American Idol

People Get Ready

12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing…(Matthew 11) Sometimes American pop culture is able to transcend itself.  Last night’s episode of American Idol is an excellent example.  The evening’s theme was “Inspirational Songs.”  Crystal Bowersox, held by most to be the frontrunner for season 9, put down her guitar and served up this cover of “People Get Ready.”  More after the jump: I never stopped to listen to this song or consider how it will preach.  Had Jesus preached in a modern setting, it wouldn’t have been surprising to hear him use this train metaphor for the Kingdom of God.  Check out some of the lyrics:
People get ready, there's a train a comin' You don't need no baggage, you just get on board All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin' Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
How many of us are still struggling to understand that last sentence?  Still trying to buy a ticket, and all we have to do is jump on with a thankful heart. But be warned.  This message does have a bit of a sharp edge:
There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner For there's no hiding place against the Kingdom's throne
I think the key word here is hopeless.  Hopeless, not because God refuses to help, but hopeless because we refuse to be comforted.  That’s what’s behind Jesus’ invitation: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near.” It’s also behind his exasperation: 37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing (Matthew 23).” Today, let’s be willing.  Let’s stop searching our pockets for a ticket we can’t buy anyway and just jump on… I would be remiss if I didn’t throw in a link to Curtis Mayfield singing this one, too.  After all, it was his song first. A more qualified historian could speak to this song’s importance to the Civil Rights Movement.  Since Mayfield, dozens of artists have done their own versions. (I’ll spare you the Bob Dylan cover.  You’re welcome.)

Kris, Adam, and American Idol

A month or so ago, when Kris Allen, "shocked" (I use quotes here, b/c a number of people, including my wife, predicted that he would win), the world by winning American Idol, someone suggested that I do a blog entry about the cultural implications of the Kris Allen/Adam Lambert showdown. For those of you who don't know, Kris is as "aw, shucks" wholesome as they come.  Raised in Conway, Arkansas, Allen is not afraid to be vocal about his faith.  Adam, on the other hand is "fab-yoo-lous."  And you know what I mean when I say that. I thought about it, but then got distracted.  Then yesterday Mike Cope linked to a wonderful (but looong) essay on Allen and Lambert's rivalry and, more, their relationship.  When you have time, give it a read.  I was telling someone last night that good writing always makes me a little jealous, because I find myself thinking, "Why didn't I write that?"  I was really jealous of this piece. If you want to skip some of it, you might pick up with the paragraph that begins, "Countless commentators wanted the Idol competition to be about more than just singing." Let me know what you think.

American Idol Goes to Church

American Idol rarely surprises me anymore. I’ve now watched 3 seasons in their entirety (guilty pleasure, anyone?) and they’ve all basically followed the same formula. But this week’s episodes managed to provide a double shock. If you’re not a watcher of the show, the first surprise probably won’t be of interest to you. I was surprised to see Michael Johns exit when he did. Poor choice in neckwear aside (a cravat? really?), I liked the guy. Not a great performer, but a great singer. The second surprise was that anyone who happened to turn on the end of Wednesday night’s episode might have thought they had accidentally stumbled onto one of those infomercials for praise music. Part of every results show is a group-sing from the contestants, usually one that pertains to that week’s theme. These are usually painful to watch. Case in point: this hokey version of "9 to 5" on the week when Dolly Parton was a mentor to the contestants. They actually line dance. Te-hee. Anyhow. The group song for this week was…(wait for it)…"Shout to the Lord!" Yes, that "Shout to the Lord." I never in a million years saw that one coming. They actually sang a praise song! Now, I didn’t get to see Wednesday night’s performance because my DVR cut off before the ending. But you can check it out here. Notice they edited the lyrics to make them less overtly Christian, leaving out the name Jesus. But last night (for result’s night part 2) they sang an unedited version. Check it out by clicking here: So what do y’all think? What do you make of this? I hope you’ll leave a comment. I have a lot that I can say about this, but I want to hear what you have to say. How do you react to hearing one of “our” songs on American Idol? My initial response is to say “Hmm. Cool.” But there’s more. For now I hope you’ll watch the video and chime in. If you don’t, you’ll be forced to listen to me prattle on about it. And aren’t you tired of hearing from me? (Please don’t vote me off.)