spaulding express, ready to roll!
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He (and the oddball pop band which bore his name) scored a surprise radio smash in the spring of 1998 with what is possibly the most depressing pop song ever find a mass audience, the devastating “Brick.” But if you think that success is there all is to know about the Ben Folds story, think again: he has just released his latest album, a frisky and fascinating collaboration with novelist Nick Hornby entitled Lonely Avenue, and he presides over the judging panel on NBC’s hit music competition series The Sing-Off, which the network recently renewed for a third season set to premiere later this year. (A companion album — featuring the best of season two’s contestants performing freshly recorded a cappella takes on such hits as OneRepublic’s “Apologize” and Mika’s “Grace Kelly” — has also just arrived in stores.) I recently spoke with Folds about his participation in The Sing-Off, as well as how he has managed to keep himself and his brand consistently relevant in an industry that seems to be changing by the second.


BRANDON’S BUZZ: This thing, The Sing-Off — for those who haven’t seen it, it’s essentially a strictly a cappella take on American Idol, or something of a cross between Idol and Glee, and you’re basically a judge-slash-mentor on this show. How did you get involved with this?


BEN FOLDS: Well, there were a lot of a cappella groups over the last ten years covering my music, my music being a big part of the repertoire of university a cappella groups. So I was hearing a lot of versions, and some of them I liked better than what we had done originally! I thought they were compelling versions and moving and engaging; they were getting it and they were musically intelligent. So I wanted to feature them on a record, and we made a record called University A Cappella, which, essentially, I was recording these groups in their natural habitats, and we put it on record and gave the proceeds to music education charities. And then NBC rang, because they heard the record and knew of my interest [in a cappella music], and they asked me if I wanted to do the gig. And initially, I didn’t want to.


So what changed your mind?


Well, I thought about it for a little bit before I came back and just knee-jerked and said no. I think when someone says, “Hey, you wanna be a judge on a music show,” you say no! [Laughs.] But [Sing-Off] was different because — I began to think about it, going, “Well, these groups are gonna be singing live, a cappella on television.” That’s pretty — that’s pretty brave! They’re gonna have to be dead-on, and if they’re not, they’re gonna need good feedback. You know, they don’t need someone cutting them down and making a circus out of it; what they need is someone to say, “Look, I’m pretty sure it would have been very moving had you not rushed and had the bassist been more articulate.” So I just thought, “Wow, I can help — that’s not so bad, let’s do it.”



“Maybe look inward, Gary. Maybe just look inward —
take a big swim in Lake You and see what you find.”

— Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath, conferring combatively (yet, seemingly, resigned to his imminent fate) with fellow teammate Gary Busey (easily one of the most wonderfully batshit wackydoos in the history of reality TV) just prior to being (unfairly) fired on last night’s installment of Celebrity Apprentice, which airs on Sunday nights on NBC and which, thanks to its marvelous cast of misfits — numbering among them this season: Meat Loaf, Star Jones, the surprisingly brilliant John Rich (the “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” dude!), and the completely crazy LaToya Jackson — has become the two hours of television I most look forward to catching each week.



He first rose to national attention as cavalier rich kid Ben Reade on CBS’ late, great soap opera Guiding Light, but the ridiculously talented Matt Bomer was clearly destined for bigger things, and wow, has he found them: featured roles on critically acclaimed (but sadly short-lived) series like Fox’s Tru Calling and ABC’s Traveler (not to mention a brief flirtation with a big-screen reboot of Superman, whose title role he very nearly nabbed) led to a recurring role on NBC’s cult hit Chuck, which brought him to his starmaking role in USA’s White Collar, where he has become a straight-up sensation portraying television’s most charming con man, Neal Caffrey. Collar‘s second season comes to a close next Tuesday night (March 8, 10pm EST), and Bomer stopped by to give us an exclusive sneak peek, as well as to reminisce about coming of age in good ol’ Springfield, USA.


BRANDON’S BUZZ: As long as I’ve been a fan of yours, I had no idea until I started reading up in preparation of speaking with you that you’re a Texas kid just like myself. You grew up near Houston, yes?


MATT BOMER: Yes, in Spring, which is about forty-five minutes up
Interstate 45 from Houston.


You know, the life you’re living now, the stardom, the success — could you have ever fathomed all of this when you were growing up in Spring, Texas?


No way. I mean, I always kind of had a big imagination, and I knew early on from seeing movies and TV shows that I was really drawn into that world, but no, I didn’t ever think like that. I just kept going after what I was dreaming about, and doggedly pursuing it, and thankfully, I’ve gotten the chance to do some of the stuff that I’d hoped I’d get to do.



“You should have let me take over while you were moving!!”

— the inimitably hilarious Sherry Ann, indicating to me this evening (via IM) that I could have avoided a prolonged absence of Buzz posts this past week if I had only handed the reins of this operation over to her for a spell. (She even went on to suggest that we could have temporarily changed the blog’s name to Sherry’s Sass. Gotta love that girl’s moxie!)


enough said

posted at 6:10 pm by brandon in spaulding express, ready to roll!

“You are almost there.”

— a strangely compelling proclamation, tacked onto the beginning of a link-filled comment advertising something to do with sapphires and such, which got stuck in the Buzz’s spam filter. (These bright little inspirational gems show up in the spam filter at least once a day, and I must confess, I’ve come to look forward to whatever gleaming platitudes, no matter how banal or trite, lay in wait for me each time I open it. I’m easy. Sue me.)


fourth and long

posted at 11:36 pm by brandon in spaulding express, ready to roll!

“San Diego and Oakland, where Lane Kiffin is still the head coach, but it’s still early in the highlights.”


— sportscaster Dan Patrick, leading into a recap of today’s Raiders/Chargers game (in which Oakland blew a 15-point first half lead and lost 28-18) on NBC’s “Football Night in America.”  (For those who don’t follow football, ugly rumors have been swirling about Kiffin’s imminent firing — an event that seems more certain than ever, now that his team has dropped three of four games after leading in the fourth quarter — since the season’s opening week.)