Thursday, April 27, 2006

American Idol and Hippie Anthems

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.

57 comments:

mommy zabs said...

well, don't know totally what to say. i love and hate american idol. i see your points. but i think i enjoy music in several different capacities. the kind of music i would enjoy on american idol is just for silly entertainment, not for depth... you know? but i still enjoy off the beatern path stuff.... top 40? it's not all evil... like some don't like some. sometimes really good songs actually get popular so I can't throw the baby out with the bath water, even though most times these songs are popular because big money was put behind it to get played on major radio stations. but still.... someteims. sometimes... it's good. (in my opinion)

jackscrow said...

Kareoke. Masses. Idiots. TV. Waste of time. Let them eat cake.... wait a second, Cake's a band.

I've never seen an "Idol" show all the way through. I glance at it when it is in the background at the watering hole that I frequent.

The only thought that I've had about (outside of dissing it as lemming food), is this:

I'd like to sneak Martin Sexton in as a contestant, and then have REAL music critics make fun of those three clowns (see, I don't even know their names) when they vote him out.

bd said...

amen (as I switch to something more obscure, indie, and guitar driven in my iTunes)

KarlandBethany said...

{quote}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?{/quote}

OUCH! that was harsh, and I think it's more like she's token' on a roach.

Andy, I understand your point, but remember that American Idol is NOT about great music. In fact it's about bad music and competition.

I get hooked every year on hearing the train wrecks that the producers serve up for my entertainment. It's amazing to me to watch these kids throw themselves to the lions.

Then by the time I get tired of stopping to see the train wreak, I've now started actually cheering for the ones that are pretty good. I want to see them succeed. So within this context I'm enjoying the competition. Some find he competition of Ultimate Fighting where two unprofessional fighters beat the snot out of each other. Makes no sense to me but to each his own.

Now do I participate in forming the future of these performers? No, I've only picked up the phone to vote once or twice. It's truly a spectator sport for me.

I sit writing this while listening to AOL radio. The channel is called Top111Worstsongs. Paula Abdul is singing "Straight Up". Now if I analyze the song for its musical and lyrical content I think I would agree with them that it sucks. But you know, it has a nice groove and good textures so I enjoy it.

It's still better than the homogenized Clearchannel playlist of the crap played today. That is a whole other post, and probably connected to the Mob, so I'll shut up before I get fitted for cement shoes.

K.

zena said...

i'm with you, andy.

once in a doctor's office i began to hate a complete stranger as they went on and on about how they loved chris and "that he was the kind of guy that they would pay to see in concert." the marketing was so complete in that individual. i felt terrible.

pray for me,
z

nikkip said...

yikes! let me begin with saying that last season was my first season of ever watching one episode of american idol...and i prided myself in that fact. i was just like you and the other commentors on this post! when friends would mention watching american idol, i would scoff at them with a great deal of condescention in my demeanor. but alas, i've been sucked in. i could make up some excuse to say that it's my 30something attempt to stay relevant to my students--but i'd be lying. it's actually entertaining, and it's something that my family enjoys doing as a FAMILY. and before you judge that, please know that we do plenty of other non-tv oriented activities as a family. this american idol addiction of sorts just happens to be something mindless and effortless for me to enjoy with my 4 and 7 year old daughters. i apologize to any and all offended and promise to never mention it when you are in ear shot of my conversation...as far as my blog is concerned: read at your own risk!

Karen said...

i say this with all the love in the world andy:
you're taking the show too seriously. if you watch it like watching a show like, say, cops? you won't find it as horrible. reality tv at it's best, my friend.

(that being said i haven't watched this season at all) :D

Andy Whitman said...

Let me just note, in case it's not clear, that some of this (only SOME, mind you) is overstated for effect.

Do I like American Idol? Not in the least, and I really do have a hard time understanding how it could be taken seriously (as an unintentional comedy, and as entertainment, sure). Nevertheless, I really do love y'all, and don't want my want to obscure that.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled lovefest ...

jackscrow said...

Reality TV rots your brain. It also puts professionals (as in "don't do this at home, folks")out of work.

It is TV doing things the Clearchannel, Fox, lowest common denominator, corporate raider, costcutting, Walmort, on the cheap way.

Really don't need a plot, screenwriter, etc.... now do ya?

