Non Conformity As Resistance to Mediocrity

Some would argue there is truly no non-conformity only pockets of rebellion that may lie within each of us. I remember being in my twenties and hearing staunch declarations of how some friends were so “different” from the norm. They wore it like a badge of honor. Yet often these same people were in fact quite a homogeneous bunch, who relied on their parents’ generosity for income and hadn’t moved very far mentally or in consciousness away from their suburban upbringing. Yet somehow they thought they were cutting edge because they wore eyeliner, listened to certain styles of music and owned a pair of Doc Martins. Ah the innocence (ignorance) of youth. 
Those that actively challenge the status quo of conformity are often held with a fierce derision. Often those who react so negatively have no idea why, but it’s such a visceral and immediate response. Why do we punish non-conformists?
So, if you’ve read my posts that have appeared late Tuesday evenings/early Wednesday mornings you know I’ve been following American Idol. I readily admit to not having watched it for some time or waiting until the it comes down to the final three contestants. The front-runner is usually quite obvious by this time. For example the season Carrie Underwood won I knew she would be chosen. She had a marketable look and wanted to perform country music which was an untapped market for Idol. I liked her but I knew for certain that Bo Bice was utterly amazing and yet didn’t quite fit the mold. His 1970’s flavor wasn’t going to impress 19 Management though he was obviously talented. 
Then I skipped a few seasons – happily – until I kept hearing a buzz about this one guy from Season 8. So I watched Adam Lambert perform and was immediately impressed. So many of the contestants were a cut above the norm and yet he was still able to raise the bar. I was curious at how self-possessed he seemed and at ease with himself which was something the others competing didn’t show. I also picked up his theatre background by the way he presented himself. There were discussions about his sexual orientation couched in code words like “theatrical” which I found mildly annoying. 
I couldn’t quite explain why I’d suddenly become so invested in a complete stranger who was clearly the best out of the bunch yet made people so uncomfortable – including the judges. I thought somehow they’d do something to tank his chances despite themselves to pick someone safer, nee blander. Since it’s supposedly up to the viewers to vote (which they don’t actually verify who votes, the number of times, the amount of or any of that) I wondered if people would actually come through and vote for an alleged “gay” Idol. See we don’t actually know but we suspect. As progressive as some people may like to think they are, they often want cookie cutter conformity surrounding them because it verifies their chosen identity. 
I’ve been seething about this American Idol loss and I know there’s a deeper meaning underneath. One of the contestants was of Indian descent and I had honestly rooted for Anoop Desai to go far simply because I knew certain people in this country would not support him regardless. I also felt the lone Black female finalist, Lil Rounds was treated horribly by the judges and overly criticized. She was given so many divergent messages of who she needed to be to satisfy them that she floundered. This may be about pop-culture “fluff” to some but there’s always a bigger issue at stake.
My posts questioning whether Adam would actually win seem rather prescient now. Then I remember it came down to two white men and perhaps I shouldn’t be so invested. Yet I see how one was made to be the other while the winner Kris Allen was deemed acceptable. Even he admitted he didn’t quite deserve to win – yet he’s fully accepted the reward for being the safe choice. 
Isn’t it time we stop playing it safe? 
As a woman we’re looked at as odd if we choose to not give birth to or raise other people’s children. As if the sole purpose of being a woman is to be a mother.
Not everyone wants to get married. As long as it comes from a place of empowerment – and all legal documentation is in order involving children, pets, property, holdings, etc then who are we to say it’s wrong?
 
Black people who don’t want to follow the rules of Blackness some would say particular actions verify it. It has become increasingly rare to see the image of Blacks in the normative because so much dysfunction is touted as being regular. That is a lie. Think of how many youths define themselves by wearing extra baggy clothes which is emulated after prison attire. Or dress in extra tight clothing that reveals their bodies. No one ever questions why they do the things they do.
Children should not be teased for being perceived as different. We seemed so surprised at the rash of youths that killed themselves over being taunted as gay. Children pick up on the viewpoints and language of their parents without a filter so why was it a shock to find out that certain people are very intolerant?
Traveling outside your immediate area. Leaving the country is a must. Immersing oneself into another culture is vital to one’s development as well-rounded person. 
There are numerous ways we can think outside the box and it first starts with being curious and listening to dissenting viewpoints. Now we must always be wearing our thinking caps about the messages we’re being sent, but isn’t it wonderful to find yourself being challenged in ways you hadn’t anticipated? Having a shift in consciousness can be quite liberating.

