15
Apr
2008

Dancing With The Stars Band

Written by  |  under Music, TV

Harold WheelerDancing With The Stars is tripe television, I admit it.  However, that does not excuse the crimes against music this show perpetrates every week.

There is no doubt that band leader, Harold Wheeler (pictured to the left) has a large task in front of him each week with the amount of music the band must perform, all in varying styles; this, however, doesn’t make it easier to stomach the way they slaughter some songs.  Since season one I have waited for them to use the Moulin Rouge version of “Roxanne” for a tango, and they finally did a few weeks ago… and it made me want to die a little bit.  The film version of this song is raw, guttural, verging on the primal, but instead we got something akin to pop and saddled with lackluster vocals that didn’t deliver a tenth of the power the original did.

This is but one small example of the egregious handling of source material this band doles out on a weekly basis.  On last night’s show we were treated to the band not even being able to find the correct rhythm in the first few bars of “Pon De Replay” by Rihanna.  Around the second bar of the song they actually changed the beat slightly, throwing the dancers, Shannon Elizabeth and Derek Hough, off their steps.

Mr. Wheeler does have an impressive resume, and is well respected in the music community, so I am not sure what is going wrong here.  Is it sub-par musicians?  Horrible singers?  (I am sorry, there is no defending those singers, they’re awful)  Is it to many styles of music?  What is it?  As someone who loves music, this band’s slaughtering of songs is getting close to driving me away from the show completely.  Even Tom Bergeron, the host, seems to be having a hard time with calling them a “great band” anymore as you can hear him snicker under it from time to time.  (Quick aside: I got the chance to visit his old morning show, Breakfast Time on FX, once, and he is one of the nicest folks I think I have ever seen working on a television show)

Will it ever stop being so painful?  Doubtful.  We’re in the sixth season, and it’s the same pain each time around, and it sadly seems to be getting worse.  It would just be nice to see them NOT slaughter a song… just once.

UPDATE: Check out my follow-up to this piece.  Yes, my opinion does change slightly!

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  • JB

    Uh. Where do I start except you obviously have no idea who plays in that band. You can always change the channel. Why waste your time complaining about something your not good enough to be in?

  • http://www.seanpaune.com Sean P Aune

    JB – Did I ever say I wanted to be in the band? Did I ever say I wanted to be a musician? (“no” would be the answer to both) I enjoy the dancing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t think the band is abysmal.

    Why is it every time I complain about music, people jump to the conclusion I am a failed musician? Totally puzzles me.

  • Anonymous

    The Moulin Rouge version of Roxanne is itself a slaughtered version. Actually all the songs and the singing in that movie are slaughtered versions of the original.
    But this is all subjective you know. One’s idea of “good” music is what was first heard or what one got emotionally attached to first.

  • Cory Halverson

    As a fan of Harold Whelers Arranging/Producing since 1998 I think he is absolutely spectacular. Get your head out of your ass and wake up!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/seanpaune Sean P. Aune

    My head is nowhere near my ass, but thanks for the suggestion. His band sucks. Perhaps it's just my opinion, but it is what it is, and it's how I feel.

    • Buxx Banner

      Yeah, your head is up your ass, that's why you couldn't hear good music even if you had ears. Get a life moron.

  • u suck

    you suck. You have no idea what music is why don’t you just shut up!

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Boricuababe1455 Boricuababe1455

    I feel vindicated…I thought for some time that I was the only one who thought these live vocalists are the absolute worse. I do enjoy the dancing, so what I have taken to doing is muting it while they dance, lol…because I can't stand the idea of being in complete agony, listening to them, either the male or female, butcher a song, yet again.

  • Debz

    Woof! I'm sure this is a heartfelt opinion.

    Well, you know what they say about opinions! ;p

    I have to say, in my own heartfelt opinion, this commentary is so far off base it isn't even on this planet.

    First of all, the arrangements have to be geared towards the dances. Sometimes the tunes are a real stretch to match the particular style of dance being performed. They need to adapt it so that these total amateurs can get their feet around it in the bounds of the choreography provided by the pro dancing partners. That's just for starters.

    Add to that, it is a live performance which is essentially an accompaniment to the dancing. It is not about the music. The STAR of this show is the dancing. The musicians must adjust when the dancers get off beat or need to slow down or speed up a section. So no, in most cases the arrangement isn't going to be quite like we remember it from the radio or the vinyl disc or whatever.

    As a musician myself, I feel that Harold and his orchestra do their job each and every week in a way that can only be described as masterful! Unlike this undoubtedly sincere, but very misguided poster, I would be thrilled to be part of Harold's group.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/seanpaune seanpaune

      The major problem is, and both the pros and stars have commented on this, is that they are given the originals to practice to. They hear the Wheeler arrangement exactly once before the live show during a rehearsal. So, when they are out there dancing, the arrangement is different from what they have practiced to, and learned their steps for. This is one of my biggest complaints against Wheeler and why it should be closer to the originals.