It also allows folks to feel superior (i.e.: "Cops, "Springer") in a "boy we sure are better off than them thar stereotypes" way.

No one who wastes their life, let alone the precious time with their offspring watching "reality" tv has any business feeling anything but ashamed.

Of course, you could say that I am being "superior" by pointing this out....

Or just realistic.

Fred Kohn said...

my first random thought is that it is perfectly possible to like American Idol and also like power chords. Nobody is one dimensional, not even the ones that appear the most cardboard-like. I'd like to think that the pure Republican or the pure Democrat doesn't really exist, and I think the same is true in the musical world.

Since, Andy, you are a sort of self proclaimed musical politician (politicking for the musical left as it were), I expect these kind of strong statements- and appreciate them. But in music as in politics most people are in the vast middle, finding it possible to enjoy both Rod Stewart and, well, the more esoteric stuff. And in music as in politics most people find the people on the extreme edges interesting but a little nutty.

Anonymous said...

Andy, I had this really long post in response to this, but, I'm already in a bad mood today and your post made it worse, so all I am going to say is, I'm prayin for you cause you said it yourself, you are pretty bitter.

Nancy

Andy Whitman said...

Nancy, I don't think you're really understanding what I'm saying, but I'll let it go for now.

nikkip said...

oh, and for the record...i DESPISE rod stewart. hope that gets me some brownie points.

Andy Whitman said...

jackscrow:

"No one who wastes their life, let alone the precious time with their offspring watching "reality" tv has any business feeling anything but ashamed.

Of course, you could say that I am being "superior" by pointing this out...."

Umm, yeah.

Look, jackscrow, these folks are my friends. I know them. Some of them like American Idol. I don't. But one thing I do know -- they don't need to feel ashamed if they watch reality TV with their kids. Or without them. These are not one-dimensional stereotypes. These are real, flesh-and-blood people, and I love them.

I knew I would receive the kind of response I've received to this message. I knew that some of my friends would defend American Idol. And really, I wouldn't want them to do anything different. In some masochistic way, I like and enjoy these discussions. And I really want to go to great pains here to state that these are wonderful people who don't fit anybody's canned ideas, and it sounds to me like you're mighty fond of canned ideas and stereotypes. They are wonderfully complex because they are real. They don't fit in a box, even if they watch the box.

This is part of the conundrum of posting a message like this. Am I genuinely confused as to why somebody would like American Idol? Yes. I really am. I absolutely do not get it, and the proselytizing part of me wants to try to convince people to expand their musical horizons and forget about Vegas wannabes. And I feel strongly about this. But all of this -- all of it -- is not nearly as important as the fact that these are wonderful folks whose lives extend far beyond their like or dislike of American Idol.

So, anybody I've offended out there -- Nancy? Fred? Anybody else? -- please take these comments with a grain of salt. Believe it or not, the original post was deliberately overstated, perhaps in a feeble attempt to be funny. Maybe it wasn't funny; I don't know. I enjoyed writing it, and going off the deep end. But I'm content to leave the appeal of American Idol a mystery if you are. Chalk it up as right up there with the nature of the Trinity, the ongoing career of Paris Hilton, and the appeal of lima beans.

And please -- all you lima bean apologists -- I believe you, but I'll never understand you.

Jeff said...

A great and effective post. I probably don't take it as personally as you do, but I also cannot understand why some friends just love A.I. It's really a mystery.

I was talking to a friend recently about music, and how hard it is to find good music that's not played regularly on the corporate airwaves. I guess we're back to word of mouth and tape trading, because I'm certainly not going to hear anything worthwhile on hit radio.

danthress said...

What I love about American Idol is that it's name says it all. What I hate about American Idol is everything but it's name.

Nancy, we're not bitter, just confused. And I think we're ok with that.

Brother-in-law Bill said...

OK, let's follow the logic. How often do you find any music on the radio that isn't at least 20 years old that's worth a listen? Obviously, since all those music programs have sponsors, the majority disagrees. Now, how often do you find anything worth watching on commercial television? Again, the majority would disagree with us. So what is more logical than a crappy TV show focusing on crappy music? We hate it, but it's by far the most popular thing on television, so much so that CNN Headline News makes sure to update those of us who didn't tune in last night.

Keep fighting the good fight, Bro. Return with your shield, or on it.

jackscrow said...

Andy,


I sounded mean, and "superior".

Yep.

Sorry.