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Adam Lambert or Kris Allen As the Next Jeff Buckley?

American Idol is almost over. This is it! I will be so happy once this season is done and the winner declared! I swear if it hadn’t been for the flurry of Tweets about Adam this and Adam that I wouldn’t have bothered watching. Then I got sucked into the Idol vortex, lol! Just “crown” your newest pawn and be done with it. Unless…Kris pulls out a last minute victory. Whatever, I’m over this (almost). Sorry I’m still rooting for Adam. He has a lot of passion for performing and makes it look so effortless. I really admire that because it is RARE for an unsigned artist to be so self-possessed and confident. I love it!
This is the “official” Idol Single – No Boundaries – not feeling this! 
Kris Allen: Is it me or was something just off about this performance?

Had to switch out videos because all of the Adam performances have been pulled. Is that an indication of who has won? Here’s his earlier rendition of Mad World.
Though the thought occurred to me that if they MUST package Adam as a banal (straight) rocker they could certainly take a step OUT of the box by doing something similar to the style of the late great Jeff Buckley. Now of course they’re two totally different individuals. I don’t know if Adam writes or can play an instrument since he hasn’t done so this season. Vocally though this could be interesting. Jeff put a lot of passion into his into his music and although he wanted to be thought of as an instrumentalist first, it was his voice that really MOVED me! 
The irony of course is that Kris more closely resembles Jeff between the two of them and plays guitar and piano. If he was able to do a bit more with his vocal styling he would’ve been considered a serious threat all along. Adam has great precision but he isn’t soulful by nature whereas Jeff oozed it. Jeff had his theatrical side as well. He was a huge Edith Piaf fan as well as Nina Simone. Either way whomever ends up the victor I’d advise them to study the Buckley “playbook” for cues how to be a multi-faceted performer.
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My Obligatory Idol Post

Well it’s almost over and I’m a sucker so I have to do an AI recap. Even if it’s for posterity sake and part of my blog archive, lol! Last night was the combo of Judges’ Choice/Contestant Choice. I refuse to make a prediction about who’ll be sent packing today because Allison getting voted off last week threw me for a loop! Can we get a do-over and have Anoop and Allison back? 
I’m still not sure that Adam will win for the reasons I’ve repeated to the point of ad nauseum. This season of 24 ends next week and I’m 4 episodes behind so trying to keep up with the talent show juggernaut should be easy. If Danny survives he might just win. If Kris advances he might win. So far I believe Will Young is the only openly gay Idol and he’s British. Anyway these people are total strangers and I’m emotionally invested which kinda pisses me off in a way. I feel manipulated. Last year the ratings fell. I didn’t watch one episode. This season they’re up. I rest my case.
I like Adam, but didn’t really love this arrangement. I had to listen to it twice. I figured out it was too short and if he’d sang another verse and chorus it would not have sounded so abrupt. I still want him to win.
I thought this was a good performance as well. But he does look like he could be hired as an actor on One Tree Hill. 
I yawned a bit through this so I guess that says it all. That doesn’t mean he won’t win though.

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I Am So Ready For the End of American Idol

So now there’s three:
I’m referring to this current season….but perhaps the entire series as well. It’s been 8 years and these manufactured pop stars are just getting tired. Besides I already think my favorite, Adam Lambert is not going to win. Not unless he tones down the “theatrical” which is code word for what? Oh there are so many things wrong with it. If as a performer you can’t be your authentic self (musically, image-wise) then what are you? A manufactured pop star. Just pluck one off the assembly line and insert coin. Wind them up and let them go…until next year that is. 
On the other hand our human interest in seeing the underdog win drives some of the enthusiasm for these genres. Talent contests will never go out of style. We see a little bit of ourselves in these contestants. So the Evangelicals have been voting for Gokey and Allen. Perhaps they’ll cancel each other out. Allison Iraheta was voted off last week and I wanted her to get to the Final Two. Oh well, she’ll be told to lose 20 lbs and dye her hair blond or ELSE. Just Watch. Any originality she had will be sucked out of her and she’ll do interviews where she talks about losing her “baby fat” and will be sporting a push-up bra and high heels in no time. Forget her spunkiness and talent. 
What’s different this season from others is the front-runner is so off the beaten path for people that tend to enter these types of competitions. Lambert’s been around and eligible to enter the contest its entire existence.  I believe there’s an underlying story as to why he hadn’t done so until now. Since it’s down to the wire we’ll see how he strategizes to stay in the competition. For this is serious and it requires the skills of seasoned chess player. How palatable does Lambert want to be and how big of an audience does he want? Is he willing to shrink himself and round out the edginess for a wide appeal? 
Why can’t the majority of people accept him as an artist without taking offense to his lack of portraying an intentional hyper-masculine role? I think it’s time to address our expectations of gender roles and why.
Update: Now Idol goes into the final week. Kris Allen & Adam Lambert are the finalists. We’ll see if America votes safe or edgy. 

