“Idol Gives Back” Gives Us Controversy, Takes Up Way Too Much Space On Our DVR

Apr 10th, 2008 // 17 Comments

AP080406028359.jpgI’ll confess: Thanks to a demanding blogging schedule and something resembling a vague sense of dread, I still haven’t watched all of “Idol Gives Back” yet. It was long–and that was before it ran overtime! (Seriously, a pretaped television program running over? Why not just start it at 7, and pre-empt that awful TMZ show?) But I have gone around the Web looking for reactions to and highlights from last night’s episode, which raised $22 million during its runtime, and I found quite a few–from virulent reactions to the religious overtones to eye-rolling at Robin Williams trotting out Russian jokes for the 5,486th time. A few selected clips and rants after the jump.

1. Does using a song from Rent and closing the show with the evangelical anthem “Shout To The Lord” send out mixed messages to viewers at home? Rickey at Idol megablog rickey.org sure thinks so:

Think about that when you listen to the finale song “Shout to the Lord” which is one of the anthems of the born-again movement in the world — a movement which does not support contraception and is intolerant towards gays and people with HIV/AIDS.

I am so offended. I am so angry. American Idol should have known better and not inject religious undertones to their annual fund-raiser. Saving children in Africa and New Orleans has nothing to do with the Christian god. What were they thinking? Bah!

While I agree with Rickey on pretty much all these points, I have to wonder if he’s been watching the same show that I have all this time. There is so much Americanized Christianity all over American Idol year-in and year-out–from “Jesus, Take The Wheel” to more subtle Lordy references–that if anything not having some sort of awkward Christian shout-out on the big charity extravaganza would seem odder.

2. Continuing with the religion theme, Fox exhibited a weird sort of ecumenism when it came to giving airtime to its rival networks’ stars. As Michelle Kung at the Huffington Post noted, the presence of Jimmy Kimmel and Teri Hatcher resulted in ABC’s shows being more cross-promoted than Fox’s, although I guess having Gordon Ramsay show up to tell everyone they were idiots would probably have killed the mood. I’m guessing that the heavy ABC presence was the result of favor-trading to get American Idol non-watcher Miley Cyrus on the show. Speaking of which…

3. Miley wouldn’t be “just bein’ Miley” if she didn’t use this night of charity to shamelessly self-promote.

I just realized how much this song sounds like the Pet Shop Boys’ “Rent.”

4. People still think Robin Williams making Russia jokes is funny? What year is this? Did Yakov Smirnoff cancel at the last minute?

5. Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band brought it. I wonder if the Idol hopefuls were taking notes.

[Videos via MJ's Big Blog]
[Photo: AP]

  1. Rob Murphy

    Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band brought it. I wonder if the Idol hopefuls were taking notes.

    Also, Fergie. She freakin’ rocked. She not only “held her own” against Ann Wilson, she blew Wilson off the stage.

    Fergie should rock a little more, and show Ashlee, Avril — and maybe Hayley? — how it’s done.

    Also, the Idols could take a few lessons from Miley on how to work the stage and the crowd.

  2. extracrispy

    I do not recognize the Idols in those white outfits. That must have been during the overtime performance after my DVR stopped recording.

    Really, Christianity is the mixed message that got peoples’ panties in a bunch? No one is bothered by Snoop Dogg’s diamond-encrusted nametag or Alicia Keys’ designer sunglasses on a special about, uh, poverty?

  3. ObtuseIntolerant

    Well…I agree at heart of Ricky’s Christianity objection, but as an irreligious person with a number of evangelical friends (it happens lots when you work in nonprofits/social work)…some of them are VERY liberal, and embrace all people, and work hard for justice and awareness of rights for all people. Those are the ones who are actually Christians, btw, they just aren’t as LOUD as the righty-wingy ones.

    Maybe if we didn’t all talk so much smack on their love of the Lord they would feel they could be more forceful about their more liberal beliefs, but the ones I know are too embarrassed. Not that I think we should all be forced to be awash in “His praise” or anything, but it is a turning tide. Young evangelicals especially, so there is hope, maybe there is less need to be so angry/sad.

    Hmm..to tie this into music…I think Miley is faking her fervent Jesuslove, but I do think she has a wicked stage presence. W00t.

  4. ObtuseIntolerant

    Also, why is it “shameless self-promotion” when Miley appears on a stage…but not when EVERYONE else does? Stop laming out…it’s really all television is for, anyway.

