Monthly Archives: July 2010
David is such an enigma. His cheery disposition is deceptive insofar as it throws you for a loop when he opens up his lovely mouth to sing. Even a fun pop “summer” song like “Something ‘Bout Love” has this incredible dark undertone to it. Now, granted, considering my most recent itunes download just before getting David’s new single is Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” (feat. Rihanna), it’s quite easy for the darkness in SBL to get amplified when it is followed by a hip-hop ballad meditating on the repetitive destructiveness that is domestic violence. But seriously: what does it mean that I hear more heartbreak in the opening echoes of David’s vocals on SBL than I do in Rihanna’s hook in LTWYL (who is clearly singing from experience)?
Makes me think there is so much more to David’s story than he’s been letting on (even in his fairly sunny and upbeat memoir that is Chords of Strength). If a note, a run, a chord can embody years of experience, then David is truly an old soul.
Just think of the lyrics in SBL:
There’s something ’bout love
That tears you up
Whoa oh oh oh
You still believe
When the world falls down like the rain
It’ll bring you to your knees
There’s something ’bout love that breaks your heart
Whoa oh oh oh…
But don’t give up
There’s something ’bout love
It’s so David. All hope and optimism, but oh! The vulnerability, the plaintive crying, the weeping, the melancholy, the deep, heavy sighs of a weighted down heart that weeps for the world because he feels everything so deeply. Of course, he doesn’t ever let this show. He picks himself up and keeps on smiling.
The question of course is whether or not The Voice itself has its own story to tell. Could it write its own memoir? If so, what deep-seated pain and hidden hurt would it reveal to us? It’s like there is that underlying motif just beneath the surface of sunshine and rainbows.
I think it was first detected in “Apologize” – indeed, I remember some You Tube commenter, who went to one of the Idol concerts, remarked that she wanted to hunt down the “heifer” who caused David so much pain after listening to his performance. And who could ever forget the Hartford Apologize rendition?
One Republic got owned on their own song!
And let’s not forget the tear-inducing “Fields of Gold”
He most certainly is a student of Eva Cassidy!
While David’s label/management is still working out the kinks in how to market him, I’m still a big supporter of the “heartbroken, heart-soothing crooner.” The pop music world is so overcrowded with boastful, swaggering macho types, it’s time the gentle soul makes a comeback. Anyone who can make us cry on cue should be trusted to forge his own musical identity.
But of course, let the Voice speak for itself (or should I say sing?), and others will follow.
I think it was the BTK killer who kept getting more brazen and sloppy with each new killing before the authorities finally arrested him after he had killed 10 people. I believe his first victim was buried far and deep in the woods, where no one would find the body. But, as often happens when you get away with murder, you don’t stop killing. You keep going to the next victim, and the next, and the next, until you’re burying your latest victims in shallow graves, and each new grave creeps closer and closer into your own backyard. Next think you know, each new killing gets sloppier, more outrageous, bolder, more out in the open, almost as if the killer is looking for somebody, ANYBODY, to put a stop to the madness.
OK, so serial murders are the most extreme example, but the same logic applies to this present culture of hate – a culture spurred on by 24/7 news coverage, the Internet, reality-TV entertainment, gossip sites, and other various examples of this AGE OF MISINFORMATION.
Slowly but surely, somebody lowers the standards, and each new media outlet outdoes itself in a bid to drop lower and lower into the abyss of bad taste, nasty insults, disrespect, cruelty, and dehumanization. And every time we think we’ve hit an all time low, the bottom falls out. Every time!
That’s what happened this past week in a tit-for-tat showdown between the right and the left, the NAACP and the Tea Party, Fox News and MSNBC, the people on the ground and the White House. In a nasty bid to prove the “other” group was “more racist than thou,” Andrew Breitbart, so outraged that the NAACP criticized the “racist elements” in the Tea Party Movement, decided to set up an innocent bystander, Shirley Sherrod, who delivered a speech at an NAACP dinner, in which she allegedly admitted to denying a white farmer the full force of her power in helping him to save his farm. It was enough of a catchy 2-minute soundbite that Breitbart ran with and posted on the Internet, thus spurning some vicious hate mails, outrage, and noisy ruckus, even spawning outrage from the NAACP and the spineless response of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who initially forced Sherrod to resign from her position in the agriculture department without waiting for the full story to air.
And, as it turned out, that 2-minute clip was a tiny fraction of a 40-minute speech in which Sherrod used that one instance of personal bias as an important lesson in overcoming prejudice to work with others and recognize each other’s humanity to overcome larger oppressions.