But when you quoted me, you forgot the last bit, "realistic." It bites.

Hopefully the folks who read your thoughts will look at why they watch shows like AI. I mean, really search, and then decide how they want to steward their precious time.

Also take into account that I was including all reality shows, not just bland, below mediocre drivel like AI, and the effects these shows have on people, especially children, who watch.

People, including me, get sold the goods and end up doing things that are against what they profess to believe all the time.

This would be an easy one NOT to do.

Too bad they don't have people writing, singing, and playing their own songs.

Too bad we settle.

Does that make it a sin.

Probably.

Andy Whitman said...

jackscrow:

"Too bad they don't have people writing, singing, and playing their own songs."

Okay, I hear what you're saying. And I don't disagree. But let me note that some of the folks who have commented about American Idol, and others who have not, but who I know are fans, are writing and singing and playing their own songs, and writing poetry, and painting, and engaging in all manner of creative activities. Again, the stereotypes don't fit.

Here's another conundrum for you. You commented about Martin Sexton. I love Martin Sexton -- absolutely think he's one of the great, unrecognized singer/songwriters who could blow any 10 AI participants out of the water with one guitar strumming hand tied behind his back. And I know at least two people who are huge Martin Sexton fans, who wouldn't miss an appearance if he's anywhere within a couple hundred mile radius of home, and who are also huge AI fans. And they're great folks.

Again, there is a part of me that doesn't understand this. It's like simultaneously reading Dostoyevsky and a trashy romance novel. But there you go.

And that's what I'm honestly struggling to understand. Many of the folks who have commented positively about AI here are big-time music fans. They seek it out, and they are not content to settle for Top 40 pablum. So all I can figure is that AI must meet a different need that may very well have little to do with music. I think that's what nikkip and karen have communicated. And I'm honestly trying to understand that better.

I would have a hard time getting past the goddawful music to find the "entertainment" value. Listening to bad covers of bad originals doesn't sound that entertaining to me. But I really would like to understand better the appeal of this show. Is it the music? Or nothing to do with the music? Or the music and something else?

I'd welcome comments.

Jeff said...

Andy,
Maybe the attraction for some is the "live" aspect. Perhaps hearing somebody sing live on TV, not studio-enhanced or electronically altered, is what draws some music fans.

jackscrow said...

Andy,


Appreciate the comments.

All I can do is to quote Larry Gross: "Get out and see some live music, as soon as you can."

Mark K said...

MTV plays music? When did they start doing that?

Fred Kohn said...

andy-

you didn't offend me in the least and I would not consider myself an AI fan. I doubt I would watch it at all except for the fact that my wife is a huge fan. I literally cannot stand the early part of the season where the judges tell lousy singers how lousy they are. It's hard for me even to stay in the room and Nancy will on occasion send me out so she doesn't have to listen to my comments about how terrible the show is.

I do enjoy the final 12 portion- not because I think the music is wonderful but because I like seeing the singers develop their craft. And perhaps this is because of my background as a musician, particularly as a classical musician. This training involves performing a wide variety of music spanning hundreds of years and nationalities. Typically the student doesn't get any choice- this month you will learn Beethoven, next month you will learn Shostakovich.

This, of course, is what is happening with the A. I. contestants. And it makes sense. These folks after all are not going to be writing their own stuff- they will be handed stuff written by other people and told, "You will sing this, and you'll sing it the way I tell you to." This is essentially a completely different discipline than the one that you typically review- the discipline of the singer/songwriter.

I guess the main thing that bugs me about these discussions is the easy way people assume that people that "just" perform aren't nearly in the same creative category as people who write and perform. The reality is that "just" performing presents its own set of problems that are totally different from the problems a singer/songwriter faces.

Of course the singer/songwriter has certain creative advantages. But there are also advantages to being able to "just" concentrate on the performance aspect of the music while another person "just" concentrates on creating music for others to perform. The composer is freed from limiting the compositions to techniques he/she is personally able to perform, and the performer is free to concern him/herself about the problems of performance. This separation really allowed classical music to blossom in the 19th century.

And I suspect the "all pop music is crap" mentality comes more from an ideology that exalts the singer/songwriter model over the composer/performer model than an honest analysis of whether one model is more successful than the other in creating good music.

Andy Whitman said...

Actually, that's helpful, Fred, and I appreciate the distinctions you're making.

