‘Tis the season for year-in-review meditations and, in the case of this particular Old Year, a reflection on the entire decade. As we enter 2010, looking back on 2009, indeed the first decade of the 21st century, is a fruitful occasion.
I believe the early 00s will not just be remembered for the impact of September 11 and the election of our first African American U.S. President; it will also be remembered for American Idol. Hate it or love it, AI has changed the cultural landscape – from how we watch TV to how we listen to music to how we understand “celebrity” to even how we “text message.” I understand that the show’s producers take credit for ushering the digital past time of “texting,” thanks to text-voting for your favorite American Idol!
Because of its historic importance, I must say that I’m excited that David Archuleta will be part of this legacy. His career is just beginning, and yet, he is already part of something so much bigger than himself. What I have learned, just following him as an ardent fan this past year, is how David’s profound wisdom and sense of self (perhaps even lack of self, considering his tiny ego) has kept him quite grounded.
See, past Idol runner-ups – whether we look to the Clay Aikens or the Blake Lewises or, this year, the Adam Lamberts – have definitely let the “instant celebrity” madness associated with American Idol get to their heads. In a year or two, their fame fizzles. And the bitterness sinks in. It’s been remarkable following David’s career and witnessing how he takes nothing for granted. Was he successful and a “name” last year, after American Idol? You betcha! Did he have a platinum, runaway single, like “Crush”? Absolutely!
This year, as the hoopla faded around him, there was David chugging along – not too proud to do local gigs or kiddie promotions or even open the concerts of less talented artists with mega corporate backing. And traveling the world like a skilled pro – having a calming “yoga-like” effect on the wild and unpredictable McFlys or taking his Beatles-like reception in Southeast Asia in stride. Whether serenading big sports events, like the Pro Bowl or the U.S. Open, or gracing his Latino/a audiences in song during Inauguration Week or at the ALMA Awards, David kept right on singing and wowing everyone with his great big ‘ol one-of-a-kind Voice.
We debated and we butted heads, as Archie fans, or we followed him from tour to tour. But, there’s no denying that this kid, this Man, just turned 19, will rise to the level of greatness we are so sure is part of his destiny.
He tweeted, he blogged, he vlogged, and left us text messages and voice mails. He mourned with us over Michael Jackson (and as far as I can tell, was “jamming to him” at a fan fiesta the other night) and, through these updates, is redefining what celebrity might mean in our 21st-century digital culture.
We may not get another Michael Jackson this new century, but we will definitely get a David Archuleta. It’s been quite the lesson in growing pains and artistic maturity, as well as a lesson in grace.
Wishing everyone who tunes into this blog and who considers her/himself a “true David Archuleta fan” a very blessed and prosperous New Year.