  5. joshservo

    Two additional moments of note:

    1. Annie Lennox’s performance of “Many Rivers to Cross” was flat out wonderful, as if nobody had told her that she was singing on a reality show pat-yourself-on-the-back fest. You want to talk about showing the kids how it’s done, that’s how it’s DONE.

    2. I had my finger on the fast-forward button the second Carrie Underwood took the stage. And maybe it’s the philanthropy talking, but I thought she did a pretty terrific job. Perfect song choice, solid vocals without an ounce of her country corn…She worked it out (to coin a phrase).

  6. Chris N.

    I understand what Annie Lennox was trying to do, but I would imagine that half the people watching now think she’s HIV-positive.

  7. Anonymous

    I taped the whole thing and FF-ed through later on. Loved Annie Lennox and Fergie (one forgets that Ms. Stacy can actually sing like a normal person and be quite good). Miley is just alien to me. Don’t get the appeal or the voice or any of that, but I’m not an 11 year old girl.

    I know the majority of AI viewers are in the middle of the country, but I still found such an openly religious song to be a strange fit. They’re usually not that blatant; even “Jesus…” was post-Idol for Carrie.

  8. MTS

    @ObtuseIntolerant: Amen to this post.

  9. DavidWatts

    @Varina: having a face like a normal person, though, not so much.

  10. Audif Jackson Winters III

    @ObtuseIntolerant: “Maybe if we didn’t all talk so much smack on their love of the Lord they would feel they could be more forceful about their more liberal beliefs, but the ones I know are too embarrassed.”

    Well, unless they are black, of course. Then it’s fine for them to be openly religious.

  11. Maura Johnston

    Oh man, I should know better to write about religion before noon. Look, I am not talking smack on anyone’s love of the Lord. I actually find people talking about their faith interesting! I *am* saying that, 1, making a religious song the send-off for the evening put a bad taste in my mouth because doing so is an exclusionary gesture, and 2, certain strands of Christianity seem to operate in what appears to me as stealth mode to the “outside world”–and that is unnerving to me because why are they hiding it? I don’t think it’s out of shame or embarrassment.

    Anyway, I need to read Daniel Radosh’s book before I talk about this further.

    And re Miley: She could have sang a song about the theme of the night instead of one about her “just being Miley.” To be honest I don’t think “Barracuda” was all that appropriate of a choice, either, although I guess “Alone” would have just been a slap in the face to Ramiele.

  12. Chris N.

    Wikipedia tells me that barracudas are eaten in soup in West Africa. Perhaps it was an extremely subtle reference.

  13. rad_matter

    @extracrispy: Or Bono showing up yet again to another charity-driven event?

  14. scarletvirtue

    @rad_matter: I have a feeling that Bono would show up for an envelope opening if it were charity-affiliated.

  15. janine

    @Maura Johnston: Crazy on You is kinda about poverty. in a way…

  16. Anonymous

    “Certain strands of Christianity seem to operate in what appears to me as stealth mode to the “outside world”–and that is unnerving to me because why are they hiding it?”

    Maybe we wouldn’t have to hide if the world (mostly America) wasn’t trying to sweep Christianity under the rug. From the attacks on public displays to the attack on public “Christian” officials, it’s like they don’t want us to exist. We have just as much right to proclaim Jesus as anyone does to denounce Him. I won’t bother you about you unbelief if everyone else stops bothering Christians about their belief.

    I take offense for them using the song because of them taking Jesus out. If you are going to use a song that has Jesus in it, then leave the word in there. Otherwise, just don’t use it. I agree, they shouldn’t have used the song in the first place (but I didn’t watch it anyway, only heard about it).

    Putting a Christian song in a show like this is just an example of how the unthinking media and entertainment industry continues to screw up television. I don’t hate most of T.V. because of it’s absence of God. I hate it because it doesn’t require America to think. It does the thinking for us. It starts controversies. If the song was never in the show, no Christian would have been complaining that the show didn’t have any Christian songs.

    Again, we don’t want to hide, we feel we have to….to be “politically correct” and to keep from “offending” anyone. Jesus and Christian are offended all the time through T.V. and other media and (the smart ones of us) say nothing. Yet, we say one thing on national T.V. about Jesus and suddenly, everyone wants to lynch us. You either have freedom of speech and religion, or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t stop people from saying Jesus just as much as I can’t stop you from speaking against him. Let’s just be fair ok? One 2 minute song is not going to kill you…unless you are feeling guilty or something….?

  17. Chris N.

    Ah yes. The disenfranchised Christians, making up only 80% of the country and 99.9999% of the government.

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