    • Najla

      I totally agree!
      I used to think in the path of the writer of this article! However, with time I found myself wanting to listen to some of the song they cover on the show, and get frsutrated when the original one is actually boring!!
      I like how HW band arrange some of the songs too to suit the dance and I like how they can turn a foxtrot-suitng song to an uppity quickstep song or the opposite :)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/seanpaune seanpaune

    Yeah, you aren't alone. Though it seems we are from the comments on this post, but I don't rightly care, I just can not stand that band, and especially their vocalists.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Boricuababe1455 Boricuababe1455

    I agree with you again, I can not stand that band. They are absolutely horrible. And the singing!!! OMG!!!, it's actually extremely funny that they don't show them that often and thank goodness because I don't think I could take anymore. It's nice to watch the dancing because ballroom dancing is extremely difficult and I give praise just for them having the guts to get up there and do it and the majority of them get it right, it's just that damn band, where did they come from?

    • Kyle Holmberg

      Dancing With The Stars is the only show that I see that actually shows the live band musicians, American Idol used to, but it's because they want all the attention upon the main people in the show. Sean, they didn't switch up the beat on anything, it was the dancers fault, mind you, the musicians have been playing for decades, 1/2 of the dancers have been 2-stepping it for a couple weeks, if you see a mistake, it is unlikely that it is the musicians fault. Ira Nepus and Andy Martin are 2 of the 3 trombone players in the section and I believe Wayne Bergeron is one of the trumpets, and possibly Eric Marienthal or Joe Lavano (who squeaked on his Clarinet on a piece last season or 2 seasons ago…). These names are the BEST in the business, Wayne is probably the strongest trumpet player on earth right now, while Andy Martin and Ira Nepus have been making tracks for video games, tv show intros, and dumb live pop shows since the 70's… Eric, Andy, and Wayne are in the Grammy-winning Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band and Ira is in the Grammy-winning Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra….

      I have no idea about the singers, you're probably right, musicians don't like 'em ;)

      Oh, and, the Moulin Rouge version of “Roxanne” is such a terrible, terrible piece… I played it last week at a corporate Gala, and while playing the Bass Trombone part had immense fun, the music itself is a disgrace to The Police and any other close to mediocre musical productions that come near comparison to High School Musical and other operatic rock that would decimate any true music-listener's ears…

      Also, as to them not practicing the music enough, they aren't given enough time and that is the way of a professional musician. That is something to complain to ABC about, they want to spend as little money on possible on the often stepped on musicians and therefore, ONLY pay for the 1 rehearsal and complete run-through.

      While I have kept my post polite in my opinion, some of these repliers are correct in saying that you need to know what you're talking about before you discredit names you don't even know…

  • Deb

    I was aware of that part of the equation (limited rehearsal with the band/dancers together) and I certainly can't argue against your point in that regard. The arrangements should be true to the timing of the originals, unless the dancers specifically need and request changes.

    But as far as the musicality of Harold Wheeler and his group, I feel they do awesome work at least 90% of the time.

    Now I will say that in many cases, I might prefer to listen to the original versions if that were all I was doing (listening to music). After all, don't we all normally prefer to hear an original version? It's the one we know and are used to. Human nature to prefer it.

    But in the context of it being accompaniment for the dancers, I think that the DWTS Band's arrangements are, more often than not, more appropriate versions. The originals might actually be a distraction from the dancing in some cases.

    Yes, it is a bit of added challenge for the dancers, since they only get the one dry run. But that isn't the band's fault!

    Once again, this is just my own opinion…not unlike yours…well, other than the fact that I feel the DWTS Band is a collection of very talented artists and does an awesome job (where can I sign up?).

  • Jeff D

    Deb is exactly right. These arrangements are made for a standard "Big Band" format. That fits BALLROOM dancing.

    The songs are adaptations. If the dancers choose inappropriate songs for the style of dance then the fault is theirs. This is not a Hip Hop competition.
    Most of these posts are probably by people not familiar with the Big Band style. The vocalists may not be the best I don't know, but put yourself in their shoes… They are hired to sing a song and if the style conflicts with the original song then it's going to sound bad. Not their fault. It's the old "square peg in a round hole" thing. I am sure ALL of these players are top quality session guys who can play anything but on this gig they have to play the "INK". Get it.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/seanpaune seanpaune

      If they are "Big Band" format, then why have they changed the rhythm and arrangements of music by people such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (a favorite of theirs) and the Brian Setzer Orchestra? At the end of the day it is the producers who are ultimately at fault because they assign the songs, and some of these songs should simply not be attempted if this is the format they want to play them in.

  • Kyle Holmberg

    Dancing With The Stars is the only show that I see that actually shows the live band musicians, American Idol used to, but it's because they want all the attention upon the main people in the show. Sean, they didn't switch up the beat on anything, it was the dancers fault, mind you, the musicians have been playing for decades, 1/2 of the dancers have been 2-stepping it for a couple weeks, if you see a mistake, it is unlikely that it is the musicians fault. Ira Nepus and Andy Martin are 2 of the 3 trombone players in the section and I believe Wayne Bergeron is one of the trumpets, and possibly Eric Marienthal or Sal Lavano (who squeaked on his Clarinet on a piece last season or 2 seasons ago…). These names are the BEST in the business, Wayne is probably the strongest trumpet player on earth right now, while Andy Martin and Ira Nepus have been making tracks for video games, tv show intros, and dumb live pop shows since the 70's… Eric, Andy, and Wayne are in the Grammy-winning Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band and Ira is in the Grammy-winning Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra….