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Danny Screams, Adam Gets Aggro, Allison Hangs On and Kris Who?

Slash served as this week’s mentor to the Idolings as they churned out Rock Week. There were three memorable performances and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. I also realize Fox keeps pulling the videos so what’s available at posting time may be gone a few hours or days later. I’ve changed out video from last week’s show twice and they’re still gone! Don’t they realize we’re giving them free advertising! Er…okay that could be the other way around too. 
In what can only be called the Dean Scream of the pop world Danny Gokey squandered ALL of his currency from last week’s excellent performance by trying to out-Adam his competitor. Dude, somebody should’ve warned you NOT to even think about it! He butchered Aerosmith’s Dream On. Ah well. It was nice knowing ya!
Well that brings us to Kris Allen who performed the Beatles’ Come Together. I think he may have gotten lost in the shuffle of spectacular highs and lows – but turned out a respectable performance. Or as judge Kara DioGuardi said, “the softer side of rock”. Seriously these judges need to start a comedy act and take it on the road. He’s just meh overall to me and always has been. Being white may afford him many privileges in life but not in a singing competition against the Heavyweight Champion of Vocals.
Which brings me to Adam Lambert. Seeing him in the bottom three last week really pissed me off. As I’ve stated in previous posts if he doesn’t win it’s because some people don’t want a fey Idol. He’s very fey, okay and an excellent performer. So get over it! It’s 2009. He shouldn’t have to be forced to do the latest imitation version of glam to seem acceptable in today’s market either. Though he did do a classic prog rock song and butched it up for the squeemish. He should be able to sing whatever he likes. Now having said that, he belted out Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love like it had never been sung (to a woman) before. Our ears have been touched for the very first time. Oooh those high notes make my toes curl! He is NEVER boring and I love him for it! Go on with your bad self.
Finally (though not in order of their performances) Allison Iraheta sang one of my personal favorites, Janis Joplin’s Cry Baby. Love that song! Liked her rendition, though the judges didn’t. Little Ally got sassy with them, too! Good for her. At least somebody else messed up which should carry her through to next week. I was concerned when Simon told her he wasn’t sure how badly she wanted to win last week. He tried to tank her. She’s only 17 years old! Of course she wants to win. She’s still trying to figure out who she is and hasn’t yet graduated high school. How quickly he forgets. 
Kris + Danny = Boring. Allison + Adam = Fiyah.  That’s my assessment of their duets and their individual performances last night. I’m hoping the voters don’t go for the contrast of ho-hum vs. spectacular in the final because I have a feeling Kris would win for the ease of marketing not because he was the best this year. I’m rooting for Allison vs. Adam and would be happy for both. Adam will definitely have a career regardless but I think it would be a shame to have him taken out of the running prematurely.
Watch the videos while they last!
Adam
Allison
Danny
Kris

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Adam Lambert & Danny Gokey May End Up The Final Two on American Idol

I am officially an Adam Lambert stan and will plunk down $$$ to see him perform live. Sure this week’s performance of Feeling Good was a little showy but between the white suit and the “I’m A Star” descent down the stairs it was perfect. 
As the judges said this is a competition. I’ve been dismissive of Danny Gokey as I usually find him okay, not spectacular. Now I just did some research and found out the man lost his wife a few weeks before his Idol audition. Awww. I’m still mad Anoop is gone because this week’s Rat Pack theme would’ve been a perfect showcase for his voice. Allison was good but tonight Danny’s amazing rendition of Come Rain Or Come Shine showed he wants to win – so I have to give him kudos for a great performance. 
I can’t wait to find out who’s going home tonight. Fox has declined the request to air the President’s address – not sure that was a smart move on their part but we know what the agenda of Rupert Murdoch has been.
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Danny, Matt Or Kris: Who Goes Home This Week on American Idol?

