Can DNA make a rock star?

Or, like parent, like child? This is the question MTV hopes to answer with their new reality series “Rock The Cradle,” which features a Malibu native.

By Jon Steely / Special to The Malibu Times

In 1981, longtime Malibu resident Olivia Newton-John’s music video for “Physical,” which was full of sexual connotation causing it to be censored and even outright banned by some radio stations and broadcasters, helped propel MTV into the nation’s consciousness as a major force in both pop music and pop culture. At the same time, the MTV generation was born…

Cut to present day 2008 and MTV is about to unite the original MTV generation with the new MTV generation, with a brand new series called “Rock The Cradle.” The concept mirrors “American Idol,” only with a new twist: the contestants are the children of rock stars and legendary “old school” recording artists like Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, Kenny Loggins, Bobby Brown and MC Hammer. “Rock The Cradle” will feature a behind-the-scenes look at how these ambitious offspring are advised and supported by their famous parents as they compete for a recording contract by performing live in front of a panel of expert judges and a studio audience. In the end, a national viewing audience will decide which young rockers have what it takes to shine like their parents by voting from home.

“The main concept of the show,” said Maira Suro, senior vice president of Talent and Series Development at MTV, “is to see if there such a thing as rock star DNA, and also to introduce the early music of the ’80s MTV generation to the newer generation.”

Suro continued: “It’s all about how these young kids with dreams and aspirations follow their dreams the way their parents did, only with their own spin. And they really do have chops.”

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Malibu native Chloe Lattanzi was born with a big claim to fame. She is the daughter of Olivia Newton-John (and actor Matt Lattanzi). Now, “Rock The Cradle” will give Lattanzi, a 22-year old singer/songwriter, the opportunity to step out from her mom’s shadows and prove that she can, or cannot (on this show at least), make it on her own in the music business.

This is no simple feat. Cynics argue it is much easier for a stunningly attractive girl with a “connection” to find commercial success. However, when one tries to come up with a list of artists who arrived by way of nepotism that have sustained long-term success in the music business, the names are very few. The Paul McCartneys and Bob Dylans of the world almost never have superstar parents. “You can get your foot in the door with a name, but you have to have what it takes to make it, no matter what your name is,” Lattanzi said.

Lattanzi, who describes her music as “alternative pop,” is up for the challenge. Brimming with a young artist’s enthusiasm, she cites the desire to overcome personal fear as a reason she agreed to be a “Rock The Cradle” contestant.

“I was scared, but I wanted to experience things that I was afraid to do in order to grow as a person and as an artist,” Lattanzi said. “I have an authentic passion for my music and I want to share my music with as many people as I can. And connect with them. My whole being comes alive when I make music and I don’t want my passion to be questioned because I am the child of a famous person.”

When asked what advice mom has given her along the way, she replied, “Just to connect with your authentic self, flaws and all, as a person and as a performer.”

“Rock The Cradle” will show both the advantages and disadvantages of being the offspring of musical celebrity by allowing the viewing audience into the homes of these music luminaries for a close-up look at what their home life and family dynamic is really like. No punches will be pulled.

“Chloe was very candid and open in discussing her life and challenges in her close relationship with her mom,” Suro said. “She is very different from her mom. And she is very talented. We didn’t know what to expect at the auditions, but Chloe really blew us away.”

“Rock The Cradle” premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on MTV.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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