You're right -- I do prefer people who write and perform their own material to those who perform others' material (I do make exceptions for symphony orchestras and opera companies, though :-)). And that pretty much cuts across the board. I have no more interest in seeing a Beatles cover band (and I dearly love The Beatles) than I do someone sing the songs of Barry Manilow. The difference, in this case, is that I have no interest in seeing Barry either.

I agree that interpreting someone else's song is a discipline that presents its own set of problems. I'm not particularly interested in them, but that's me, and I do understand better why someone might be interested in the performances on AI. I honestly hadn't thought about it this way, and I appreciate your comments.

Karen said...

you said something about perhaps it has nothing to do with the music. for me, i think that's exactly it.
they rarely, if ever, play a song i like or i think is done well. every once in a blue moon, but yeah, practically never. for me it's about the development of the contestants, the banter with the judges, the fun of it.

i like a lot of reality tv shows. there is something about watching how people interact, in a fairly unscripted forum, that i find fascinating. sure i like well thought-out tv as well. i prefer it. but i don't think that to bash all of reality tv as a whole is necessary. there is some good stuff. it's a genre now. some people like it. some people don't. just like some people like sitcoms and hate documentaries. it's just a part of what's available out there and some of it is better than others. mostly good clean fun.

jackscrow said...

"...These folks after all are not going to be writing their own stuff- they will be handed stuff written by other people and told, "You will sing this, and you'll sing it the way I tell you to." This is essentially a completely different discipline than the one that you typically review- the discipline of the singer/songwriter.

I guess the main thing that bugs me about these discussions is the easy way people assume that people that "just" perform aren't nearly in the same creative category as people who write and perform. The reality is that "just" performing presents its own set of problems that are totally different from the problems a singer/songwriter faces...."


Honestly, we are not talking about professional jazz/standards/opera singers here. I doubt any of these people can score, and possibly some cannot even read.

It is glorified kareoke.

And yes, people who write, score and perform their own music ARE in their own category. I can almost guarantee you that any professional musician on any level, from bar band to 1st chair, has at least tried to compose their own original music outside of a classroom situation.

Creativity.

It does take talent to creatively interpret a song. That's not happening here.

And that's the problem. This crap is being viewed as equal/better than.

"The thing main thing that bugs me about these discussions" is that the addicts won't admit that it is JUST a media circus and a popularity contest. It's when it's given any credibility at all....

Ahhhhhhhhh, I give up.

I feel a distinct need to put on John Hiatt's "Paper Thin" and turn it up to 11.

Beer thirty.

KarlandBethany said...

I said earlier:
..American Idol is NOT about great music. In fact it's about bad music and competition...

Then Fred in his wisdom said something to the effect that he likes seeing them develope into singers. And that they are different than Singer/songwriters.

Thank you too Fred. You were able to pull out what I didn't realize I thought. I agree with your assement.

Oh and Andy, I'm not offended in the least. I'm still not a Sufjan fan either so I hope your not offended.

K.

danthress said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fred Kohn said...

more random thoughts:

as a musician, music is a huge part of my life. And i think that music parallels life in so many aspects. Any discussion of good music and bad music makes me nervous because it can easily parallel the discussion of good people and bad (evil) people.

The more music I listen to, the less the gap becomes between music that is bad and music that is good. So it bothers me when people find this gap to be so huge that there is no longer any connection between the extremes. Surely such a gap exists, in the same way that there is a real gap between good people and evil people. Politicians are experts in emphasizing the difference between people that are good folks ("people like us" as Ken Blackwell says) and the evil folks.

Musical people, like political people, have all sorts and kinds of dreams. And that's a good thing. I worked briefly with a fellow whose fervent dream it was to be a Vegas headliner. We didn't work together for too long because I found out quickly that that wasn't my dream.

I found out my dream pretty much by accident one day. I was playing some classical fingerbuster on some digital piano in some music store which got the attention of somebody who struck up a conversation with me. He asked me what I wanted to do with my life musically and almost without thinking I said that I wanted to play for parties some day. He gave me the strangest look and told me that I should have been dreaming about playing Carnegie Hall.

Years later I was playing in the restaurant and a patron came up, stuck a buck in the jar and requested that I play "something that I really wanted to play." That had to be the strangest request I ever got- and flattering in the sense that this person heard something in my playing that suggested in her mind that I was "too good" to "just" be playing Tony Orlando and Dawn covers in a restaurant. But the question caught me off guard. Why, exactly, would anyone assume I was not playing exactly what I wanted to play?

