Wednesday, March 11, 2009

OK… I’m coming clean.

There is a Seinfeld episode where Jerry and friends find themselves in a police station somewhere in the city. Kramer has a friend who’s a sketch artist and before George will go on a blind date (being arranged by Kramer) he wants to see some likeness of the woman of the hour (but with these characters, it’s really more like the woman of the half hour). Jerry, usually uninterested in anything that’s not about him, finds his mind and his eyes wandering until he spots an attractive blonde in uniform. They make small talk and the subject goes to the polygraph machine. The female sergeant makes a comment about the famous people they’ve had on the machine – “A certain member of the cast of Melrose Place. Do you watch the show?” “No – never watch it” says Jerry. For some reason, she wants to put him on the polygraph. “I think you’re lying – I think you watch it” she says.

I watch American Idol.

Not all the time but I do watch it. I know, I know, I’d come off much more hip and mysterious if I said I’d never seen it but it’s fascinating because it’s one of the most popular shows on television. That alone should make me suspicious but something like twenty-five to thirty million people watch every episode. Mind boggling – or as one of the judges said last night, “I’m mind-boggled.”

But I have to tell you it’s becoming more and more difficult to watch. The commercials alone would be enough to make me never turn the thing on if it weren’t for DVR. We usually start watching about fifteen minutes after the show starts, but more and more often, we catch up to real time in no time. Then it’s just painful.

The assortment of talent this season is above average and I’m intrigued at the song choices they make, the keys they choose to sing in, the dance steps (wow, a lot of them have to be Baptist, ‘cause the dancing is, well, it ain’t pretty and I should know!), the things they say during the interviews, etc.

These kids have to be shell-shocked to be living in relative obscurity (a couple of them are sixteen . . . and they’re some of the better singers on the show) then suddenly pushed onto a stage in front of hundreds in the live audience and millions watching on TV.

The promise of fame and fortune is a strong magnet.

I saw a piece on Van Morrison on CBS Sunday Morning this past week. Yes, I recorded it and watched it later. Yes, I was at church while it played live. OK? Anyhoo, Van Morrison is 63 years old, has sold seventy million albums, has done, almost, an album a year over his 40 year career. He’s reluctant to do interviews but is promoting a new album that was cut live at Madison Square Garden. Actually, it is a re-recording of one of his earliest works. When asked if there was anything good about fame, he replied, “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

Come on Van. I like the whole semi-reclusive bit and I appreciate the shadowy artistic struggle persona and all but your fame has been pretty good to you and frankly, at 63 you can still bring it! You might want to say “Thank You” to Somebody! Maybe he does. I hate it when I jump to conclusions about people I don’t even know. He does reflect a spiritual side in some of his music so let’s hope the best, believe the best and pray that Van knows from where his gift and his blessings flow.

So do you think that any of the Idol contestants don’t want their shot? Of course they want their shot just like you do and just like I do. They’re young and have their whole lives before them. There are behind the scenes stories about these good looking kids – some are single parents (already?), others starving artists trying to make a statement. There’s one guy named Danny that obviously has a church music background (hey, he might even know the words to Watercolor Ponies or something). Last night, one of the judges commented on Danny’s joy. Hmm. Ya think?

When the contestants pick the wrong song, as happens so often, things don’t go well. I think more often, they pick the wrong key. I know when I’m sitting alone with the guitar or piano, writing something new or getting ready to lead worship, the key that feels comfortable in private is just too low for the platform. Adrenaline kicks in and most of us need to pitch things a little higher to communicate the passion and put the edge on the voice. This happens all the time on Idol. Just a thought.

And some of the songs don’t need to be touched by these relative newbies. If nothing else, it should make them and all of us appreciate the musicality, if not the lifestyle, of the original performer. Last night, they sang songs of Michael Jackson. Some great pop songs but otherwise, “No comment.”

Be wise and careful, I would say. And raise the key one step!


“OK mister, is there anything remotely spiritual about any of this?”

Oh, I think there’re spiritual elements to most everything. I can’t help but pull for the underdog but appreciate the greater talent. That’s a primal spiritual struggle right there. I can’t help but be a little sad that our culture praises and elevates someone yet unproven with little more to offer than cool clothes, a good voice and a firm resolve to face down Simon Cowell. But maybe they’re deeper and made of bigger stuff and just need the chance to show it. Things so unimportant and insignificant are made to seem so important and so significant. I suppose this contest is significant to those in the running because it could change their lives, the lives of their families. I just pray it will be a change for the better, for the more honorable, the more noble.

And I pray that I’ll live this day pleasing to God wherever I go and whatever I do. You too?

By the way, the picture at the top is of a house in our neighborhood. Unbelievable. Clark Griswald eat your heart out. I took it a Christmas and, well, with all that's happened since, I just forgot to share it with you. How'd ya like to be this guy's neighbor??

1 comment:

Grace said...

Hi, Wayne, just came across your blogsite as at this very moment I am listening to your song from years ago, Watercolour Ponies, and just think I should check you out.

I love the song, one of my favorites from a CD my brother gave me years ago. Thank you for this simple yet beatifully written song. I guess it's quite a coincidence that you mentioned this song in this thread.

May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry.