I spent three hours tonight catching up on TiVoed episodes of American Idol. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite three hours since I was able to fast forward through the commercials, but it was definitely time that I guiltily stole from something more productive that I should have been doing. I know there was a presidential debate on CNN and I know I have a conference call in the morning that I should be preparing for, but this show is unbelievable. It is so beautifully produced; it’s no wonder it has become such a hit. Every week when I watch it I think, ‘yep — that’s America.’ We have such a big and diverse country. It’s thrilling to see so many parts of it represented, and this show, more than anything since the days of Ed Sullivan, really captures the American Dream. We’re not all cut out to be superstar recording artists, obviously, but you get a real sense watching this show that anything is possible, that success can come to anyone, and that hard work really does pay off. If I were majoring in sociology I would write a paper about it. And if I were a better singer (okay, and several years younger) I would be dying to be on it.
I’m really only one degree of separation away from this show. When we were filming “GREASE: You’re The One That I Want,” American Idol was filming on the sound stage next door. Our dressing rooms shared a hallway with their dressing rooms, and yes, I did one time walk right into Paula Abdul’s dressing room when I knew she wasn’t there. I spoke to Blake Lewis in the hallway really early in the season and told him how exciting and musical I thought his performances were. He didn’t win, but he did really well, and I still think he’s one of the most distinctive performers in that show’s history.
For a big part of my career I have sat behind either the table or the piano as people sang their hearts out in auditions. Given that, my husband is amazed that I still have interest in watching this show. But I find there is so much spirit there — in the hopes of the singers, in the cutting truth of the judges’ evaluations, and in the vulnerability and exposure of the personal stories the producers choose to showcase. We are vain. We are talented. We are delusional. That’s America.
Speaking of spirit, I just have to mention the most amazing book that I just finished reading. Talking about religion in such a public forum as this one is probably tricky, but I’m not going to preach or opine on your time. I’m just going to say that if you have an intellectual curiosity about religion, and especially about religion and politics, and you feel like any time you talk about religion (whichever branch of it makes sense to you) you get a big label as being “one of those people,” then this book might be as fascinating to you as it was to me. Every five or six pages I felt like my breath was being taken away because the idea on the page was so big, so new, that I needed to stop to process it. Check it out. Especially in the year of this historic election, it seems vital to ask exactly these questions.
Next week, back to music. I promise.