As music goes, so does life. Some people dream of being powerful politicians, some people dream of being mailmen. And, yes, there is a real gap between these dreams, but they are also connected.

Nancy told me that she really loves American Idol because she sees young people pursuing their dream and achieving it. Now, of course, if you think the dream is stupid to begin with, I can see why you wouldn't want to watch the show. I personally wouldn't pick this dream. But I am unfortunately of an age where any of these contestants could be one of my kids and, so, yes, I can relate.

Sure, it's possible to lament loudly the fact that we live vicariously through relationships with TV personalities instead of our own kids. And if I had a lousy relationship with my kids this lament might bother me. But I don't. Plus, I don't hear anybody making such a lament when somebody reads a classic novel or sees a Shakespeare play. The same thing is going on in this case. TV is just such an easy target because- well- you know.

jackscrow said...

Possibly I'm missing something here?

I'm sorry, Fred, but what you just described (Tony Orlando and all) seems to me to be a apologetic for mediocrity at best and at worst the inablility to distinguish - Yes - good from bad.

Good and evil? Maybe not. Good taste and bad? Sure.

An extreme example maybe, but it's the difference between singing the National Anthem traditionally, and grabing your crotch and dancing while you rap it.

It's proven by your last paragraph, when, without blushing, you can compare TV with classic literature and drama.

And the "loud lament" is not directed at you personally, but at us all.

And it should bother you.

I'm not trying to be the music police. But I am exercising my right to bitch.

Andy Whitman said...

Fred, I understand your points, which are good ones. And let me state at the outset that I think we need to separate the dreams/goals of individuals from the overall cultural impact of a particular dream/goal. In other words, if Katharine or Elliot (I don't even know who these people are; I just know their names) has it as his or her highest aspiration to win American Idol, and works hard to be the best performer he or she can be, then that's a noble thing. I believe that.

But, on a broader level, I believe that programs like AI do have the effect of "dumbing down" our musical culture. And I hate that. That is, of course, making a judgment call on what constitutes "good" music. Is this prideful, arrogant, etc.? Maybe. But it's what I believe, and it comes out of many years of paying attention and caring passionately. For the, umm, record, I also hold similar views when it comes to literature and movies -- virtually every genre of art, in fact. And when I taught English, I used to foist these views off on my unsuspecting students. Don't read Dean Koontz horror novels. They're crap. Read Shakespeare. Read Faulkner, or Flanery O'Connor or Graham Greene. That's not crap. Why? Because it's better to be entertained and enlightened than simply to be entertained. If you're going to escape, why not escape in such a way that you actually emerge as a better person?

So Rod Stewart had a big hit back in the seventies with a song called "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" And, a few weeks back, on Rod Stewart night on AI, we had contestants trying to out-pant themselves trying to cover "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" It was crap back in 1978, it is crap in 2006, and it will ever be crap, world without end, Amen. It's not entertaining, at least for me, because I don't get my jollies by viewing shit, in all its multi-faceted brown forms.

Is this judgmental as can be? Of course it is. And that makes it tough, because people I genuinely love like this stuff. So I try to walk this tightrope of affirming the people I love, which I really want to do, and not turning off my heart and brain and betraying everything I believe to be true. It's that love/truth dilemma, again. I have no doubt that I offend some people with these comments. I'm sorry. Truly. I take no pleasure in honking people off, and the part of me that wants to please others and have people like me wishes I could just shut it down and pretend to be a happy lobotomized boy. But I can't.

As you know, I write for Paste Magazine. Let me quote Paste's mission statement -- its reason for existence: "Paste Magazine is one of the fastest growing independently published music magazines in the country. We pride ourselves in being the premier magazine for people who still enjoy discovering new music, prize substance and songcraft over fads and manufactured attitude, and appreciate quality music in whatever genre it might inhabit--indie rock, Triple-A, Americana, folk, blues, jazz, etc."

See? I didn't write it, but I come by it honestly. You even get "pride" in the mission statement. So there you go.

