Thursday, May 21, 2009


Upfront apologies extended to you, I obviously can’t resist deconstructing my version of this season’s American Idol “competition.” But it is so rife with all of the juicy, cultural and societal bits that I’m almost bi-polar with both disappointment and glee. And I’m going to let what’s left of the Colorado River neurons course aimlessly through the grand, sediment-al (not sentiMENTAL) canyons of my brain.

If you’ve never watched or followed American Idol, none of this is going to make sense, and pat yourself heartily for not succumbing to its addictive, lethal charms over the years. With last year’s competition I reveled in its evolution that, somehow, by grace, two most worthy young voices and persons were hoisted upon America’s shoulders and there was no way the crass, the manipulative, the gnomes and gremlins with no lives and oodles of cellular minutes to spare could NOT elect a proper winner. Last year the two David’s were so gifted and charming that the mirages of Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia et al had wafted away by the final 12.

This year’s start actually renewed the willies within me, even when I began viewing once they got to the Kodak stage, somewhere around 16 or so in number. I thought the field weaker than last year, but as I am by nature faithful once converted (I admit four reality vices: Idol, Survivor (the first), So You Think You Can Dance (the best) and The Amazing Race (the most compelling) I persevered. Then one evening, as it happened “Country Music Night” (Oh Joy!) the creature known as “Adam Lambert” took the iconic Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire” ballad down the Rabbit Hole, into a Hawking conceived worm-hole and dangerously, ironically weirdly into one of Dante’s levels of flame-dom with a Eno cum Shankar cum Robert Plant cum Fee Waybill and the Tubes rendition that made this misanthropic face gape longer than any on Easter Island. Oh, Lord, what is this alien force that both camps the glam and mocks it simultaneously that I should crumble to my knees (not actually, they’re both busted real good) and say, move over Frank, Elvis and Jacko, we’ve found the last of the busts for rock’s Rushmore and he’s already planted the nitro overnight while the world slept.

Even Simon could not immediately comprehend this alien and its force. The smarmy “What WAS that???” was the best his smug Parliamentarian accent could muster after “Ring of Fire.” But not for long would Simon not sez anything but “We’re not worthy” to ADAM , MAN.
And equally not long would the drudgery that is the bedbug haven of webdom idiota to post tattletale images of Mr. Lambert bussing another person apparently of the same gender. But the long and winding road, and blowhard, bloated machine that all such shows take and are, would continue. Each week, it became more (and eventually universally) evident that Lambert was not on the same planet as the numbers of idols fell. If one looks retrospectively for an oracle of things to come, the early departure of Allison Iraheta (also clearly of Adam’s ilk and they, the closest of allies) betrayed the fickle, reactive and obstinate nature that is the American public. (Haven’t we always been as naughty in equal measure to nice from the start? Ben Franklin, John Adams….you do the math.) But, none of that deterred Lambert, Kris Allen or Danny Gokey as the worthy trinity in their respective quests. But as sure as smoky Gokey’s soulful voice withered, nee, strike that, shrieked like some Lady McBeth harridan raven at the end of Arrowsmith cum Tyler’s “Dream On,” Lambert unflinchingly chose Led Zepplin’s colossal “Whole Lotta Love,” then proceeded without shame or malice-of-forethought to sing it light years better than……..FREAKING ROBERT PLANT!
After that, the cognoscenti among our little catholic school faculty sided up, you either accept Adam Lambert as the Chosen One (criminy sakes, more convincingly than Obama!) or you just loved that precious smile of Kris Allen, who should have been born a generation earlier to have given Johnny Depp a run on “21 Jump Street.” Except that the same scurrilous media homers floated Kris, the underdog, Kris the family guy, Kris the lighthouse for youth (unless you live in Lambertland), and finally Kris, the, ahem, Christian.

In any case, the hype in the wormhole moved faster than scheit through Star Trek Scotty’s goose on a good day until Tuesday’s final showdown. Subtlety, thankfully, took the night off. Adam, in his first two numbers chosen respectively and wisely by himself and producer Simon Fuller, nailed the 96 Theses and then thanked the Pope on top of it. Kris countered with that sort of Applebees, TGIF, Olive Garden “It’s all good” post-racial, it’s okay for a white guy to croon Sam Cooke and, geez Margie, Marvin Gaye's "What's goin' on." Yeah, what, indeed is goin' on and up widdat?
Why Simon yielded either of the first two “rounds” to Kris seemed as disingenuous as the praise that Randy and Paula tried to muster up for Kris’ artistry; and as lukewarm and icky as that “who the sam hill is she again?” Di Guardio woman and her epic “tune” that the guys were obliged to spew as the de rigueur anticlimactic finale. If Bikini women had joined them while singing that Tom Conry-esque tongue-twister one note samba, that might have made it palatable to the 14 year old male post-pubescent demographic.
I don’t give a rodent’s tuchis about the judges’ anointing of Lambert on Tuesday. The outcome, though still in play and in jeopardy, was moot in any case.

The coup de grace was yet to come on the show’s crowning night; last night. I’ll be brief (yeah, right!) Adam Lambert put out the dog, put on the Prince, wallowed in the metal slop of not only KISS (and unto Gene Simmons and his Red-Dye #9tongue getting schooled in the art of the true metal tenor) and QUEEN (which made either Satan or God pause for a second to bask in the smile of Freddy Mercury muttering, “My son, my son!”) without even breaking a sweat or seam in his leather breeches! I was thinking how great it was not to be Kris Allen during the singing of “We are the champions.” But the cute devil does have poise.

And apparently integrity and true humility. For when, at the merciful advent of the envelope, please, Seacrest formed the fricative “K” and Kris’s mouth opened agape (ooh, I didn’t even mean that to happen, really!), his astonishment seemed real, like “gettouttahereyagottabekiddinmeyajerkya.” But he did say something like “No, Adam deserves this.” Nice kid. But he was right. Not on the same stage, planet, universe.
But, like a good, homegrown hero caught unawares, he moved gracefully into “Aw shucks and thanks” and, of course, Adam was right there with the perfect smile and real man hug for a real friend. And that, is the way of the world in Idol Land.

The sweet little post-script moment before the credits showed Allison and Adam cuddling like two little innocent children that are drawn to each other simply because their magnets and tuning forks resonate at the same frequency. They just were happy to have been there, so it appeared.
Does any of this have an iota’s worth of relevance to Liturgical or Sacred Music. Maybe, if one wants to invent corollaries or metaphors having to do with issues of “authenticity….aesthetics……popularity……vox populi……or COMMERCE.” (Pink Floyd’s “Money” just flashed by followed by an eye chart of letters: O....C....P.....g.....i....a....w....l....p....
But, like I said, this is my autopsy table in my CSI in my Court of Appeals in the metropolis that is the capital of the planet of my body among the billions and billions of bodies celestial……..O pigeon droppings, I’m going Sagan again.


anne said...

Great review Charles!! Didn't know you watched too! Hooked on it and I expect the same will happen with SYTYCD...

Lyn F. said...

Nice sum up post, Charles. I'll admit - I've not really paid much attention to AI in the past. The only reason why I paid attention this year was because UNC grad student and former Clef Hanger Anoop Desai was on it. As soon as he was voted off the show, I stopped watching. I wasn't keen on the other finalists' shrieking (as opposed to singing). It was all a reminder of why I don't listen to pop music any more.