The idea behind the new singing show Rising Star is to raise the wall. But having Brad Paisley on it? That's raising the bar.
Paisley joined fellow judges Ludacris and Kesha and host Josh Groban to premiere ABC's new kind of reality talent show on Sunday night (June 22).
If I understand it correctly, this is how it works:
Viewers download a free app, then check in and vote yes or no on the contestants they see singing. Once 70 percent of the voters say yes, the gauge reflects that, and the 70-feet screen/wall separating the singer from the audience is lifted.
That seems to happen faster when the judges encourage the audience to vote.
The first contestant was Georgia native Joshua Peavy, 28. He sang Bryan Adams "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You." And the wall was raised.
"You talk and you sound like you should be making moonshine in the hills," Paisley told him. "You know what's crazy? You had heart."
Other honest/specific/constructive comments Paisley had throughout the two-hour premiere included:
"Watch the pitch just a little bit."
"I'm kind of voting for your potential as much as anything."
"I feel like it was unpleasant but sweet."
"I think you gave someone a seizure at home."
"You didn't make it here, but you'll probably outsell all of us."
The only disappointing part, for me, was that there wasn't enough country. Of the 10 contestants who performed on the first episode, only one song was country.
And it came from Nashville's own Sarah Darling, 31, who did Kacey Musgraves' "Merry Go 'Round." She made it through with 89 percent. Which was great, although it was a kind of anti-climactic because Darling is already a country music artist. She had a recording contract with Black River Entertainment until they parted ways in 2013.
But Paisley seemed pleased to finally hear a familiar tune.
"I think you're fantastic, and you picked one of the best songs of the last five years in country music. Keep it up," he said.
The reason Darling is even on the show is because she says she just hasn't had her breakout moment yet.
"I've just never had that shot to take me to the next level in my career," she said. "I've gotten so close so many times, but I've never had that big event. I waited tables for about seven years. I just don't think I've had that right opportunity. I'm older. I'm not 17 anymore. I look at Rising Star as the opportunity that I've always need to boost me to the next level."