Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lakisha: Emulation, Competition, Self-Expression, and Vanity

Last night’s American Idol confirmed once and for all why I simply do not like Lakisha. My growing dislike for her started when – during the award season, mind you-- she sang the song that had become Jennifer Hudson’s signature song: I tell you I’m not going

I wondered why she was singing that particular song.

Did she identify with Jennifer H?
Did she want us to identify her with Jennifer H?
Did she want to jump onto Miss J’s coattails and leave us all thinking, “Wow, Lakisha is another Jennifer Hudson”?
Did she want to show us she was better than Jennifer H?

Then when Lulu begged and pleased with her to sing “You’re my world,” Ms Lakisha chose to sing “Diamonds are forever” because quote Shirley Bassey sang it unquote.

Okay, I rolled my eyes. I wondered, if Lulu had had the sense to see where Ms Lakisha was coming from she would have sold “You’re my world” to her in this way, “Yes, but Dionne Warwick sang You’re my world.”

Then Lakisha chose Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

And last night, during Life Anthem night, she chose Fantasia’s “Believe.”

Okay, we see the pattern at last? But what exactly is the pattern?

Is she identifying with those singers?
Does she want us to identify her with those singers?
Is she just plain old arrogant?
Is she stupid to invite comparison?
Or is she a mere imitator who simply imitates how other more flexible singers sing?

Why has she repeatedly sung songs by American Idol winners?

Yes, I know, I’m a Christian Critic and I really shouldn’t blast Lakisha because Christians aren’t supposed to be cruel, but dang! Someone’s gotta examine what’s going on here.

In the Bible (Romans 11:14 and Galations 5:20) the apostle Paul warns us against emulations. It’s odd but, considering all the emulations I see nowadays, ministers aren’t giving many sermons on the dangers of emulating. Perhaps it’s because so many of them are out emulating each other, or emulating some old-fashioned preaching styles. Okay, call me a cynic but I just don’t think the Holy Spirit always behaves and preaches with a Southern style campmeeting accent. But I digress…

Back to Lakisha and the evils of emulations.

Emulators lose their own soul I truly don’t know what a Lakisha musical style is. She doesn’t really have any. Lakisha seems to have a need for us to identify her with great singers, especially black singers, but this makes her seem downright rigid. Where, I want to ask, is her soul? What, I want to scream, is she doing there on the stage trying to channel some other great singer? I give heads-up and kudos to Blake Lewis because the guy usually connects to the music he sings and allows how he feels about the music to lead him. I can never tell what Lakisha’s attitude toward a song is.

Emulations also hem the emulator’s way in. There are a zillion songs out there. But, lo and behold, having decided to sing only show-stoppers done by winners, Lakisha cannot see clear to choose what might be the best songs for her. I want her to loosen up, to stop patterning herself after someone else and to create. Being focused as she is on a certain kind of singer, she has closed her eyes to discovering others.

While skill is important, creativity is also an important thing in life and the arts. Lakisha has skills but she is not going to be a musical innovator. One of the main goals in life is to discover, to find new ways of doing things. Mindless emulation in any form of art, craft, or business simply does not contribute to creativity.

Emulators are boring. Especially emulators like Lakisha who seem to have such a small repetoire.

Some folks may wonder why I’m so annoyed with emulations. After all isn’t imitation the most sincere form of flattery?

Quite simple Emulators are dangerous Putting aside the fact that some emulators are downright jealous of those they imitate, I’ll just say that emulation is often not as innocent as it appears to be. Think of Lamech (Genesis 4) as the first copy-cat killer. Think of kids in suburbia talking about nappy-headed ho’s and bitches. Think of Columbine and school shootings. Think of how hollywood’s behavior – for good or ill—affect society. Fame is a wonderful thing, and in our media culture many people want to be famous – from angry mentally ill students to rich talentless heiresses to talented singers. We are a culture where emulators emulate the famous, the notorious, and the infamous.

If Lakisa wins American Idol she will have proven herself to be a true American…enslaved to fame and the famous. I, for one, would be disappointed.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying that she can't emulate one singer or even two. But why does she do this sooo often? This is a trifle suspect and not a bit odd. Perhaps she's only insecure but aren't all the contestants insecure?
Enough said.
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