Thursday, May 10, 2007

American Idol: Melinda Dolittle -- Putting your words where your beliefs are

When finalist Melinda Dolittle was being mentored by Barry Gibb on American Idol she changed the words to one his songs, “How can you mend a broken heart?”

The line actually states: “How can a loser ever win?”

But Melinda omitted that negative line because, as she explained, she didn’t want to sing about losing.

I liked that.

What exactly is singing? Isn’t it a celebration of what one feels in the deepest part of one’s life? Isn’t the singer also the song?

In this world we have gotten so used to entertainment that doesn’t proceed from the soul …singers singing songs that don’t proclaim their hearts' truths that it simply rejoiced my heart to here that master singer say, “I just don’t want to sing a song about losing.”

She made me think. Note that on the website she gives props to the Bible. Always neat. But many American Idol finalists are religious. The United States is a religious country.

But back to Melinda’s Choice. Let’s face it. Philosophically speaking, the words “How can a loser ever win?” is questionable. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with a sad song. Songs should reflect our hearts. I don’t even mind songs about temporary hopelessness. Sometimes we feel temporarily hopeless. But I don’t think I like songs about EXTREME hopelessness. I mean…there’s always hope. I don’t like singers who are Christians singing songs with such an extreme line as “How can a loser ever win?” Hey, teenagers are vulnerable to romanticized despair. Our own minds are vulnerable to what we repeat to ourselves. And that word “ever” is so general. Haven’t we been taught in school never to generalize opinions and emotions about ourselves, other people, or situations.

For Christians, words are very important. They have a power. Indeed, our Lord is called The Word. We are taught by local ministers, by past Christian orators, and by world-famous televangelists like Andrew Wommack to be careful with what we speak and what we hear. But many Christian pop singers –yes, you rap stars who sing about bitches and ho’s, I’m talking to you—seem separated from the words they sing. Why the disconnect?

I remember one St Francis Day at my former Episcopal church. The ceremony was the blessing of the animals – which was always performed on St Francis Day. All around the churchyard were dogs, cats, caged (mercifully) mice, snakes, etc. The pastor has searched far and wide for all kinds of exotic animals also. He wanted a good program. Yours truly was snagged to read the Genesis chapter. A local folk musician played some of the songs.

Do you know what the musician sang? John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Ugh. Yes, he sang it in a churchyard. I know many people love that song but I personally didn’t like someone coming into my church singing a song about “Imagine there’s no heaven” especially since I had friends there whom I was hoping to meet. Hey, I always loved the song except for that line. What irked me was that everyone else either sang along or chose to silently “not sing” the line. Being a bit of a pill, I told the priest I didn’t like it that the guy had challenged one of the tenets of my religion. Hey, the musician might have known he was doing a bit of blasphemy – he had that smug “I’m an agnostic” look on his face. (Yeah, some agnostics can be smug, admit it.) But everyone didn’t see the guy’s war-face as he sang a battle-cry of agnosticism in a church yard. We Christians can be so gullible about judging human actions. Were we so caught up with the tune of the song and the aura of John Lennon that we didn’t challenge the verse? We were trying to play nice and respect a musician who obviously wasn’t playing nice and being respectful to us at all? Christians challenge so many things and yet we let so many other things go.

Melinda has always been a singer who seems to connect to the words of her songs. Although she does not write songs as far as I know, her insistence – inability—to sing a song of despair puts her in the ranks of the great singer-songwriters. Or even the likes of John Meyer, Five For Fighting’s John Ondrasik, and Christian singer-songwriter, Kirk Franklin.

I’ve been a fan of Melinda Dolittle, Jordin Sparks, and Blake Lewis from the beginning. They’re all winners as far as I’m concerned. But I must say now I have a sweet little spot in my heart for Melinda. How can a winner ever lose?
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