What is horrifying about such misinformation in this so-called information age is how quickly this high-speed culture can wreck one’s reputation and career. Of course, by the same token, Shirley Sherrod, who quickly told her side of the story – as well as received the backing of the very same “white farmer” she supposedly discriminated against (24 years ago), along with the backing of high-profile country music artist Willie Nelson, who’s been working with FARM AID – has now received a wider audience. Perhaps out of this ugly situation, we can now catch this “glimpse of grace.”
Meanwhile, Breitbart, who started the whole mayhem, remains unrepentant, while Rush Limbaugh laments that Fox News “caved in” to the pressures from the left in this situation in apologizing for their defamation of Sherrod’s character (that’s right, folks: the position of media lightening rods like Breitbart and Limbaugh is not to admit wrong when they are wrong, but to keep on attacking, which basically means things are bound to get worst in this election year! “Teachable Moment” my patootie!).
And that’s just it: this “misinformation age” has now bred a culture of hate, in which it’s not about right and wrong anymore; it’s about attack, and ridicule, and humiliate, and spreading lies. It’s not about truth, it’s about the spin. And mostly, it’s about misleading and duping a trusting public.
Breitbart told a lie, and it’s now up to the rest of us to determine if we still value truth and decency.
But, of course, I don’t have to tell you all this. Those of us who tuned into David’s career, those of us who have been following him since American Idol, know all too well how someone like David can be misrepresented: how “spin” probably cost him the Idol winner title, how one can read a review of David in which the reporter writing about him still refers to him as “creepily dad-dominated.”
And do I really need to point out that Idol and Fox News (and I believe TMZ, which spread much of the vicious gossip), are all part of Rupert Murdock’s same News Corp? What would it mean to connect the dots?
In connecting the dots, we would recognize that both our political news and our entertainment are tied together in this same culture of hate and ridicule. We have gotten used to bad behavior exhibited as entertainment, petty insults and humiliation as part and parcel of the way we communicate now.
In some ways, I know why it’s done. The internet made it accessible for audiences to get free downloads of everything: music, videos, books even. We have no gate-keepers who stand to profit. As we speak, there are wholesale magazines, newspapers, stations, and publishers who are all wringing their hands over their imminent doom in the wake of digital culture (see, the music industry could tell them all a thing or two about this). Even Murdock is unhappy that he’s not earning a profit with his tabloid news.
The only thing selling well is porn and video games and movies. All three entitites rely both on the novelty of digital technology but also on the shock value of sex and violence. 24/7 news outlets are learning to “dumb things down” and generate more “gossip” than “news” because trash sells better than quality. It’s why the content of music has become so trashy. Everyone’s trying to stay afloat, and rather than drown, they’d rather grasp at straws.
It’s a bad move all around because “shock value” doesn’t have any sustaining quality. Oh yeah, many people tune in to trainwrecks, but just as there is a “can’t-look-away” effect, there is the follow-up to this: the “can’t-dwell-on-it” effect. All our media services are in trouble because they haven’t figured out the best way to create a symbiotic relationship with new media and old while maintaining their integrity. And when you lose that, you’re done for. When you dwell in the dark for too long, your eyes adjust to the darkness, which is why we must not dwell on the negativity.
But there are “glimpses of grace,” as I’ve called this piece. Despite the trash and the hate and the ridicule, there are those, targeted, who rise above the fray and remind us that there is still light in the world.
We heard it when David came back on his finale, singing as if he were on fire, and showcasing to a ridiculing world that this is how you move with grace and dignity. Sherrod did the same thing by quietly and calmly telling her story: a story, as it turns out, is about the triumph of love.
Here is a woman, whose father was killed by a white man, but who – despite her hardships – questioned her own biases when she was in a position to help a white farmer who came to her in a time of need. She eventually saved that man’s farm, and he, in return, came out of the shadows to stand beside her and let us know the truth of their long-term friendship. A story of redemptive love to counter our culture of hate.
As pessimistic as we could get about the state of affairs, good does triumph over evil. But this can only happen when we remember to resist this culture of hate and champion a culture of love.
Seriously, it took awhile. And while it’s not coming from a former American Idol contestant (the former contestant hails from “Britain’s Got Talent”), I’m not at all surprised by this for it’s really been a slow buildup.
I’ve been amazed at how the likes of Simon Cowell could get filthy rich over his bad behavior, and while we can say anyone who subjects him or herself before his “judgment” should not be shocked when a snake shoots his venom, there just might be more to the story than meets the eye:
At a later point, I will try to connect a few relevant dots between Cowell and the Andrew Breitbart/Shirley Sherrod affair, for I do believe there are connections in this increasingly volatile “culture of hate.” Something worth exploring because it puts into larger perspective how someone like David will function as a pop figure against this backdrop – especially considering how antithetical he is to all this madness.