Idol Gives Jesus Back To Us

First off, let me clarify that I really don’t like American Idol and I’m bummed I know as much about it as I do.

This week, American Idol did their annual charity show. They chose to have the group of contestants sing an Evangelical praise song. BUT, they cut the name of Jesus out of it. This immediately caused a fire storm throughout the Christian community. The backlash seemed to have made it to the producer’s ears because the next night they redid the song but put Jesus’ name back into it.

What I thought was interesting was that they had the 3 contestants who were comfortable singing the song to Jesus sing that part of the song. 2 of those 3 contestants were Mormon. I’m sure there was a great deal of rejoicing throughout the land that the song became about Jesus once again. But interesting that if it had not been for those 2 Mormons, Evangelicals may not have heard the song the way they prefer it (the third contestant could have been voted off weeks ago).

(as a further piece of information, at least half of last year’s final 10 contestants were Evangelical Christians. This year their presence is not quite as dominant.)


13 thoughts on “Idol Gives Jesus Back To Us

  1. I find it strange that they removed the word “Jesus” the first time around. It’s so blatantly a Christian song, not like that was one of those songs that could be a secular song except that Jesus’ name is thrown in there.

    And I find it strange they sang they same song the following night. Weird.

    Or is that sort of thing normal for that show? I’ve never seen it.

    And any ideas on why Mormons and evangelicals seem to be overrepresented?

  2. Mormons actually grow up choir singing, unlike most other American kids. They spend each Sunday sitting next to parents who are often harmonizing with the hymns. Then they often get drafted for the ward choir (our ward choir has about 5 primary age kids and four teenagers – and that’s not really unusual).

    My wife grew up in California and she said that while singing was reasonably popular, young people were always wanting to do solo stuff – to be the next Mariah Carey (think of the time period) or something like that. But hardly a blessed soul of them could harmonize their way out of a paper bag.

    High school choirs are a pretty rare phenomenon in most of the United States. But along the Wasatch Front in Utah, almost every last high school has an acappella choir. And they’re pretty darn good too for high school level. At my high school in Provo, we had three different choirs – a beginner level girls choir, the acappella choir, and the advanced madrigals choir. We’d regularly perform throughout the local LDS wards, went to competitions, and performed about 2 or 3 concerts each year. We had about 200 people in the popular accappella choir and outside of band class, it was probably the most popular class offered at our school. Our drama program always threw a major musical once every year.

    Me and my high school friends would even form impromptu jam sessions. We’d go to the house of a girl we knew invite some other people over, and she’d do piano accompaniment (most of the girls we knew were actually pretty good with a piano) and we’d do harmony. So that was our idea of a “good time” in high school.

    And really, if you want to be a singer – even a soloist – you need to start at choir level and learn the foundationals. Everyone wants to be a rock band soloist, but nobody wants to put in the work that is required to actually have a voice worth listening to.

    At BYU there’s a pretty strong tradition too. BYU “boy bands” (the ones where they harmonize without music and stuff) were a dime a dozen. You can run a YouTube search on “BYU Men’s Chorus” and find some pretty good performances. The BYU Christmas Concert is almost always worth seeing (if you can get tickets that is…). There’s a pervasive atmosphere at BYU of improvised music.

    There’s also just a real hunger in Utah for good music. Back in the mid 90s Les Miserables decided to visit Salt Lake City. It was announced on radio and news when call ins for tickets would start. Phone operators report that exactly 5:00 PM on the day tickets sales opened, the switch boards literally lit-up. Long-distance service got locked down for most of the Wasatch Front for the entire evening. The producers were astonished. They hadn’t had that kind of response anywhere else in the US. They sold out every show. The cast and producers of the show were also surprised at what they found in Salt Lake – four professional theater companies, a local opera, a professional concert choir, professional ballet company… all sorts of stuff they really weren’t expecting in the middle of the rural intermountain west. They immediately decided to add Utah to the tour again next year.

  3. Personally, I’m a little concerned at the way the 2 Mormon contestants are viewed in the Mormon culture. We take pride in them, as if it proves we’re normal/great because 2 of us can compete in American Idol.

    Personally, I don’t know much about them other than that they are Mormon. I don’t want my religion judged based on 2 random people I don’t know, who happen to sing well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they are bad people, just that I don’t know.

    As for why they are over-represented, it could be because of the role of music in Mormon culture, but I think it’s more just a statistical anomaly. If you choose 10 random people in the US, you’re bound to have at least some minority group over-represented. Hispanics? Red-heads? Muslims? This time it just happened to be Mormons.

  4. Seth, I think you might be surprised ot see how much music happens in Mainline Protestant Churches, especially in the more liturgical ones–Episcopalian and Lutheran, and how prevalent choir memebership is there too.

  5. Yeah Mike, remember that Mormon girl on the Real World. Bit of an embarrassment that.

  6. Hey Tim, how do I change back to Seth R.?

    Now that I’ve got that WordPress account, it’s like… trying to take away my free agency or something…

  7. You could have found that out from clicking on my name and checking my Nine Moons profile. I’m not exactly hiding it, I just don’t want my clients Googling my name and getting something on Feminist Mormon Housewives as the first hit.

    (typed from a different computer – I’m still clueless about WordPress and why my name changed)

  8. I wonder if having a ward choir is a Utah thing or if I’ve just been in musically challenged wards. I have lived in three wards since joining the church (none of them in Utah), and not a single one has had a ward choir. I’ve heard some pretty good choirs at stake conferences, though.

    Good music on a regular basis is one of the very few things I miss from my Protestant days.

  9. The choirs in the two Episcopal parishes I have been to were way better than any LDS ward choir I’ve seen. But then Episcopal parishes hire music directors.

  10. I find it strange that they removed the word “Jesus” the first time around. It’s so blatantly a Christian song, not like that was one of those songs that could be a secular song except that Jesus’ name is thrown in there.

    A friend of mine works for FOX and said that they have a pretty strict “no Jesus” policy. You can say just about whatever you want about any non-descript Creator, and they’ll let it fly, but if you mention the name “Jesus” they won’t air it.

    Personally, I’m a little concerned at the way the 2 Mormon contestants are viewed in the Mormon culture. We take pride in them, as if it proves we’re normal/great because 2 of us can compete in American Idol.

    It’s the same with Mitt Romney. It’s a chance for the Mormon church and Mormon culture to be legitimized and normalized into mainstream culture. Plus Mormons have something profoundly in common with these contestants. Mormons are by no means unique to this. The same thing can be said of Ellen and the gay community and Obama and the black community. Everyone likes to see someone from their own tribe do well.

    From what I hear of David Archuleta’s dad, he may not be someone Mormons what holding up the faith.

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