Princess Diana, Source: Floyd Nello @ Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/89492733@N00/Can you believe it was ten years ago today that Princess Diana passed away? Such a long time ago, but I can vividly remember waking up from an afternoon nap and hearing the news on the radio. I was convinced I’d heard wrong, that I was still groggy from sleep. But of course, the terrible news was true.

Around the world, tributes are pouring in from people united by the grief they still feel, and the inspiration they still take from this stunning lady. Australian singer/songwriter Nathan Flynn has added his voice to this global outpouring of emotion with his new single, “The Princess.”

“The Princess” is a tribute to Princess Diana’s life, and the millions of people she touched around the world. Prince William, Prince Harry, and The Queen have personally endorsed the song.

As Diana was so active in supporting charities, it’s fitting that sales from the single will benefit two important charities. One dollar from the sale of each single will go to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. An additional dollar will help establish a new music school for underprivileged and indigenous children in South East Queensland.

The single is available from Tension Records online and Leading Edge music stores around the country.

Image source: Floyd Nello @ Flickr

Australian Idol - Final
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After some truly breathtaking performances, Holly Weinert and Brianna Carpenter took their rightful places amongst the Australian Idol top 12 last night.

I was so thrilled to see these girls make it through. They bring something truly unique to the top 12, and I can’t wait to follow their progress in the competition. You know, with so much talent amongst the Idol ranks this year it’s going to be really difficult to vote people out every week!

Before we do though, we’ve got the wildcard round on Sunday. Last night each judge chose two people to have a second chance at Idol glory. I was thrilled that the judges did it this way. It’s allowed us to have a very different bunch of contestants – not the contestants the majority wanted but the contestants that one person believed in enough. I’m also glad the wildcards weren’t chosen on the basis of gender. It seems crazy to me that Idol franchises seem so concerned with an even gender mix.

And so, Australia, your wildcard contestants are: Daniel Mifsud, Husny Thalib, Carl Riseley, Natalie Gauci, Mark Da Costa, Jack Byrnes, Dave Andrews, and Sarah Lloyd. It’s really a mixed bag, isn’t it? I’m thrilled that Husny, Daniel, and Natalie have another shot at making it through. I’m also expecting big things from Dave and Jack. Bring on Sunday!

Music Count Us In LogoThe voices of thousands of Aussie kids came together today as part of the Music: Count Us In program. At 11 am, students from more than 800 schools around the country sang the uplifting tune “Life is a Song.”

Music: Count Us In was developed to raise awareness of the importance of school music programs. Australian Idol musical director John Foreman has become the program’s public face after writing “Life is a Song” for the event.

“It’s amazing to be part of,” John said on the Australian Idol website.

“Kids from right around the country will be performing the song in their own way, in their own school. Some of them singing in a choir, some of them playing percussion instruments along with the record.”

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Australian Idol - Final
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After a couple of days predicting, I actually got it right last night! I was thrilled that the two Central Coast boys, Ben McKenzie and Marty Simpson, were voted through the top 12. Well done boys! Australia definitely got it right this time.

With the announcement out of the way, it was time to hear the final group of girls. Sarah Lloyd started us off with a gutsy rendition of Jennifer Hudson’s Dreamgirls hit, “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” I thought she performed really well, but I just don’t find her very interesting. There was nothing to fault here, but I wouldn’t go out and buy her albums.

Morgan Hosking is more my kind of performer. Funnily enough though, while she has the interest factor, the vocals let her down. She insisted a bad case of nerves marred her performance of Alanis Morissette’s “You Learn,” and maybe that’s all it is. The sad thing is, we hadn’t seen a lot of Morgan before last night so Australia’s going to take her on face value. I think she could have brought something very cool to the competition, but she won’t go through with this effort.

After some half-good acts, Holly Weinert was a breath of fresh air. During the audition rounds this chick from Mildura got lost amongst all the other guitar girls. Yet last night she held her own and established herself as a unique force in the competition. I loved everything about her stripped-back version of “Easy.”

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2007 American Music Awards - Arrivals
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Megastar rappers Akon and The Game have touched down in Australia with one thing on their minds. And one could be forgiven for thinking it’s not their massive Roc Tha Block tour.

The notorious bad boys have asked for packets of condoms and a love seat to be provided as part of their rider.

But that’s not all. According to The Herald Sun, the tour’s organisers have been scouring Melbourne’s high-class gentleman’s clubs for ladies to entertain the visiting stars.

It sounds like these guys are looking to make the most of their short stay in Australia. When they’re not sampling the locals, Akon and The Game will appear with Sisqo, Naughty by Nature, and Pitbull at the Roc Tha Block shows. The tour kicks off at Melbourne’s Vodafone Arena tonight.

Awards Room At The Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards 2007
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Despite my confidence, it seems I was wrong again last night. No one was shocked to hear Tarisai Vushe announced as the first girl in the top 12. But no one expected that Lana Krost would join her, including Lana herself. I’m still not convinced that she’s ready for the competition, but there’s no denying she has talent. She’s undoubtedly going to improve week after week, and that’s going to be really fun to see.

