Friday, May 15, 2009

The Demon Prince Vs. Prince Charming

Back in March, I posted an entry about American Idol contestant Adam Lambert. My opinion has not changed. He's still sex on a stick.

The guy I didn't talk about in March was Kris Allen. Not that I hadn't notice him back then. I had. Specifically, I first noticed Kris on Wednesday, February 18th, when he appeared in a dance montage that introduce Group 2 of the AI semi-finals rounds. My thoughts at the time were "Who's that cute guy with the dark hair and brown eyes? I don't recall ever seeing him before." after which time I headed to the AI website to find out more about him. After which time I recall hoping that I liked the way he sang because...well, he was cute.

Not the way Adam is the hot, sexy, Baby's done a bad, bad thing, god-if-only-he-weren't-gay kind of cute. Kris is the guy next door, high school dream boat, meet my parents, god-if-only-he-weren't-married kind of cute. (Okay, he's pretty sexy, too.)

Kris makes you think of playing a round of putt putt, sharing a malted at the soda shop, and then taking a drive to the local Look Out Point for a sweet make-out session in the front seat of his dad's Volvo before your 11:00 curfew.

Adam makes you think of skipping the malted and heading straight into the backseat of his vintage Chevy Impala before even leaving the parking lot of the mini golf place and who the hell cares what time it is.

Kris gets you a corsage and takes you to the prom.

Adam gets you a hotel room after the prom.

Adam is a Demon Prince. Kris is Prince Charming.

Anyway, the reason I didn't talk about Kris back in the day was because he was flying quiet on my radar. I watched for him that second round of semi-finals, and he proved to be a great singer. I had no problems throwing him my handful of votes and was pleasantly surprised that he made it into the Top 13 of this year's American Idol contest. When next I saw him, the season now narrowed to the real contenders, my like of Kris was validated, and so it increased over lo these many weeks with great performance after great performance. And now I'm very proud to know that I've supported this guy all the way to the finish line. No band wagoner, I.

But my point here isn't to toot my own horn or to claim that I saw that diamond in the rough a long time before Simon Cowell pulled out his usual hypocrisy in time to make himself look less like the tool he actually is. Instead, I'm finding the media's reaction to the upcoming Adam/Kris finale next week to be quite an interesting - and somewhat alarming - social commentary.

Today, I found this bit from the Baltimore Sun on-line, and it troubles me. Because in this article is the implicating that the winner of AI this year is going to define America's preference between two social extremes. It's not just Adam versus Kris. It's Acceptance versus Rejection.

If Adam pulls off the win - a great possibility given his consistent string of excellent performances, his unparalleled vocal talent, and the media hype and clear frontrunner status he's held since pretty much Week 2 of the contest - it means that America has apparently embraced what many have decided that Adam personifies: acceptance of non-traditional sexual identities, celebration of those outside the mainstream, and unabashed enjoyment of our own freakish differences, as dark as those may run.

But if Kris wins - also a distinct possibility because America loves nothing so much as an underdog - it somehow means that not only is society NOT ready to accept those same constructs, but in fact longs to return to some idyllic farce of the 1950s when teens danced with a respectable ruler's-width of space between their bodies and gay people stayed in the closets where they belonged.

The issues I have with the Sun's slant are plentiful.

The most glaring problem with this article's assertion is that it places a lot of weight and significance on a fairly superficial decision. People tend to like a musical performer mostly because of the way that person performs music. If the contestant sings in a style they like, and if they can imagine buying a CD full of his music, they might pick up the phone and throw a few votes in that guy's kitty. They aren't really worried so much about committing America to one form of group-think or another if they pick up the phone and vote for one contestant over the other. I hardly think that some 30 million plus AI viewers are commenting on the path they want American culture to follow. They just know that Kris plays the guitar, which is always cool, but Adam sounds just like Robert Plant and Stairway to Heaven is their all time favorite song ever.

Too, I'm sure if anyone asked either Kris or Adam, neither guy would be happy to learn that he'd become the Poster Boy for one particular worldview, a worldview with fairly narrow parameters at that. The two men are very good friends, accepting of each other and the various facets of life they both represents. They don't seem to feel any level of Me versus Him, and I'm certain they wouldn't want the world to use them as banner carriers for the Liberals vs. Conservatives, the Blue States vs. Red States, or even the Stadium Rockers vs. Singer-Songwriters.

Additionally, the Sun's article fails to take into fact that a good number of AI watchers are what you'd call Kradam fans. (Note: I use this term in the "likes both Adam and Kris as singers" context, not the Adam-slash-Kris context that some are wont to do). We like both Adam and Kris. We don't want to choose between them. We accept them both.

Just as Guns & Roses exists on my iPod right after the Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, I embrace the rights of all consenting adults to love whomever they feel compelled to love even as I also believe that kids should be encouraged to wait as long as possible to become sexually active. I'm super cool with men who wear guyliner (especially if it makes them look like this), but I cringe when confronted with facial piercings. I think people who aren't in the military and drive Hummers should be forced to pay a 200% gas guzzler tax but I think kids should be able to form voluntary prayer groups in public schools as long as they meet outside of school hours and all religions are allowed equal opportunity. I'm a virtual bag o' contrasts.

And next week, I probably won't vote for either Adam or Kris because I like them both so darned much, I can't bear to choose. I appreciate Adam's unbelievable talent, but I sometimes wince when he sings especially screechy scream-rock songs. Kris's ability to arrange songs I didn't think I liked in ways that make me spend money because it's now must-have music ("Heartless" anyone?) is mind-blowing to my musically challenged brain, yet John Mayer types are a dime a dozen on radio stations these days. Both have things I love and things I don't love so much. And in the end, I want both my Demon Prince and my Prince Charming.

My point being, crowning Adam over Kris does not mean that we've advanced as a civilization such that prejudice and oppression are no longer problems we need to address. Nor does a Kris over Adam victory set us back decades as far as acceptance of non-normative life styles.

Voting for one of these guys just means that either Adam or Kris gave some kick-ass performances and that a majority of AI viewers like one style of music a little bit more than another.

I'm just happy I get to watch these guys for another week.

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