    I have no idea about the singers, you're probably right, musicians don't like 'em ;)

    Oh, and, the Moulin Rouge version of “Roxanne” is such a terrible, terrible piece… I played it last week at a corporate Gala, and while playing the Bass Trombone part had immense fun, the music itself is a disgrace to The Police and any other close to mediocre musical productions that come near comparison to High School Musical and other operatic rock that would decimate any true music-listener's ears…

    Also, as to them not practicing the music enough, they aren't given enough time and that is the way of a professional musician. That is something to complain to ABC about, they want to spend as little money on possible on the often stepped on musicians and therefore, ONLY pay for the 1 rehearsal and complete run-through.

    While I have kept my post polite in my opinion, some of these repliers are correct in saying that you need to know what you're talking about before you discredit names you don't even know…

    **Sorry for the double post, I meant to put it here**

  • Rebecca M.

    I think the band is certainly a very weak spot on DWTS.. I don't watch regularly because I find the music really difficult to listen to. The singing is just extremely poor, and usually flat…never sharp, and rarely on key. I guess the ratings are good, and they just don't want to spend more on the band….or whatever it would take. Couldn't Disney afford to do better?

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  • http://None Elmer Falcione

    Sir: My request is that, if possible, you can give me the Title of the song that Harold Wheeler’s Band played, (one of his male singer’s sang it), while Dancer’s, Michael, and Anna performed their competative dance, The Waltz, on Monday Nite, Eastern Standard Time, the 26th day of October 2009? That particular original song, years ago, brought back some great memories to me. I just can’t remember the Title, and who had originally sung it. By the way; as far as I am concerned, Harold Wheeler, and his band, and singers, are the best performers that has been in the business for years. I really appreciate his music. Its just right for the Dancing With The Stars Program, which is a favorite of mine. I just can’t seem to find a CD on his music? Iv’e tried everywhere here in the Tampa Bay Area. Even on the different music web site’s. Thank you for your valued time in my request. Respectfully; Elmer Falcione
    P.O. Box 1115
    Safety Harbor, Florida 34695-1115

  • Tony

    While Sean has his confident opinion and I do see his point, I do believe he is missing the 'context' of the music in this situation…sorta like saying the Ramones wore too much black. They did wear a lot of black, true but…c'mon. The dancers are the focus of the show, not the band. Sean is confusing 'art' and 'function'. To keep things 'fair' in the competition the band needs to be somewhat equal on the songs which means being a little more faceless as opposed to having the guitar player rip off a wicked face-melter on that tango or a singer scream like Rob Halford on that waltz. I'm just not convinced that this show is really for Sean. Probably should just let it go or keep quiet that he actually cares that much about the show…kinda weird.

  • larry

    the band is awful and the singers worse yet, they need to drop the band and play recorded music if that's all the better they can do.

  • Tom

    Are any of ther singers former GTE Happening singers??One named Mary?

  • gary

    Peoplen always talk negative about something they cannot or will not do. It is easy to type how much you dont like something when your fatt ass in not on the line !!!!!!

  • josh courts

    sean p whatever his name is, is a slap happy jack wagon.

    • http://www.seanpaune.com Sean P Aune

      How did you get a hold of my family tree?!?

  • teresa

    I love the band and the music people just shutt up ; if you don't like'it don't wach'it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rex

    I am having hard time searching for Harold Wheeler "Dancing with the Stars" CD,

  • Bobby Waldman

    I must agree with Sean…That band sounds like a real shitty wedding band. I'm not musically inclined but I do have ears that can discern quality from crap. The Dancing with the Stars band and singers are the cream of the crop in LA. Wow!!! That is depressing. Total shit!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/hermadite Alan Abel

    It’s TV showbiz in the vast wasteland of the misguided. Thank God for CDs and DVDs for our entertainment. DWTS offers hope for copycats who will grace the tube with class. Harold Wheeler is a schooled composer, arranger and conductor functioning within a TV format that obviously appeals to middle America. The best is yet to come!

  • VicD

    Wow, you really are a dipshit. Really.
    That band has the best musicians Los Angeles has to offer.
    Rick Baptist is the lead trumpet player, not Wayne.
    Warren Leuning is one of the other trumpets. Both “best in the business” types.
    I think Andy Martin is in there.
    Try to develop a clue before you write about what you know nothing about.
    Oh, I forgot, you mentioned Rihianna, and she is a REAL artist.
    You are a total dipshit…

  • VicD

    By the way, Harold Wheeler has forgotten more about arranging and scoring than you could ever fathom.
    I don’t think you are a failed musician, I think you are an accomplished moron.