Mark Da Costa opened the show with a bang with a rocking version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The judges and audience seemed to love it, but it felt a bit weak to me. Perhaps you needed to be there to feel the energy. It was solid, but he didn’t seem to have the pipes to pull off some of the notes he aimed for.

While Mark’s energy didn’t reach me in TV Land, that of young Ben McKenzie certainly did. Ordinarily I chat through performances, criticising this and complimenting that. Yet while he sang “Mad World” I sat speechless, captivated. I think with all the focus on Matt Corby, this other sweet 16-year-old has been overlooked. I know I underestimated him, but I won’t make that mistake again. Wow.

I’m in two minds about Jack Byrnes’ performance. I thought his arrangement of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was really innovative and fun. I thought his voice was very strong. I even loved the “mincey dancing” that Dicko panned. Yet I didn’t connect with it on an emotional level, and I just can’t put my finger on why.

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2007 ARIA Awards - Awards Room
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A few weeks ago I reported that savage music critics had already dubbed Damien Leith “Idol Roadkill,” following less than impressive single sales. However, as predicted, Damien’s now having the last laugh. His new album Where We Land has debuted at number one.

This makes Damien the only Idol winner in history to score two consecutive number one albums. His Idol retrospective, The Winner’s Journey also raced to the top of the charts.

Where We Land is Damien’s first album of original material, and it comes some nine months after he won the Idol crown. Look out for my review of this album at Oz Music Scene later this week.

Damien’s not the only local talent selling plenty of albums this week. The John Butler Trio, Katie Noonan, and Powderfinger are all still in the top 10. Grand National sits at number seven, just ahead of Skin and Dream Days at the Hotel Existence at nine and ten.

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"Australian Idol" Top 12 Press Conference
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It was a big night in Australian Idol last night, with our first two contestants through to the top 12, and the first six girls singing for their supper.

As the picture shows, Matt Corby and Jacob Butler are our first two top 12 contestants. Did you pick it? I think most of us guessed that Matt was a shoe-in, but I’m surprised by Jacob’s inclusion. While his performance certainly wasn’t horrible, I didn’t think he was distinctive enough to earn the nation’s votes. He may not have been one of my favourites, but I’m still happy to see him there. This boy’s nothing if not committed, and once his nerves settle and he starts taking some risks he could really pull out something special.

After an uncharacteristically speedy announcement, Channel Ten brought us the first group of ladies. I didn’t think it was as strong as the men’s group that came before, but the performances of a select few showed we’re going to have an amazing top 12.

Sally Van Der Zwert was first up, taking inspiration from the original Idol with her cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “Never Again.” She has a pretty voice, but I felt she was a bit breathless and thin in patches. She’s a really attractive girl, but she’s lacking that elusive star quality. A decent, but ultimately unforgettable, performance.

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MicrophoneAs Australia seems to be gripped with Idol fever, I thought I’d step outside the music channel today and introduce you to Idol Stalker. Don’t let the name fool you: b5media’s resident Idol fan Jeanne Dupuis is perfectly sane, and an absolute authority on all things Idol.

I’ll be working with Jeanne to keep her updated on all that’s going on with the competition Down Under. She’ll add all the Aussie goss to her comprehensive Idol coverage, which includes news about past and present stars of American Idol and Canadian Idol.

If you’re loving the Aussie competition, why not broaden your horizons and see what’s happening abroad? I’ve personally been sucked into Canadian Idol this year, the only other country which allows the contestants to use musical instruments. The competition is fierce with only four hopefuls left, and you can watch all their performances on Idol Stalker!

Image source: Alfred Neumann @ Stock.xchng

Australian Premiere Of "Hairspray"
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Australian Idol 5 is off and racing after a cracking first semifinal. Following a thoroughly entertaining show last night I’m left wondering who will stay, and who will go. Some of the favourites underachieved, leaving some others to rise to the top of the pack. Right now, it really seems like it’s anyone’s game.

First up with the crowd-pleasing teen Matt Corby. So much has been said about Matt in this blog so far, but did his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” live up to the hype? Honestly, I think so. Sure, the performance could have been a bit more dynamic, but he certainly nailed the vocals. The performance showed real depth, and for his first time on the Idol stage I think he did a credible job.

This week the Idol forums were buzzing about Junior To’o. We’ve barely seen anything of this Sydney dad, yet there he was fighting for his place in the top 12 amongst early crowd favourites. While he may not have the profile of some of the other contestants, Junior took it in his stride to deliver a very mature performance of “Dear Mr President.” Junior brought a great sadness and believability to the song, and it was wonderful.

Carl Riseley showed yet again why I call him a poor man’s Michael Bublé. This time around he tackled “Home,” a song that should have been right up his alley considering his Navy background. But this guy just simply isn’t good enough. He didn’t do a bad job, but he’s just not strong enough to compete at this level.

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