Bachelor Matt James’ 1st Night ‘Couldn’t Have Gone Better’

The journey has begun! Matt James‘ season 25 of The Bachelor kicked off on the weekend of September 10 and the 28-year-old was delighted to meet his hopeful women.

“It was so interesting because Matt is not on the season of The Bachelorette, and the reason why we take leads from a previous season is because you know them so well and we can predict which person he might like or not, but we just didn’t know at all, so it was really fun to watch him interact with everyone,” ABC Entertainment executive Rob Mills told Variety in a new interview. “And the women were so fantastic. It couldn’t have gone better.”

James, who will be the first Black Bachelor, was introduced as one of Tyler Cameron‘s close friends during Hannah Brown‘s season of The Bachelorette. After fans fell for him, he was then listed as part of Clare Crawley‘s original suitors.

The Bachelor Season 25 Matt James' 1st Night Meeting the Women Couldn't Have Gone Better
Matt James as The Bachelor. ABC

When the hairstylist’s season of The Bachelorette was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic, that all changed — and the real estate broker was offered the role of the next Bachelor.

Host Chris Harrison, who is currently in Pennsylvania filming James’ season at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, also noted that the process of filming during COVID-19 is easier than it was at the La Quinta Resort in Palm Springs.

“It was a little bit fluid inside this last season, having to adjust and change some things. Shooting in California, our wonderful governor was just changing things on a whim,” the Texas native, 49, said. “We had to adjust with our wonderful governor — my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek — so this will be a lot easier and a lot more organized because we know what we’re dealing with going in, so Matt James, going in, is going to have a much smoother ride than The Bachelorette did.”

Of course, due to the crisis, there will be no travel during James’ season either. Luckily, the resort on the east coast works perfectly for that.

“Obviously, once we can travel, we look forward to be able to do that again,” Mills added. “The look of it will be completely different. It was nice to have a change of scenery, but beyond that, the protocols and everything are the same — we have a good system in place for as long as we’re in pandemic mode. There was a ton of learning from the season of Bachelorette that we were able to take and make this season of Bachelor even better. It is impressive — the bubble that they’ve devised is so fantastic. It really is the one way you can do it safely.”

The Bachelorette airs on ABC Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET. The Bachelor is set to premiere in January.

Listen to Here For the Right Reasons to get inside scoop about the Bachelor franchise and exclusive interviews from contestants!

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Matt Berninger Is a Master of Gloomy Beauty on ‘Serpentine Prison’

“I’m near the bottom/Name the blues, I’ve got ‘em,” the National frontman Matt Berninger sings on the delicately despondent “Oh, Dearie,” from his debut solo LP. It’s a song about being completely asphyxiated by fear and doubt — certainly a message for our times. But don’t call the crisis hotline just yet. The music is more reassuringly cozy than last-ditch dire, with the singer pouring his enveloping, care-worn baritone over softly illuminating piano and a “Dust in the Wind” acoustic figure. The sound is par for the course for a guy whose band has often specialized in pairing depression and anxiety with artfully pleasant indie-rock. By the time he arrives at the slight lyrical twist, “I don’t see no brightness/I’m kinda startin’ to like this,” you’re almost ready to curl up next to him in his warmly welcoming shame shed. 

After spending the last couple decades as one of 21st century alt-rock’s longest-running success stories, the National have spent this year on a break (the most significant product of which has been Taylor Swift’s Folklore, produced in large part by the Natties’ Aaron Dessner). Yet if Berninger ever had interest in making music outside his band’s smart, sad safety zone, he doesn’t show it here. Serpentine Prison was recorded with Booker T. Jones, a Memphis soul great who has produced albums by artists from Bill Withers to Neil Young to LeeAnn Rimes. In keeping with National’s collaborative spirit (their last album, 2019’s I Am Easy to Find, had dozens of guests), Berninger made the record with the help of friends and peers like Matt Barrick and Walter Martin of the Walkmen, National bassist Scott Devendorf, and Andrew Bird. The result is a set of forlorn ballads that start spare and gather beauty as they grow. 

The troubled romantic plea “One More Second” evolves from Nick Drake-y benediction to tight, tense shuffle, garlanded by Jones’ Hammond organ playing. On “Silver Springs,” Berninger duets beautifully with Gail Ann Dorsey, a veteran of David Bowie’s later-era bands. “Distant Axis” recalls somber Bruce Springsteen in its anthemic solemnity, building a lavish orchestral structure atop a spare, driving acoustic bed. The strongest moment is “Take Me Out of Town,” a piano ballad that has the heartbroken beauty of the National at their most transporting.  

Berninger doesn’t try to replicate the National’s sleeker rock moments (songs like “Careless,” from 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, or “Day I Die,” from 2017’s Sleep Well Beast). The slower, stretched-out songs and rich arrangements make for an fitting backdrop for his bleak, bleary crooning. An album of depressed songs like this runs the risk of becoming boring and indulgent, and there are some sleepy passages, but Berninger has always helped himself out by performing his why-me glumness as a joke he’s self-deprecatingly in on — “standing in the quicksand with a smiling face,” as he puts it on “All For Nothing,” a particularly lovely moment. 

In a similarly over-the-top vein, he also has a Morrissey-ish knack