believe that he screwed up more times than we saw and that may have been a mercy cut.

The lead vocalist is asked what Wang Chung means, and he says that he is keeping that a secret. He should have kept that last performance a secret. What isn't a secret? His second performance will be 'Hot In Herre' by Nelly. This has the potential to be very painful.

The next performer is Sophie B. Hawkins, who won Best New Artist in 1993 with 'Damn! I Wish I was Your Lover'. Three years later, she had another hit with 'As I Lay Me Down To Sleep' before she laid her career down to sleep. Which song are we going to be hearing? The first one, as she does a little jig down the stairs to the performance area. As time didn't help Wang Chung, it certainly did favors to Hawkins, who looks more mature. She apparently agrees with my assessment, as she takes off her button down shirt and strips down to her white t-shirt, much to the performers delight - and my own. As for the performance, it was solid and on pitch, though her voice could have been louder. Who cares? Sophie B. Hawkins is taking off her clothes for us! Whoo-hoo!

Sophie says that the B. in her name stands for Ballantine. She also says that her second song will be '100 Years' by Five for Fighting. How much would she get if she took off more clothes and wound up with a wardrobe malfunction?

We continue the string of 2 Hit Wonders with Cameo, who hit the Pop Charts with 'Word Up' and 'Candy', which combined (between that and their other albums) to sell over 11 million copies. They come down with their leather outfits, a big red plastic hat with horns on top and the signature red...uh...codpiece. We get an edited version of this song too, but it's because they wanted us to hear the nice vocals at the end. He did screw up the first chorus, but the choreography and the playful banter by the band during the song more than made up for it. This was a very nice song that the audience went nuts for. They are going to be Bowling for Soup on the next song. As this band is a completely different genre than what they usually sing, this ought to be interesting.

Howard Jones had many more than 2 hits, as he nailed 10 Top Ten hits, including 'What is Love' and 'Things Can Only Get Better'. He won't be performing either of those songs, though - he'll be singing 'No One Is To Blame'. With a lot of material to choose, I could blame him if he had a bad performance, but he didn't. Like Cameo, he also nailed his performance and the audience goes wild again. We may actually have a competition here.

Howard says that the Classical Piano helped him because it gave him the drive to continue to practice. He practiced the song 'White Flag' by Dido many times, because that's what he's going to be performing for his second song.

The one artist we haven't heard from yet is Irene Cara, who is another 2 hit wonder. She sang the themes from both Fame and Flashdance in the early 1980's and won Oscars for best song performance. She greets the crowd by boogieing on the performance circle as she sings, and the audience eats it up. I do too - she sounded great and nailed the song and lyrics. She still sounds great after 20-plus years after her performance. It was a wonderful performance, and I expect another wonderful performance from her as she will sing Anastacia's 'I'm Out of Love'.

Ok, these people came here to play this week. How do the players stack up
after Round 1?

1. Irene Cara
2. Cameo
3. Howard Jones
4. Sophie B. Hawkins
5. Wang Chung

We have a second round coming up - the current cover round. We see the current state of Jeremy Rind...aka Jack Hughes...aka the lead singer in Wang Chung. He is back in the studio, but he's spending lots of quality time with his family. He starts to sing Nelly's 'Hot in Herre' and I start to shudder as he...pulls it off??!?! Believe it or not, they do a great job on the song. They have a little bit of a crash start, but they perform it to the point that I can actually now understand what Nelly was singing about. The audience goes nuts again and I have to agree with them on a commendable effort. Wow. They set the bar high.

What has Sophie B. Hawkins been up to? She is back in Venice Beach, and she still performs and loves the attention. During her free time, she likes to
paint and learn her Five for Fighting songs. Remember in the first song when we her talking about her soft voice? It really hurts her here, because her voice is so soft that I can't understand what she is singing. Her actual performance bails her out, though - she is wearing a sultry black evening gown and crouches into the crowd (think James Brown) to let a fan touch her face. If I judges it by her singing, she gets a 4, but her style jumps the effort up a couple of notches.

We get a cameo from Cameo (heh) as we see how their life is going in Atlanta. The lead singer is still singing, but he is also studying metaphysics and astrology. They still do radio specials and they are still churning out records. They slow down Bowling For Soup's "1985" and turn it into a funk-down song, complete with the 'whoo-ee-yoo-ee-ooo' trademark in the background. They take creative liberty with the lyrics as well, but if they released this song as a single, I still think it would hit the charts. They do a neat job with the creative balance of the song and it's another solid performance.

We now go to Somerset, England and pay a visit to Howard Jones. He has transitioned from London to the countryside, with his son (who can play out in the fields) and his recording studio, which is now in his house so he can play whenever he wants to. If he keeps on giving performances like Dido's 'White Flag', then he can perform for me whenever he wants to. If I didn't know that Dido made this a hit, I would have thought that he did. Another excellent, tone-matching, emotional displaying performance tonight. This is going to be a VERY hard choice to make...

...and I suspect that it's going to be harder as Irene Cara (who owns a production company and is in a singing group called Hot Caramel in Tampa Bay) sings 'I'm Out of Love'. Well, it's not just her - 'Hot Caramel' makes their debut as they sing as a trio. They have a slow start, but like Wang Chung, they also get their act together and they get off a nice effort. Their harmonies intertwine very well and I could also see this released as a single.

Unlike the first two shows, this decision is going to be VERY tough this
week. Here's who I thought did the best in round 2 -

1. Cameo
2. Howard Jones
3. Irene Cara/Hot CARAmel (hardy har har)
4. Wang Chung
5. Sophie B. Hawkins

And overall -

1. Irene Cara/Hot Caramel/Hey look, we want a record deal/Whatever
2. Cameo
3. Howard Jones
4. Wang Chung
5. Sophie B. Hawkins

Because almost every performance was bordering on spectacular, it wouldn't surprise me if I was completely wrong. It turns out...I'm right. Irene Cara and Hot Caramel get the win. She will give the $20,000 prize to 'Women in the Arts' as she sings us out with the Flashdance theme.

You may be thinking to yourself - Wait a second here. Is it really fair that Irene Cara and others get to promote their musical acts that aren't them? (See Hot Caramel). I would think so - after all, since they are performing for charity, the least the show could do is allow them to milk the 10 minutes or so that they have between being on stage and being displayed on their bios.

Next Week - Thelma Houtson, The Baha Men, Greg Kihn Band, Glass Tiger and... well they only give us 4 artists. Join us in 7 days to see who the fifth artist is and if they can match the performances of what we got this week.

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