I believe that it is better -- ethically, aesthetically, morally, spiritually, gastronomically, hell, every which way -- to "prize substance and songcraft over fads and manufactured attitude." I believe that. I believe that it is possible to speak of "quality" music in a meaningful way, that it's not all a matter of relativism and personal taste. And I believe that American Idol, which prizes fads and manufactured attitude, has little or nothing to do with anything of value.

Does this come into conflict with "Come on people now/Smile on your brother/Everybody get together, try and love one another right now"? Oh, yeah. All the time. Every day.

So help me figure out how to do it. I want to. Really, I do. I also believe, deep down in the gastronomic gut, that people are far more important than whatever views I might hold toward any form or art. I can't pretend that I don't care about this stuff. I do care about it, and it's probably not going to change. I hope not, anyway, because then I wouldn't be me anymore. But within that context, I want to love people. And sometimes that tightrope looks mighty thin.

Andy Whitman said...

jackscrow:

"I'm sorry, Fred, but what you just described (Tony Orlando and all) seems to me to be a apologetic for mediocrity at best and at worst the inablility to distinguish - Yes - good from bad.

Good and evil? Maybe not. Good taste and bad? Sure."

Yes, that is the gist of this discussion. One either believes that it's possible to speak meaningfully about good and bad, from an aesthetic standpoint, or one doesn't.

I emphatically do. And so does Fred, otherwise he wouldn't complain about the wretched singing during the early rounds of AI. He just doesn't want to admit it. :-)

For some of us, the AI wretchedness continues through every colorful season of the show. For some of us, it's all brown.

Fred Kohn said...

Andy-

I believe it comes down to original sin- something we all share in. Original sin is this: God gets to decide what is good and what is evil, and everybody is pissed off about this fact. So we grab the reins and make our own judgements. People inevitably get polarized around certain opinions about what is good and what is evil, and we have a big mess.

And there's no getting around the fact that we have to do this. Like it or not, we all have to decide what is good and what is evil. We can't just say, "Hey, man, there's no such thing as good and evil- everybody get together and love one another." But because none of us is God we will mess it up.

The good and evil business is very serious, because in the back of everybody's mind is the reality that good people should live and evil people should die.

The music controversies that I see discussed on this blog are interesting to me because I see the same conflict being mirrored but in a less threatening way. It's a lot easier to say that "Do You Think I'm Sexy" should go the way of all flesh (and the quicker the better) than to say that Rod Stewart should spend an eternity in hell because he is an evil person. But ultimately I think the same principles are in play.

How do we interpret Jesus' statement, "Do not judge, lest ye be judged." Does He mean "There's no such thing as good and evil (or good and bad), don't even try to distinguish them"? Of course not! We are called as Christians to always point out the reality of evils (and bads) in this world. But it is essential that we do it in such a way that we are always point to the fact that there is a Judge greater than us that has the final say. And this is a tricky tightrope to walk (as you say).

One thing that helps me is to stop and breathe when I get angry and think, "Why am I having this reaction?" Usually there is some basic fear that I have that is causing the anger. Not all fear is irrational, of course, but I read somewhere once that the vast majority of our fears never come to pass. Politics is completely driven by fear- fear of the evil liberals (or the evil conservatives). Most of this fear is irrational, but at the back of it is the reality that there are really evil people that can hurt us.

Andy, lots of your posts seem really angry to me. And maybe that's just because I haven't spent a lot of time with you face to face. It's certainly possible to read the words of your post with a humorous tone- which would make it a lot softer. But it comes across as anger to me. And that makes me wonder- what is the fear behind this anger?

Anonymous said...

Andy Whitman said...

Nancy, I don't think you're really understanding what I'm saying, but I'll let it go for now.

Ok, then explain it to me so I will understand it.

Nancy

Andy Whitman said...

Nancy, I'm commenting about a television show. It's not a reflection on you, or anyone else. Yes, I know you watch it. So do millions of other people. And I'm commenting about the show, and it's impact on our culture as a whole. Honestly, and I don't mean this in any way negatively, you didn't cross my mind when I wrote my post.

I've tried to explain in my several comments that I've added since I wrote the original post where I'm coming from. You'll either agree with me or you won't. And that's fine. But it comes down to whether or not it's appropriate, or even possible, to made good/bad statements about art. I think it is. And I did. And I've tried, several times, to explain why I did.

Andy Whitman said...

Fred, I think Rod Stewart makes bad music. I don't think he's an evil person. I have no idea what kind of person he is, really. I don't know him.