And then there were five. Though I’m still mad that Anoop was sent packing last week I’ll have to live with it. I tried to call and could NOT GET THROUGH! Now that I’m totally sucked into this Season of American Idol I can’t wait for it to be over, lol. I hate you Adam Lambert…no not really. All I’m saying is he’s like a shiny object that your eyes keep following. I’m so over the competition portion of the evening and just want to get to the CROWN, okay? We will have our King…er Queen…er King soon.
Anyhoo, onto this week. Matt was saved by the judges which I was happy about until it meant Anoop got the axe. So now I’m mad at Matt for still being around. As I discussed in my post from last week, he would be leaning toward appropriation but his heritage cancels that out. Sorta. Kris is a Jason Mraz do-over without the pizzazz. Danny is the Taylor Hicks of the competition. Sure Taylor won but his album FLOPPED and where is he NOW? They are sooo boring to me even though they can sing. Plus if you recall Simon didn’t really like Hicks. You could tell because Simon does NOT have a poker face. 
That leaves Allison who is a great singer and not at all polished as a performer – yet. When she is, it will be a sight to behold. So again that leaves Adam as the lead competitor, the most prepared for a career TODAY and the only one who really knows himself. He can sing anything and works well with others. Like I also said: he’d better win this sucker or else…..
Supposedly it’s up to America to vote for the winner. We’ll see.

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If Adam Lambert Doesn’t Win American Idol…

It will speak volumes about how some people feel about men who are willing to display a non-hyper masculine identity and the blurring of gender. I won’t state the he is gay because I don’t know…but he has a certain flair. So it’s telling how the judges and the viewing/voting audience respond to him. He is tremendously talented and I’d certainly hope the handlers weren’t planning on basing his career on appealing to the tween crowd. 
Personally I’d love for him to win and not have to hide his orientation regardless of how he identifies. It’s 2009 and it’s high time we have an openly gay Idol. It’s also time for someone to really be able to define themselves artistically without being pushed into a tightly-controlled package. This week’s Idol was Disco and it was mostly one big yawn. As an aside I have to say that I don’t like the way Lil Rounds is being treated by the judges. For she also isn’t adhering to whatever expectations they are trying to hold her to either. It only shows how they’re not interested in nurturing talent but generating product with no soul.


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Adam Lambert, American Idol And Why The Music Industry Has Failed

