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TV Review: Can You Duet – Country’s Next Great Duo Crowned

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For the last couple of days, the lyrics to the Bugs Bunny theme song have been running through my head. As I eagerly awaited tonight’s season finale of CMT’s Can You Duet (CYD), today, it’s the only song I heard:

Overture, curtains, lights,
This is it, the night of nights,
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every part by heart.
Overture, curtains, lights
This is it, you'll hit the heights,
And oh what heights we'll hit,
On with the show, this is it!

Tonight what heights we'll hit,
On with the show, this is it!

For the last time, host Lance Smith reminded us the winning duo would win a recording contract with a major label as he introduced the final two, Steel Magnolia and JB Rocket. The only ones with voting power during the entire run of the show were the esteemed panel of judges. Lance noted that Big Kenny (BK) is “the man who puts the big in Big & Rich,” which is true but he’s also a fine singer/songwriter in his own right. He called Scott Borchetta “the man who puts the big in Big Machine Records” and as founder/president/CEO of the label his contribution to the cause is so because he will add the winner to their family of artists, which also includes Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood, and Jack Ingram. Lance prefaced his intro to Ms. Naomi Judd as the woman he’d been a big fan of his entire life.

Next, he gave us the run-down on how the show would work tonight. Both duos will get the chance to sing one of their own original songs. Then Caitlin & Will, last season’s winner, would stop by for a special performance. JB Rocket and Steel Magnolia would each sing one more song. This would be the first time we would get to hear what will be the premiere single from the winning duo. And how cool is this? Immediately after the show, that song will be available for download on Rhapsody and Big Machine Records.

For the last time, let me remind you of Scott’s list of what he looks for in signing a new artist:

  • Undeniable talent
  • Undeniable desire
  • Character
  • Individuality
  • A great vocal blend
  • Star power

JB Rocket was first at bat. There was a clip about their journey on the show, about how they came with other partners and then were united by the judges. Of that decision, Ms. Naomi had said, “I’m a happy girl right now.” Brandon said he knew from the moment they were put together theirs was a great combination. Jonathan thought that when they sang “Neon Moon” it showed "what JB Rocket can do and what they were gonna do."

I don’t think the title of their original song was mentioned. Man, I hate when that happens, don’t you? But let me tell you, I thought they were on fire. I’d buy that as a single right now if I could. I thought they showed great interaction and so did Scott, who also gave a high five to Brandon as the songwriter. Ms. Naomi said “You’re my boys, you know that. Unbridled energy, unbound talent, infinite talent. JB Rocket’s going to the moon.” BK avowed it was crazy how great they sounded and how miraculous is was as they’d only known each other for a couple of months.

It was Steel Magnolia’s turn. In the clip of their time on CYD, Meghan talked about how it was hard to believe that with the thousands that tried out, they’d made it to the top two. When they found out they would get to go and play with the band onstage, “it was go time,” said Josh. He went on with how, during their version of “When The Stars Go Blue” and their eyes locked, he felt electricity. It was the first time he thought, “Wow, I think we have a shot at this.”

Again, I didn’t hear the song title; perhaps it's “Here Comes Love” as that was part of the very catchy chorus. I got chills early on. I love that girl/boy back and forth kinda song and the "oh, la, la, la" part had an immediate singalong quality to it. And it wasn’t just me, because some of the audience and Ms. Naomi felt the same way too. She told Josh he wouldn’t be “flippin’ burgers, movin’ pianos and parkin’ cars no more.” To Meghan is was that she was so naughty for being such a nice girl. Big Kenny thought it was great. He loved the song and the simple chorus that was “easy for people like me to remember and sing along to.” Scott said, “I think we have a little country Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin on stage myself, such a cool song and so sexy.” Well, I’m not sure about the Jagger part of it but I did make a comparison earlier in the season between Meghan and Janis.

