Can a Best Buy sales associate transform himself from an unknown singing salesman of electronics to an opening act for Jason Mraz in less than a week?
We've gone from classic rock standards to pop rock to country on "Opening Act" looking for openers for some big names in the music business, and this week's unknown not only gets to be the recipient of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to open for pop sensation Jason Mraz but they get the added bonus of doing so in Hawaii.
Jason Mraz began his career as a coffeehouse singer. The Virginia native released his first studio album, Waiting For My Rocket, in 2002 but had already developed a following with two lives albums released in 2001 and early 2002. He had his first hit with "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" in 2003, but it would be the mega-hit "I'm Yours" from his third album, 2008's We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things, that would make him an international singing star. "I'm Yours" peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 but stayed on the chart for 76 weeks, setting a record for total weeks on the chart and going on to be certified 5-times platinum for US sales.
The "Opening Act" Artist Development team, after perusing a string of videos, choose Jono, a 25-year-old employee of Best Buy in Colorado, that impresses everyone with his soulful version of The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun." Host Olivia Lee flies off to Aurora to surprise him with the news.
Posing as someone wanting to buy a television, Lee gets Jono positioned for the reveal. As he demonstrates a particular television model, three-time Grammy winner Jason Mraz appears and says his name. Taken aback, Jono is flabbergasted to find that he's being asked to open for Mraz in concert in Hawaii.
Lee gives Jono the particulars: Just a few days to prepare, got to leave for Los Angeles, got to do it now. We discover from Jono that he gets his voice from his father, who disappeared from his life when he was only two years old. However, his step-father, a local pastor, entered the picture when he was three. Jono reveals his surprising good news to the congregation. His mother sobs with pride and joy for her son's opportunity.
But everything doesn't go as smoothly in L. A. as Jono would have liked. His audition for the "OA" team goes awry. Nigel Lythgoe, head of the team as well as being executive producer of the show, is especially critical and its beginning to look as if the Artist Development team might have made a bad choice for the first time. The young singer's situation, the pressure of the opportunity, his nerves, and his inability to get it together for the "OA" team leave him an emotional wreck.
He meets with record producer Jack Joseph Puig, who has engineered and produced multiple Grammy winning works (U2, John Mayer, Amy Grant, the Goo Goo Dolls, Fergie (of Black Eyed Peas), and No Doubt. They rehearse the obligatory original song for the Mraz concert but Jono doesn't seem to be getting the hang of it. Puig admits that he just might not be able to pull it off.
Everything changes in Hawaii, though. Jono's family, flown in for support, surprises him there. His entire demeanor changes. But just as his confidence in himself returns, he receives a video from Jason Mraz. The "I Won't Give Up" singer wants him to do a duet with him, leaving him with only 24 hours to prepare.
Jono has an attack of nerves just before going on stage. He admits that he's drawing a complete blank with his songs and is afraid that he will ultimately fail. Yet, he's hopeful and hits the stage anyway. But when he gets in front of the audience, his doubts seem misplaced because he performs his material flawlessly.
Afterward, Mraz tells him he did a great job.
The "Opening Act" Artist Development team have done it again, taking an unknown artist, putting them under tremendous pressure, and watching them develop into an artist worthy of opening for proven professionals.
Question is: Will there be an episode where the chosen act fails? The Jono and Jason Mraz episode is the fourth of eight. Although it is unlikely that the producers of the show would greenlight an episode that seems at cross-purposes with the intent of the show (as inspirational), it should be considered that, realistically, not all artists have the discipline, confidence, dedication, talent, and sheer nerve required for the rigors of opening for big-name artists.
"Opening Act" airs on E! Television on Monday nights at 10:00 p.m. EST.
(photo credit: Jose Goulao, Creative Commons)
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