Fair. Balanced. American.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What Kris Allen's victory made us miss out on

But never forget, it could have been Danny Gokey. Ann Powers in the Los Angeles Times:

I know Adam Lambert will be fine. And, of course, I'm excited to see what he does with the stardom he's attained through diligence, heart and showbiz smarts. If I mourn anything today, it's the chance that "Idol's" very mainstream audience had to make a huge symbolic gesture and embrace that unusual presence, that figure who's usually tolerated as a novelty or an outlier, and put him right in the center of our cultural milieu.

Lambert himself said it best in an interview he gave during his San Diego hometown visit: "This is to all the kids out there who think that they're weird, people make fun of them and they feel that they're different and they're outcast. ... You can do something with your life."

Pop music has always been the place where marginal voices break through and find ways to be heard. Lambert already has accomplished that. But the premise of "Idol" -- that winning it represents being embraced by a unified public bigger than any one music subculture -- offers a different kind of imprimatur. As the pop world grows every more fragmented, "Idol" keeps alive the old idea that a singing star can have a universal effect. [...]

The one moment during which "Idol" viewers agree to pretend that we all love the same music/personality/cultural baggage is that moment when the winner is announced. That's why I wanted Lambert to win. Not for him but for those many people who see themselves in him and, even with all the progress we've made as a nation, still don't often see themselves within the looking glass of "ordinary" America.

Some of them could be gay or bisexual. Others might just be, as Lambert said, "weird." Proudly weird -- weird by choice -- but still defined, and sometimes trapped, by their outsiderness, especially when they're young.

People find ways to live with being different. Some retreat into themselves, hiding their desires and spontaneous selves. Others flaunt their strangeness in gestures that can seem arrogant but are often learned as defense mechanisms. Many seek out their own communities and create happy lives within them.

I appreciate Adam Lambert for his great vocal talent and also for his ability to calmly and assuredly be himself, as if it were a totally fine way to be, which it is. I thank his parents for openly loving him. I thank rock and roll and theater for giving him legacies and communities to tap into. I thank the Southland for giving him a place to grow up. And I thank the massive "Idol" viewership for letting him almost be their hero -- just for one day.

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