3.03.2007

On the cultivation of shameful virtues.

I have a confession to make.

I like American Idol.

And it gets even worse. I'm not even ashamed of it.

I'm becoming quite convinced that AI is a powerful force of cultural renovation. It's like a great big music appreciation class. We see the good, the bad, the ugly, occasionally even the truly great... and all the while Simon Cowell helps us to think clearly about what makes the difference.

Yeah, yeah, he's cruel... he's also right, mostly.

And the fact is, in a culture where beauty is in the eye of the beholder, where music is a "matter of taste," and taste is a matter of nothing at all, objective criticism is always going to come off as cruel.

We're (wrongly) ashamed of objective tastes, but American Idol doesn't flinch, and doesn't sugar-coat it. Instead, with its hilarious harshness, American Idol brazenly appeals to parts of our souls that shame us. Vices like the desire to enjoy the humiliation of others, but virtues, too, like the desire to listen to music objectively and well.

American Idol is far from perfect, but quite honestly, within this cultural climate, I'm hard pressed to think of a better way to cultivate such shameful virtues.... or how a culture might survive without them.

So right now the burning question in my mind is whether to root for Melinda or Lakisha.

That, and why on earth American preferred Sanjaya over AJ. It wasn't perfect by a long shot, but shaky spots aside, I thought his interpretation was an improvement on the original. Suble and dramatic, and oh-so-musical... definitely not in the same league as some of those girls, but overall one of the strongest performances of the guys.

But the more evidence we get of America's bad taste, the clearer it becomes just how badly we need something like American Idol.

So we can learn to choose well.

Practice makes perfect, right?

4 comments:

Robbie said...

You know I have not watched this year, but I do know that Michael W. Smith is promoting Jordan Sparks. She is a Christian. But again I have not watched it so I do not know how good or bad for that matter, she is.
Robbie

Elena said...

Really? That's cool. She's absolutely adorable, and it's pretty obvious that she's going to grow up into an incredible vocalist.

Can't really compete with some of the others at this point, but she's only seventeen!

Plenty of time.

Elena said...

Really? That's cool. She's absolutely adorable, and it's pretty obvious that she's going to grow up into an incredible vocalist.

Can't really compete with some of the others at this point, but she's only seventeen!

Plenty of time.

Christa said...

I too, love American Idol. It encourages GOOD singing, and 95% of the time I agree with Simon.

I also LOVE 'So You Think You Can Dance'. It's on in the summer and is essentially the same show, but with dancing. And they have to learn all the classic ballroom dances, modern dances, interprative dances. . .it's so fabulous and encourages us to expand our horizons beyond the norm.

I like Idol for those same reasons.