WHO OWNS YA, BABY?
From Slavery to Affirmative Action
By Barbara Stanley
I supposed I should have entitled this Ďa rose by any other nameí but the smell isnít very sweet, is it? Last evening I watched the American Idol program on Fox. I have seen a few of these programs before and the level of talent making it to the finals is, in a word, awesome. God really has gifted some of these kids with ability to spare in the singing department. And Iím not writing about the programs which promote kids who sing through their noses, dress like Britney Spaniel, er, Spears (notice how that hair looks like dogsí ears?), are way too precocious to bear and are more like mini-adults than real children. Why anyone would take the beauty that is the child and replace it with a faux adult has always escaped me. Just like the beauty pageant entrants whose moms dress them up like little Barbie DollsÖ I just donít get it. For me, there is no beauty like that of the innocence of a genuine child.
There were two finalists in last nightís competition: Ruben, an obese black man with quite a rhythm and blues voice and Clay, a southern guy who has the range of voice than can handle a broad spectrum of music and wit, poise and charm to spare. At one point, the guys sang a duet and Rubenís voice, mellow as it is, was lost in the powerful instrument of Clay. So guess who won? Yup, Ruben.
When this contest began, some hoped Ruben would take it seriously and drop a few pounds to improve his overall health and appearance. There were moments last evening when I thought he would collapse from the strain of being on stage, wearing an uncomfortable suit, sweating like crazy. It actually seemed as though Ruben had actually bulked up some. Not a good sign for one entering the glitzy, money-rich world of the new super star. Some might even say, not a very good investment for a recording company, especially considering the recent stroke and paralysis of Luther Van Dross, who gained and lost and gained again and finally lost his health in the process.
I donít know very much about Ruben, the newest American Idol. He seems like a really nice guy with a talent for singing. However, I did learn that Clay is not only a man possessing a great stage presence and an easy going humour, to me reminiscent of Dean Martin, but Clay has also been working with autistic children and planned to open a school for these special kids with his winnings.
For days before the finals, the buzz was that Ruben would win. But in the last remarks, one of the judges (and in my opinion, the only judge who actually was straight in his remarks, albeit not very diplomatic at times) said that these two men both had singles out and the market would determine who the real winner was. I also understand that Clayís single is a hit, already topping the Amazon charts while Rubenís is, well, not.
The world of the entertainer is a rigorous one with an easy path to corruption if one isnít disciplined. All the money, women, perks, adoration, could turn anyoneís head if it werenít screwed on well and supported by a steady foundation of principle, value and moral center. And the money invested by the studios and recording companies is enormous.
So, I ask you: do we really need more Britney Spears with their limited, helium- voices or do we really need a new and real idol who can sing just about anything and not become lost in the doing? Last yearís winner, a young woman with some talent, sang and strutted and I was not impressed to the level I would have expected from one with a broader gift yet her single has gone platinum, quite a feather in her cap. I suspect her gain was one of marketing. I suspect American teenagers have more money than taste.
One of this yearís finalists, who sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow at her earlier auditions so well that her voice gave me chills. She also sang last night but her new Ďstyleí of fitting dozens of riffs, notes running all over the place in one word left, me cold. And this seems to be the trend in R&B and it really ruins the song. But then I have not been much impressed with the latest crop of teen singers for they pretty much all sound the same to me. Perhaps their talent lies more in the seductive physical attributes than in the actual voice.
Admittedly, I was disappointed that last night the real winner wasnít chosen as the latest American Idol. My solace, however, is that Clay has the instrument, the talent and the market knows it and he will go far. And someday he will open his school for autistic kids and give something back, for being gifted, to me, means to give the gift to others. I have always admired those who make it and then take it back to where itís needed and help others make it, too.
About The Author
Award-winning writer and Federal Observer contributor Barbara Stanley is a conservative writer of commentary on a broad range of subjects and a Sentry Editorial Excellence Award-winning journalist residing in the upstate forest of New York. In addition to political and social commentary, Barbara writes fictional short stories at her website.
Copyright (c) 2003 Barbara Stanley All Rights Reserved