I’m not sure if the majority of my readers have been watching American Idol but I have to say hands down it’s the best one since the first series. I was deeply invested at the beginning and quickly lost interest, but have popped in the last few episodes every other season. I find Fantasia’s life story interesting. Carrie Underwood got me listening to modern country music. Of course if you know anything about the music industry Nashville songwriters are the best in the biz so she and her team have had access to and selected songs that really showcase her assets as an artist. Smart move! 
I cheered for Jennifer Hudson’s career success and how Simon Cowell had to eat crow after he was so dismissive of her.  It’s been very interesting to watch how Kelly Clarkson navigates her career away from Idol and how she’s fumbled a bit trying to forge her own identity. Not to mention being taken seriously as an accomplished song-writer. I thought she was either incredibly ballsy or crazy to publicly rail against Clive Davis, but apparently her brand is intact. Most artists at her level, who’d had huge hits would NOT try to rock the boat. So more power to her. 
Now aside from the concerns about the packaging and commoditizing of artists into cookie cutter pop stars I really like Adam and his confidence. He’s going to be edgy and I think that frightens the handlers. He’s not going to fit in a nice little box to stuff him in and is the antithesis of “interchangeable”.  Unless he’s going to do rock music they’ll encourage him to “tone it down”. Because of the macho culture in this country where the definition of masculinity can be so limiting a man that’s in touch with his feminine side or doesn’t conform to acting like a GI Joe is very threatening. 
There are already whispers and rumors about his orientation and however he identifies himself has no bearing on his immense talent. Robert Smith has happily worn mascara, eyeliner and bright red lipstick for nearly 30 years and is still married to his beloved Mary. Of course he’s British. So I’m rooting for Adam because he’s clearly leading the pack but I wonder if winning would be more of a hindrance for his long term career aspects. He’s clearly playing to win though. I’m just not sure if the Simons: that would be Cowell and Fuller (head of 19 Management) want him to win. If he comes in 2nd he can milk all the sympathy of having been “wronged” forever.
I’m also looking at the other contestants because this season has the highest level of competition yet. If Anoop wasn’t Indian he’d have more of a chance at winning. Since he’s not white, Black or even Latino his non-gentrified name and brown skin are going to be a hinderance in this country. He also doesn’t “conform” to expectations. He has a beautiful voice and makes good song selections but you know they’re thinking, “How are we going to ‘market’ him?” Gee, I dunno…how about as a pop artist! Soulful songs but not specifically arranged in an R&B format. He needs well-crafted songs and keep him far away from hip-hop. His first single could be a mid-tempo with a gospel choir. Actually I think Natasha Bedingfield should write a song for him.  He’d do well flipping the script and singing songs that may have been pitched to women because the contrast is also interesting. If he’d been a contestant in the UK for the original format Pop Idol it may have worked because of the prominent Asian population. The fact that he’s so talented has sustained him. I’d like to think we’ve moved beyond these roadblocks but I’m a realist.
As I stated I think this season has had it’s strongest group of competitors. They’re stumbling a bit at times because the don’t have enough experience performing and they don’t know enough music history and what suits their voice. That’s the problem with pop music in that the finished song you hear was fashioned for a specific artist with certain vocal limitations. If you’re an accomplished vocalist, singing the average pop song will sound weird and has to be rearranged to suit that person. So with that I’d give the nod to Adam, but he’s the senior member of the group at age 27. If he’d been 16 like Allison he wouldn’t be nearly as polished as he is now. He clearly knows his voice and what it can and can’t do. There’s plenty of major label artists who can’t say that!  
Lil Rounds is a great singer but she’s gonna get sucked into to vortex of lost Black female artists. There’s too many great singers and the industry isn’t supportive. If she’d been light-skinned, thinner and willing to sex it up they may have given her a shot. The industry isn’t supportive of artists who offer substance and albums with 80% good material. They want a few singles and filler and for that artist to put out a new craptastic album every 1.25 years with the accompanying soft porn video to match. Look at the career challenges being thrown at Jill Scott, Ledisi, India. Arie and others who have legit talent, write their own songs and STILL get grief!!  She needs to take a cue from Natalie who’s looking to foreign markets
Allison is young, a raw talent that needs more seasoning and a complete makeover. She has reminded me of Kelly Clarkson from time to time and Randy confirmed my assessment. Kelly tried to rage against the music machine and got smacked down publicly. I admire her for fighting for her own voice and creative control. She is a talented songwriter as well but under the circumstances of her rise to prominence I can see where she was going to have to compromise…or else. I don’t know if Allison has the writing chops to demand creative control or if she’d be packaged in a similar way Jordan Sparks has been. 
Matt Giraud sometimes comes across as channeling Justin Timberlake and the ironies ensue! Justin has been working with Black choreographers, songwriters and producers his entire career and has used that to build his career. Matt has white skin but is bi-racial so there’s the rub. A white guy appropriates aspects of Black culture and hangs out with Blacks as if some Black-cred can attach itself while someone who actually has Black heritage will be seen as imitating the mimicker. If Matt was browner would anyone dare to compare him to Timberlake or would the realization that he’s lifted another culture for style be that much more obvious?
The other contestants left are white males and quite frankly don’t interest me. If one of them was a modern day Steve Perry that would be one thing. Unless they pull out some surprising departure from their usual routine I think they’ll be eliminated. Or…because of the polarizing effects of the contestants I’ve discussed one of them might win. Anything’s possible!
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Did American Idol Try to Sabotage Adam Lambert?

So for all you AI stans if you didn’t watch it live you missed Adam Lambert’s performance. Don’t you just hate when programs run long that you’ve recorded at a set time? For Fox to allow the show to run over is surprising being there are unions involved that assess penalties as well as the rest of the Fox evening line up pending. It’s not as if there was a breaking news story that interrupted programming. So the question remains if this was an attempt to undermine Lambert’s chances at winning. 
I only started watching 2 weeks ago after seeing so much activity on Twitter during show times. People seem to be more invested than ever. I personally am rooting for at least three people to win and they’re all different types of artists with their own appeal. Having the performance cut off would anger some or discourage them from voting. With voting so close and the talent so fierce this season every vote does count. That is of course assuming the votes are actually counted and they’re coming strictly from the audience. The results are this evening so we’ll see what happens and how the show explains itself. Fremantle Media pulled the video of his performance from YouTube so we can’t even watch it. Hmmm the plot thickens!!

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