‘American Idol’ notes: Danny Gokey interview (Cobb Energy, Oct. 5), Carrie Underwood, Paula Abdul, J-Hud + Kelly Clarkson

Originally posted Tuesday, September 11, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

A decade removed from "American Idol," Danny Gokey has spent the past five years building himself up as a legitimate, respected Christian pop artist. He's generated multiple top 10 hits on the Christian charts including the no. 1 songs "Hope in Front of Me" and "Rise."

He has opened for everyone from Casting Crowns to TobyMac. Now he's ready to take on the limelight as headliner for the first time this fall, a major milestone for any artist. That means he has enough of his own songs to play 60 to 75 minutes without relying on covers.

“It’s amazing but at the same time, there’s a lot of risk,” said Gokey last week, fighting off a stomach virus that two of his kids had as well. “There’s a lot more I have to think about.”

He will be at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre October 5. (Buy tickets here.) His other tour dates are listed here.

Gokey, 38, said now that he has a lot of touring under his belt, he has begun to understand regional differences in how crowds react to him. Folks in North Dakota and Alabama, he said, tend to be more reserved than those on the coasts. At first, he thought they weren't enjoying his music as much. But he later realized this was more a cultural vibe and more about what he was feeling, not how they were feeling. He had to remember that "we're not here for ourselves."

For this show, Gokey will dance with his band, too, Bruno Mars style during some of the more upbeat tunes. He hired Laurie Ann Gibson, the famous choreographer who works with the likes of Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, to help him out. "I'm excited more than intimidated," he said. "I like the challenge."

Gokey is on a new label Capitol Christian Music Group, leaving BMG, where he generated three hit albums, including a Christmas release. He feels his current label has more connections and can get him on the proper Spotify playlists. (Yes, Spotify matters now as much as radio and Capitol has experience in both arenas.)

He released his last studio album “Rise” two years ago and is on his fourth single on Christian radio “If You Ain’t In It.”

"I'm in the process of writing a new album," he said. "I don't want to be rushed. As you get into this and have more experience, the experience really pays off in the sense I know what works and what doesn't work. I want to focus on what works more than anything." 
Gokey admits that this might sound "audacious," but he sees his music as a "movement."

He has been able to channel a lot of his pain and grief through song  after his first wife Sophia passed away from a congenital heart condition. So his current tour is thematically based on hope.

"I've walked through the loss of a spouse, a tragic loss out of nowhere," said Gokey, who is remarried (Leyicet) with three young children. "We never know what the future holds. That moment haunted me with anxiety, fear and depression. I had some pretty big battles with that. It's about overcoming all that. This tour, I can share more, to help more people."

For each date of his tour, he is asking fans to nominate a non-profit organizer who has addressed societal woes and made the world better. He will give the winner free tickets and bring them on stage, hoping to “spark movement in other’s hearts.” He will then sing his song “Better Than I Found It.”

After working for years on a non-profit himself in honor of his late first wife, he is now putting together a TV show which is based on that very same “hope” theme and focusing on each non profit group’s mission to make the world a better place.

“I think sometimes as Christians we can get carried away and keep mentioning Jesus and bang it on peoples’ heads,” he said. “I think that’s what makes religion dull for some people. They’ve seen unimpactful ministry. I am trying to make it count. That’s what this TV show is all about. I hope to help people and let my light shine, not my words.”

He has no network yet and even if nobody picks up the show (which he is funding out of his own pocket), he’d like to put it on YouTube. “Start a little and let God take it where it goes,” he said.

Here's Carrie Underwood's latest NFL Sunday Night theme "Game On." Her studio album "Cry Pretty" comes out Friday, September 14.

David Cook is coming back to City Winery Atlanta for an acoustic concert November 19. He played there in July, 2017. Tickets range from $24 to $32 here.


Credit: NBC

Credit: NBC

"The Voice" is back this fall for its 15th season and two of the biggest "Idol" stars together as coaches: Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson.

This should create some fun interactions, as noted in the promo video below.

“Nobody knows more than us how life changing this really is,” J-Hud says, referencing her and Kelly.

They are back Monday, September 24. (Clarkson won last season Brynn Cartelli.)


Radio host Bobby Bones, who did some mentoring for "American Idol" 16, will be on the 27th season of "Dancing With the Stars." It's a subtle cross promotion. The show has only brought in one "American Idol" contestant alum Kellie Pickler and she won that season!

Other names leaked out so far include gymnast Mary Lou Retton and "Facts of Life" star Nancy McKeon. The full cast will be named Wednesday.

Here's Paula Abdul doing a new  "Straight Up" video with some fancy razzmatazz on James Corden's CBS late night show.

At age 56, she is a step slower than she was when the single came out, but not a lot of 56 year olds can do this:

I saw her live in Philadelpha during the "Club MTV" tour in the summer of 1989, the one also featuring Milli Vanilli. Yes, there was a whole lotta lip-syncin' going on that night!

For contrast, here’s the original video:


Adam LambertQueen are doing a three-week residency in Vegas. Here is Adam doing Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel":

Clay Aiken Tweet of the week