I am not conflating Rod's music with Rod's soul (or anyone else's soul here). I disagree with you that they are related. I am talking about bad aesthetics, not evil people, and I am not confusing the two.

I have said, again and again and again in this discussion, that my call to love people supersedes my views on the art that they enjoy. If this is evidence of anger, then I'll let it stand. I have also said that I don't always know how to put the two together. And that's true. I have opinions, sometimes strong opinions. I would like to propose that saying that something sucks may have less to do with fear or anger, and more to do with the fact that it actually sucks. Just a thought. Please don't psychoanalyze me. This tests my ability to respond in love, something that I would still like to be able to do.

jackscrow said...

I'm sorry Fred. I had thought I had said all I had to say, and that if I continued I would hurt feelings, but I have to say this.

I just don't see it as an anger issue. Andy is not angry, but he is taking a stand.

Now me....

It may not be a stand that you feel is necessary, but let me put it to you this way:

I think it's like seeing a mother or father putting their children in the cultural car without a safety seat. If it's important to you, you speak up.

Music is important to me. I think it is one of the voices of our culture. I honestly believe that quality - not whether you like or dislike something, but whether it meets some sort of recognized standard - is important.

It's concern, not anger. And there is "fear", and a little bit of helplessness behind the concern. But it's a fear FOR, not a fear of.

I see the music as reflecting the culture and I'm afraid for that kid in the back seat.

jackscrow said...

'Course, now that I think about it, maybe the kids are alright.

It may be the adults WHO worry me.

scott said...

36 comments already?
That's why I love checking your blog. Thoughtful comments from you and your readers. Some make me pause and reflect. Some make me ponder. Some make me mad. And some make me laugh out loud (whether that's what the author intended or not).
Keep up the great work everyone!

e said...

Noone's addressed the really interesting question that Andy's raised...unintentionally perhaps:
why do we spend our valuable and always limited time sitting nearly motionless in front of a box that projects images at us?

Andy Whitman said...

e: Because people leave lots of comments and ask lots of questions on our blogs?

Oh ... you meant the other box. Sometimes I need to remind myself that my employer expects me to work. It's a good reminder.

mg said...

been sitting out, but i feel compelled to throw my 2 cents in...

1. taste (music and all art) is completely subjective. think of it like food. what you may love/hate someone else may hate/love. there is no ifs, ands or buts about it. just b/c someone doesn't agree with you on a particular choice doesn't mean they are wrong. some people just prefer a different cup of tea (or bubblegum pop music).

2. it's not a bad thing to partake in something mindless every once in awhile and just be entertained.

3. people are alot bolder in the blogging world than in real life. it would hard for me to imagine andy (or anyone) making the statements they are online in the real world. would andy stand up on the chairs at church and yell at the top of his voice 'american idol sucks and all of you that like it suck too!'? no, he wouldn't...however, you lose facial/bodily expressions and vocal tone in written text. and what the author may indend as being humorous comes off as angry. whereas if in real life, he calmly explained his reasons for not liking AI to all the AI lovers (as he normally talks to someone in real life), they probably wouldn't give 2 craps.

4. tv is evil. we've been without it for about a year now (we bring it up once a week to watch 2 shows), and i absolutely do not miss it one bit. everyone should give themselves a tv fast when this is all over, and see the change that it brings. it's nice to see some tv companies trying out an online experiment to make shows available online for free. that allows the individual to choose what they are going to be intaking rather than mindnumbing channelsurfing.

and there you have it.

Andy Whitman said...

Michael:

"whereas if in real life, he calmly explained his reasons for not liking AI to all the AI lovers (as he normally talks to someone in real life), they probably wouldn't give 2 craps."

This is why I overstate my case on my blog. I want people to give 2 craps. 3 if feasible.

Anonymous said...

i'm lucky to get one in a day.

mg said...

hmmm...

well, you can't make someone like/not like something by stating that they are wrong.





(i do agree with the majority of what you've said...however AI does have a certain unexplainable appeal to it. we've watched parts of seasons 3&4, but haven't watched any of the current season.)

mg said...

btw andy

i like your mix cd.

thx

Fred Kohn said...

I'd love to contine this conversation, but it's time for The Guiding Light.

jackscrow said...

I understand Fred.

I was hooked on Santa Barbara (and painkillers) when I was in college.

