I have this problem. Yes, another one. And I'm not being facetious; it really is a problem. Deep in my heart of hearts, I want to love people, be tolerant of diversity, celebrate our differences. I liked old Jesse Colin Young, and I still have a soft spot for his sixties anthem about smiling on my brother and getting together and loving one another, right now. Then I encounter people who love the television show American Idol, and it's all shot to hell.
See, I told you this was going to be difficult.
Because deep in my heart of hearts I also cannot comprehend how anyone could even remotely tolerate, let alone love, a show like American Idol. There are people in my church -- good, godly folk who love Jesus and love their spouses and kids and pay their taxes and give to the poor and needy – who love American Idol. And it’s like watching Mother Teresa snort cocaine. What’s wrong with this picture? And how have these otherwise wonderful people become so deluded?
They debate the merits of people named Katharine and Taylor and Elliot and Paris (Oh no! Not another one!), who are competing for future jobs in Vegas, and who sing bad cover versions of already bad originals from people like Queen and, God help me, Rod Stewart. Somebody tell me I’m dreaming, and that I’ll eventually wake up from this nightmare. When did the collective American musical consciousness undergo a lobotomy?
And stupidly, I take it personally. I fancy myself as some sort of musical Moses, writing my stupid articles for Paste Magazine, leading the people out of MTV and Top 40 slavery. “Follow me,” I call out to them, and lo, the musical sea parts before me, and I can cross over on dry land. And the people say, “Nope, we like it back here in slavery, where we can enjoy our leeks and onions, and listen to Katharine and Elliot. We like our Vegas schlockmeisters and pop tarts, and we don’t give a damn whether we ever see a guitar or hear a power chord again.”
It’s thoroughly depressing, I tell you. They’re all so young, too, in their twenties and thirties, already becoming middle-aged and sedate. In ten years they will travel to Branson, Missouri to take in a Kenny Rogers revival show, and play vintage Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken MP3s on their drive out to Cheeseland.
Ah, I’m bitter, and I know it. And the better part of me doesn’t really mean it. I love these folks. I really do. I just don’t understand. And so I put on Jesse Colin Young again, listen until the words start to sink in. “Smile on your brother. Everybody get together, try to love one another right now.” Yeah, right now would be good, before the next episode featuring covers of Tony Orlando and Dawn tunes.