Much like the previous four episodes, the June 30 season finale of NBC's Hit Me Baby One More Time featured a little bit of everything. Mike Madden recaps the highs and lows (among them Animotion, above).
* First act: JUICE NEWTON
Hit played: "Queen of Hearts"
Cover song: Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me"
How she looked: Newton appeared just the way she did in her early '80s heyday (super-thin, bleach blond). Not bad, but not like a pop/country star anymore.
Best moment: She had a great tone on her guitar and a decent amount of moxie as she outdid Simpson on her own tune.
Carry on or hang it up? Carry on. Why not -- especially with a lot of today's crossover female country acts owing a lot to Newton. Besides, tonight she clearly established that she can get down.
* Second act: ANIMOTION
Hit played: "Obsession"
Cover song: Dirty Vegas' "Days Go By"
How they looked: Female lead singer Astrid Plane kind of looked like Juice Newton, except with bigger hair that was streaked pink. Male lead Charles Ottavio looked like an aging soap actor.
Best moment: The absolute train wreck of a performance on the Dirty Vegas cover. The cruise ship-worthy dance moves even had their backup guitar player laughing.
Carry on or hang it up? Hang it up. This was god-awful. "Obsession" still is a guilty pleasure, but only for its use in the mid-‘80s as the main theme for NBC and the WWF's Saturday NightMain Event.
* Third act: SHANNON
Hit played: "Let the Music Play"
Cover song: Ashanti's "Foolish"
How she looked: Shannon looked good. She wasn't knocking anyone out with her wardrobe, but she still was classy.
Best moment: She handled the Ashanti cover really well. The song isn't a huge vocal stretch, but Shannon avoided over-singing the tune.
Carry on or hang it up? Carry on. She could go on a club tour with the other "Hit Me Baby" divas -- CeCe Peniston and Irene Cara.
* Fourth act: PM DAWN
Hit played: "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss"
Cover song: Puddle of Mudd's "Blurry"
How they looked: The guys had a scaled-down version of their "putting the hippy in hip-hop" look. During their left-field Puddle of Mudd cover, they jumped on the current hip-hop trend of wardrobe advertising by listing an upcoming greatest hits CD on the back of a shirt.
Best moment: A proclamation during the "catching up" segment that the ever-plump Prince Be was looking forward to becoming a "successful vegetarian." Good luck.
Carry on or hang it up? Hang it up. Come on, guys, the best you could muster was a half-hearted Puddle of Mudd cover? Stick to your genre. By the way, is Prince Be blind? There was never a clear indication that he is or isn't. He wasn't blind when they were famous, so is the general audience supposed to be such big fans that it knows when, where, how or if he lost his eyesight?
* Fifth act: MISSING PERSONS
Hit played: "Words"
Cover song: Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head"
How they looked: Think Juice Newton with a lot more hair and a pinstriped zoot suit complete with fedora -- that is what lead singer Dale Bozzio brought to the table.
Best moment: It was great fun to see Bozzio spaced out and showing off some herky-jerky dance moves during both performances. She even threw in a salute or two at the end of her second number.
Carry on or hang it up? Hang It Up. Please. They should have called in original Persons guitarist Warren Cuccurullo for a night's work to take some attention away from the mess that was Bozzio.
Studio audience winner: PM DAWN
Most deserving to win: JUICE NEWTON. As was the trend on most of the episodes, the first performance of the night set the pace and was hard to match. "Queen of Hearts" should be considered as a potential cover for any female country artist looking to branch out to a pop audience (i.e. Miss American Idol Carrie Underwood).
-- By Mike Madden