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Seven observations about Idols 7

2011-02-15 12:53
1.Gareth Cliff cusses and swears worse than a sailor
The producers cut it all out and you won't see any of it on television but Idols judge Gareth Cliff really isn't a nice person. He seemingly struggles to express himself and uses the default f-word without refrain in front of the production crew and the other judges.

His expletives include ''What the f- was that?'' and ''It's driving me up the f-ing wall''.

Contestants don't realise that after their auditions they're discussed by the judges… and often not in very flattering terms. They're talked about and comments are made that don't have anything to do with their singing skills or lack thereof.

Gareth Cliff is plainly the crudest. Take this shocker from Gareth Cliff to his fellow judges for instance. An engaged Cape Town couple  appear together. As soon as they leave the audition room, Gareth goes on a rant. ''They're scared of Jesus right? What scares them? They're scared that Jesus will cut off your c*ck if you have sex before marriage.'' Says the flabbergasted new Idols judge Unathi Msengana: ''I can't believe you just said that!''

Later Gareth sordidly jokes about the couple again and whether they're still virgins. ''No, she gave it up long ago. She gave it up when she was 12.  And her uncle said it was great.'' It's talk that M-Net will never allow to be broadcast on this family show yet fills the air behind the scenes of the production.

2. Unathi is wonderful, brilliant and the new emotional core of the judges' table
Has Idols finally found its Paula Abdul? M-Net and production company Nevermachine have got one thing right for this 7th season sans Mara Louw: casting Unathi Msengana as the new judge. She's completely brilliant.

Contestants who are still going to go for auditions, heed this tip: impress Unathi. She's the new contestants' champion.

She doesn't seem bored and jaded, has great advice and makes great, well thought-out comments. She is by far the most emotionally responsive to contestants. Her applicable critiques are infused with heart and offer a wonderful and refreshing counter-balance to the relentless cri de coeur from Randall Abrahams and Gareth Cliff. Best advice so far from Unathi to a contestant who didn't make it: ''This, dear [meaning Idols] does not define you.''

3. I see dead people
Elvis Blue, winner of the 6th season of Idols, started a new trend that's turned into a torrent after he auditioned and chose his stage name to honour a fallen friend. Now it's become a commonplace Idols emotional tactic: bring up dead people.  Dedicate your effort to dad/cousin twice removed/the family dog/Schmoopie the goldfish that died last year.

Viewers will see many more contestants this year with stories about their fathers and mothers who have died and inspired them to enter.

4. Elvis is back
No, not Elvis Blue, although he will certainly appear later in the season. We're talking Elvis - the rock 'n roll legend. Randall Abrahams (who is an Elvis Presley aficionado) is back with many anecdotes, peppering his critiques with Elvis stories. ''Elvis was a terrible actor.'' Randall is also on Twitter this year @POVwithRandall, tweeting straight from the audition studio. Oh, and send some love to the first guest judge Danny K. He's too sweet and struggled to say no to contestants.

5. The craziness is back
Only in the surreal world of a show like Idols would the president of the country be in the same building as the overcrowded Idols auditions. Yep, President Jacob Zuma was at the Idols auditions in Cape Town.

There was also a massive sing-off between Idols contestants and the supporters of a political party who tried to outsing and outscream each other. None of this is the crazy part yet. No. That would be the contestant who outdid Bjork as a swan and showed up dressed as a whale with big lips and a little blowhole.

Then there's the contestant who didn't wait for Johannesburg but came from Bloemfontein by bus so that if she doesn't make it, she can audition again in Johannesburg. Just like that farce Cliff Jennings. And finally one contestant comes back and tells guest judge Danny K ''I don't like your music!''

6. Idols goes hi-tech
This year the audition room walls are lined with wonderful plasma screens cycling through the winners of the previous seasons (was Heinz Winckler ever that young?).

What's really cool however is what's on the judges' table. Look closely. Gone are the papers. They've each got a Samsung Galaxy tablet device (Samsung is the show's headline sponsor this year), so the producers and the judges are in constant contact, they get feedback on upcoming contestants and scheduling, and can instantly refer to notes in electronic format. It looks cool and professional.

7. The essential info
Idols will be aired on M-Net as well as Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 107) this year. No word yet on whether Channel 199 will be an Idols Extra channel again. Nevermachine is filming additional material should it be necessary. ''We're still awaiting word from MultiChoice on whether DStv wants such a channel again this year,'' says an on-set source.

You'll also hear more local songs. For the first time contestants are preparing and auditioning with many homegrown hits. ProVerb will be the sole Idols presenter this year and Liezel van der Westhuizen, who left halfway during the 6th season, won't be replaced.

After Cape Town the Idols audition process moves to the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane (Saturday February 26), the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban (Saturday March 5), the Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto (Saturday March 26), and Montecasino in Johannesburg (Saturday April 2).    

Gareth Cliff has a much filthier mouth than you'd believe and new judge Unathi Msengana is the perfect addition to the judging panel. Here are seven things you might not know about Idols 7.
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