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Is American Idol Crushing Art for Art’s Sake?

Posted on January 21 2011 10:00 pm
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Another season of American Idol has kicked off this week, with thousands of eager would-be Idols lining up for their chance at the golden ticket. Watching some of the young hopefuls, I couldn’t help but notice what so many of them said. To paraphrase, “I know this is what I was meant to do. I have waited my whole life for this.” But what, exactly, is it that they think they have been born for all of these years? What is it that they think they deserve?

Our celebrity culture seems to have convinced us that art for art’s sake is not worthy of much. Art, be it dancing, singing, painting or another creative form, does not seem to have much value without the accompanying fame and wealth, and too many artists feel no sense of validation without it. If you can’t get paid the big bucks or lead a Brittany Spears lifestyle, what good is it, anyway? Many of the Idol hopefuls seem to have more of a need for celebrity than a need to sing.

At, Mic Mell wrote:

Jake Halpern, author of the book, Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction suggests, “Kids see fame as a cure-all for problems.” And why wouldn’t they? In culture-filled viral videos, young people today see fame as something that’s achievable for everyone, even if, like Joe the Plumber, it’s a brief flash. All it takes is one headline, and anyone can have a book deal, or be a movie of the week. When Andy Warhol said, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes,” he may not have known how accurate his prediction would become for our society. We grab onto the newest craze, idea, or person, then promptly discard it when we become bored, or the next flavor-of-the-week arrives.

Notice how he said “fame as a cure-all for problems.” There is no doubt our kids are being saturated in this concept from a daily onslaught of media sources. They are also being taught that they deserve this wealth, probably much more than some of those “fat cats” who have it. Sound familiar? “Give them the wealth” proclaims Van Jones. “Manifest the wealth” teach the leaders behind The Secret. This redistributive (socialist) mindset is everywhere and it is having an effect on how many people may be viewing their talents.

Here is one example written Mike Adams at Natural News:

There is a vast amount of wealth in the world, correct? And most of that wealth is either being hoarded or used for destructive purposes that endanger life on Earth. This is happening because the people in control of that wealth do not have the maturity, mindset and spiritual awakening that YOU have.
How, then, can you attract more wealth while improving the world?
The answer is surprisingly simple: Shift control of wealth from THEM to YOU!
In other words, if money represents resources and power, then the more money that goes into the hands of responsible, life-protecting people like you, the less money is controlled by irresponsible, life-endangering people like the CEOs of drug companies.

Ah, yes. You are so much wiser and so much more spiritually enlightened than your parents’ generation and those old fat cats who have been hoarding the riches. Would-be Idols, I have news for you. We are not all wise, enlightened beings who are deserving of fame and fortune. Those that have achieved it are not all evil fat cats. Those who will never achieve it can still enjoy a great life and make much of their God given talents without once appearing on a reality TV show. I find it odd that so many of today’s spiritual gurus spend so much time teaching people how to attract fame and fortune. This is enlightenment?

A person who has a true artistic calling will not be able to contain it, and any fame that may come with it is just going to be a byproduct. Those kind of people will dance, sing, write, strum their guitars or paint at the drop of a hat and love every minute of it. Should they become the flavor-of-the-week, as Mell described above, these are the people who will go on dancing, singing, painting and strumming long after the adoring crowds are gone.

Yet there are some who, even though they may feel that drive, are discounting its worth in today’s culture.

Karol Gajda, who writes on creative writing and blogging, says this:

The validation most of us want is from random strangers. People we don’t know and who don’t know us. It makes us feel “famous” in a way.

Somebody from Siberia said they liked my article! I have arrived!”

The Honest Truth About Validation

If you need validation then you’re not creating art.

That’s not to say that what you’re doing isn’t valuable. But the thing about art is this: your art should be valuable to you, first and foremost. Everything else is a bonus.

If your art isn’t valuable to you then you’re not an artist, you’re a factory. And probably unhappy.

Are we allowing ourselves and others to sing, dance and act if we are not considered “Best in Show”? In considering the effect American Idol has had, Rob Oliver at had this observation:

What is the message in all of it for the average person?

What if you can’t sing like the finalists?

Ask yourself how many people you know that actually sing for the fun of it? Have you ever wondered why most people don’t sing anymore?

When I was growing up my family sang on a regular basis. We would get together and before you know it everybody would be singing. We sang because it was fun. There wasn’t any pressure to be like the pros. We weren’t trying to impress each other. We thoroughly enjoyed each others musical contributions.

I believe in capitalism and have no problem with a person wanting to make a living with their talent. I think American Idol can be a fun show and one of the few that you can actually watch as a family, but it also offers a great opportunity. It offers parents the opportunity to point out to their kids what talent and creativity is really all about. Parents can teach that we are not “deserving” of anything, but we can put in the time and the work to achieve big dreams. Parents can teach that big dreams don’t necessarily have anything to do with fame and wealth, but with passion and purpose.

Let’s just hope that when Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler send them packing, this year’s contestants will go home, close their bedroom door and keep singing their hearts out…just for the pure joy of it.

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