This week’s mid-show treat was a performance by Caitlin & Will, last year’s winner. I knew they’d do “Address In The Stars” although part of me was hoping we’d hear “Leaves Of September” or “Dark Horse” since those are my two faves from their digital EP. Don’t take that to mean I don’t like “Address” — it’s a beautiful song and the poignant lyrics were triggered by Caitlin’s loss of her Aunt Lisa to breast cancer in 2006 so it’s also a wonderful tribute. Watching the two of them onstage showed how they’d grown in one short year.

Lance asked how that year had effected change for them. Caitlin said, “We couldn’t have asked for anything more. I found my musical soul mate through this show. Thank you.” Ms. Naomi, who was responsible for putting the two together, was visibly affected by their performance. She likened it to watching her daughter Ashley in a movie or hearing her other daughter Wynonna on the radio. “One of the great things about country music is there is a sense of family. I say we’re a community, we come in unity.” I gotta agree with her there as I do when she noted country is different than any other genre for that reason. Given a chance to offer advice to JB Rocket and Steel Magnolia, Will told them “you’re getting ready to have a whole new world open up to you guys, opportunities that you’ve only dreamed of. Go out and work your butts off!”

Time now for the last song of the season from JB Rocket. In the last week both pairs went to the offices of Big Machine Records to meet with Scott Borchetta. When Jonathan and Brandon sat down with him, they went through some songs and picked “America’s A Tough Town.” The whole process was an easy one for Scott as “they are very mainstream.” I thought it was another strong performance from the two of them. Jonathan seemed to gain confidence each time he hits the stage. Maybe with this song it was because, as he put it, they connected with it because it talked about their journey on the show. I liked the song, but of the two they sang tonight, I must preferred the first one that Brandon wrote.

During Steel Magnolia’s visit to Big Machine Records, Scott talked about working with them on song selection. “The challenge, when you have two such individuals, is to find a song that lets both shine.” After they went into the studio to record “Keep On Loving You,” Meghan called it soulful and an upbeat song. After they’d sung it on stage, I’d say add sassy in there too, and I’d have to agree. As with the song JB Rocket did as a single, I’m of the mind of liking their original song a bit better.

That was it. Season two of Can You Duet had its last song sung. Coming right down to the wire for me to chose one or the other as a winner, I could only think the selection of “Keep On Loving You” as a single to radio would take the prize by a hair. If I had my druthers, Lance would have opened up the envelope and announce a tie with both duos winning. Yes, it was that close in my mind.

Scott Borchetta, as head honcho at Big Machine Records and its sister label Valory Music Co. (Reba, Jewel, Emerson Drive) took a moment for a few comments. He acknowledged how much he enjoyed working with both Ms. Naomi and Big Kenny. Of JB Rocket he said, “I’m so proud of you guys. You’ve done everything… exceeded expectations. You guys are stars.” As for Steel Magnolia, “From the first moment, it was love. You guys are just fantastic, you’re a live wire.”

Finally, there Lance was onstage with both sets of singers and envelope in hand.  Country music’s next great duo is …Steel Magnolia!

Congratulations to Meghan and Josh for taking the big prize. Kudos to Jonathan and Brandon for a race well run. I’ll be looking forward to hearing new music from both of you, as well as O'Shea and The Stellas. Happily I’ll remember Scott Borchetta’s last words on the show. “I have the phone numbers for JB Rocket.” Smart man.

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  • Diana

    I agree totally with your article. I also liked both original songs better. I can’t get Here Comes Love out of my head. Everytime I hear it, it just busts out of me ” I love that song!”.

  • http://www.myspace.com/tinkie101 tink

    Hey Diana!

    Well how can I complain about your obvious great taste in music, right? I’m burning up both vids on CMT…totally diggin’ that you can go to the CYD section and see the performances. Once they were up there, I could finally dump it off of our DVR.

    But I guess we were both bypassing the more obvious title. According to the CYD site, it’s “Ooh La La” dropping the last La in the refrain.

    I think my fave part of it is how much Josh stepped up to the plate as far as his performance and interaction with Meghan.

    Man, I already missing the show and it’s hasn’t even been a week yet. Doncha just feel like you know them all so well, including the judges, that you could just call ‘em up and say hey?