Also, in my strivings to "relate" I'm going to pull the old Korg out from under the bed tonight, and try to play some Tony:

One day happy, one day sad
Feeling good, then feeling bad
In anger words are spoken
Then haste a heart is broken

Who's in the strawberry patch with Sally
Now that she's not picking them with me?

Jeff Cannell said...

"American Idol" or "American Idle"?

Andy- your post's make me smile. A lot of what I love is scholck to others, but I like it anyways. I have no time for the show- but Adrienne likes it.

Thought we share the same bed (sharing is fun) we completely disagree on the issue.

When Ian was little he had a children's video that showed buildings being demolished. It was all set to music. I couldn't help bt watch the images of beautiful architecture being destroyed. Perhaps that is the appeal of American Idle.

Andy Whitman said...

Jeff C.:

"Andy- your post's make me smile."

Good. I'm glad that finally somebody sees a smidgen of humor in it. Damn, this is a serious, sensitive bunch, which tends to me make me serious and sensitive.

"When Ian was little he had a children's video that showed buildings being demolished. It was all set to music. I couldn't help bt watch the images of beautiful architecture being destroyed. Perhaps that is the appeal of American Idle."

That sounds like the appeal of Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" to me, which I suspect is fairly far removed from American Idol/Idle.

Chris Burgwald said...

Andy, your comment including the Paste mission statement touches on something that, well, disappoints me about Paste...

I discovered Paste last year when Jeffrey Overstreet commented on the magazine and linked your blog. I was immediately intrigued and excited... "hey, here are people who aren't afraid to engage the culture, find signs of life therein, and point to the best in new music! Cool!" Since then, I've bought every new issue at the newstand (B&N or my local grocery store!), and while I enjoy the mag, I discovered something that continues to dishearten me...

To cut to the chase, where is the new music which would be identified as "classical"? It seems that Paste finds and comments on the best of new music in virtually every genre except for classical compositions. Why? Surely there's plenty of truth, goodness, and beauty (signs of life) in that genre... why doesn't it get reviewed and/or discussed in Paste? It seems like a decision was made to avoid comment on that genre, and it alone (in terms of truly quality music).

I hope I'm wrong... I just need someone to show me how I am mistaken.

p.s. I think Kelly Clarkson is a great singer :-)

Andy Whitman said...

Chris, thanks for your comments.

Let me note that I can't truly speak for Paste. I write for them, but I don't make the editorial decisions. But does that stop me from having an opinion? Why reform now?

You're correct that Paste doesn't cover classical music -- new, old, or in-between. They also barely scratch the surface on jazz, blues, and rap.

We all have our musical axes to grind (and play). I'd love to see more coverage of jazz and blues, in particular, and music made by African Americans in general.

But the fact is that Paste can't be all things to all people. So they've chosen their niche -- basically, rock, indie rock, folk, alt-country, Americana, rootsy, singer/songwritery kinds of music -- and they've run with it. And they've gradually expanded their coverage into films and books, while still maintaining the same level of coverage on music. And so far they've been able to run pretty far with that combination.

Is that likely to change? Honestly, it might. One thing that I've seen in the three years I've been writing for Paste is that they're very flexible and adaptable. They're always looking for ways to improve. So I'd suggest that you write to Josh Jackson, the editor, or Nick Purdy, the publisher, and let them know your views. They'll read, and they'll listen. And if there's enough of a general hue and cry for more coverage of classical music, my guess is that you'll see it.

Good luck.

John McCollum said...

Holy Hell, Whitman. You've really opened Pandora's pants...

Joshua said...

#54!!

jeff, you forgot "american idyll."

mommy zabs said...

heard there was some craziness going on here. just wanted to state for the record that i respect your opinion.

waistdeep said...

Andy

I've got a helmet you can borrow.

Wow...interesting response. Anyway, it's Monday...May 1st...that's right, May...and I'm just happy to be here, hope I cna help the ball club.

Been rooting through the blog in it's glorious complexity since I only just arrived a few short days ago. I like it...I like it a lot.

American Idol what? Who cares...this place feels like home and I'm stayin'...

Great work Andy and everyone. Where can I put my sleeping bag?

Brian

brian estabrook said...

I'm not sure what the big deal is about AI, anyways..

I mean, SURE, it wasn't Spielburg's BEST film ever, but it wasn't completely unbearable.