April 25, 2008

Does "American Idol" punish religious heresy?

The NYT is on the case:
Carly Smithson might be the first “American Idol” contestant to be voted off the show for blasphemy.
Of course, no one is voted off the show. It's not "Survivor." People vote for their favorites, and the least-favorite goes.
Online chat boards devoted to “American Idol” have been abuzz since Ms. Smithson performed the title song from “Jesus Christ Superstar” — the 1970 rock opera, which many Christians consider offensive — on Tuesday’s episode....

Since its debut, and particularly following the release of the 1973 film version, “Jesus Christ Superstar” has been railed against by some Christians for its portrayal of Jesus as confused and at times unwilling to accept his role, and because it hints that he had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene.
Watching the show and blogging in real time, I wrote:
Now they make Carly sing. "Jesus Christ Superstar" — she's bellowing. To me, it's ugly. She's essentially yelling "Jesus Christ!" which isn't very pleasant. This is a family show. Blasphemy's not apt.
I wasn't tapping into old controversies about the Broadway show, just reacting to the harsh voice and the angry tone addressing Jesus that reaches its very loud height with the words "Jesus Christ" and comes across like the way a very coarse person swears.

Have a listen:



Dreadful, isn't it? Quite apart from how Carly sang it and whether blasphemy is abhorrent, it's an ugly, angry, repellent song.

ADDED: In the clip, you can see that both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Carly Smithson enthuse about how the song is her and expresses her true being — and goes along with her extensive tattoos. Well, the song is Judas yelling at Jesus. If that's the real Carly, what can she expect?

72 comments:

Spread Eagle ® said...

Carly was gone because she sucked eggs. Her performance was bad. Her background singers were doing all the work. Her hideous arm and hideous husband didn't help.

Henry said...

It's too bad the audience couldn't vote Lloyd Weber off the show.

Paul Snively said...

Interesting. My Lutheran parents, one of whom is a pastor's kid, took my sister and me to the movie and bought the soundtrack for us. I've never found the show offensive and, in fact, have always found Judas' lead song, as performed in the movie, amazing, and his is the role I'd always have wanted to play.

Many people seem to forget that most practicing Christians are fully aware of the struggles that every major figure in the Bible faced—and that includes Jesus Himself, who asked that this cup be taken from Him if it was His Father's will. As for the rest, well, you've got everything from thieves to Jewish tax collectors for the Romans to prostitutes to history's first recorded religiously-motivated serial killer (after whom I was named—St. Paul), and more.

As for the question of Jesus' nature and His relationships, that's inherent in the belief, according to the Creeds, that He is "very God of very God" and "true man." It's important to many Christians that Jesus' not have been married or had an intimate relationship in any other way. It's certainly important to me to believe that He was sinless, but I don't believe that for Him to have been married would have been a sin, so my personal jury is out on that.

So Superstar, which features Mary facing the external pressure that's mounting and asking the obvious question, isn't at all offensive, and Carly's powerful (in the literal sense) rendition of it didn't place it somewhere else on the spectrum of appreciation for me.

MadisonMan said...

Punishing religious heresy does not explain how Syesha's sublime performance landed her in the bottom two slots. Slots that rightfully belonged to the dreadful Brooke and the dreaded Jason.

save_the_rustbelt said...

A lot of Christians enjoy JCSS, me included.

Having women sing songs written for males and having males sing songs written for women is always a risk.

ALW songs are written for theatrical, near operatic voices. Picking his songs was dumb to begin with.

But folks, this is not war and peace, this in entertainment. Take a deep breath.......

Zeb Quinn said...

It's too bad the audience couldn't vote Lloyd Weber off the show.

I dunno. On the Ann Althouse continuum between Dolly and Barry, I'd say that Andrew was closer to the Barry end.

And Madison Man, it bears repeating because it's important in understanding the dynamic: nobody is "punished" on AI. Some people are rewarded more than others. I have liked Syesha for weeks. But I'm an exception. For whatever reason she has not cultivated a following to amply reward her.

MadisonMan said...

Yes yes yes, I know. One garners votes. Syesha's problem is that her early work was so uneven that people gravitated to others. Now they can't abandon them (I'm talking to you Christopher!) because that means their initial assessment of talent was WRONG! :)

Syesha's predicament almost makes me want to vote for her (I've never voted for someone on AI -- it's much more enjoyable to bitch about it -- rather like National Politics).

Ann Althouse said...

Re Syesha, I think that performance impressed heterosexual men, and they aren't the biggest voters. You need women to love you.

Synova said...

I donno if she sounded angry but the "Jesus Christ" over and over did sound screechy. I think until that part her voice actually did go with the music.

I was a kid when this was a big deal and have never actually seen any of it or listened to this song all the way through. I doubt very much that the people who'd normally be voting for her suddenly said, woah, don't dis Jesus, lady.

al said...

Something else to remember - it's a popularity contest - not a talent competition.

As for Carly and her singing - it wasn't blasphemy. Nor was it dreadful. And the song isn't ugly - they are just questions.

If one wants dreadful singing - just listen to little David's whiny voice...

FobwGal said...

whether blasphemy is abhorrent, it's an ugly, angry, repellent song....

It might be blasphemy for me to say this - I'm not at all an AI fan - and only occasionally see clips. But, hey, I kind of liked it. I'd agree that it's an angry song - it is, but I don't find it, in this version or the original soundtrack version, ugly or repellent. Carly's version is a little gospel/soul-lite, but, eh, it's just showbiz...

Zeb Quinn said...

It wasn't that performance that sold me on Syesha. I noticed her smile and sunny disposition a couple of months ago.

MadisonMan said...

Let me add that the NY Times story is very long on speculation and dreadfully short on facts.

the 1970 rock opera, which many Christians consider offensive

But ZERO quotes to back this up. Additionally, do the Christians who might consider this offensive -- if they do in fact exist -- even watch AI or vote on it?

The NY Times really should put some thought into the things they publish. And by thought I mean facts.

peter hoh said...

I'm not an Idol fan, but I didn't think the performance was terrible. I think the backup singers should have toned it down a notch.

Like Paul, my Lutheran parents didn't have any problem with us playing the soundtrack back in the 70s. The idea that some Christians consider the song and/or show offensive is news to me.

Synova said...

I'd certainly heard that it was blasphemous when I was a kid although I knew people in my church, really devout people, who allowed their children to listen to it.

I always sort of wondered what it was all about.

Just one data point for what it's worth.

George said...

Professor, you sound like a deacon at the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Lubbock, Texas! Its website rages against the play.

When the show premiered on Broadway around 1970, the controversy then was over the casting of a black man to play Judas and the use of rock music.

I went with my parents to see it, and it was a spectacle. Rock 'n' roll on Broadway was unheard of, except for "Hair." At about the same time "Godspell" premiered. Both appealed to the 1960s "Jesus Freak" movement, i.e. targeting young people.

"Superstar" was also a new word, possibly invented by Warhol. I first remember hearing it applied to Joe Namath, because of his media fame and mega-contract with the Jets. It was shocking to hear the term applied to Jesus.

To this day, the play is very popular with church groups and is often performed for fundraising purposes by hellbound backslidin' teen choirs, though I can't find any stats. to back that up.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Paul Snively: Do you really think St. Paul was a religously motivated serial killer? Righteous dude with an attitude, perhaps; zealous hard-liner, sure. But serial killer?

save_the_rustbelt said...

Ruth Anne:

Saul of Taursus was a serial killer, then became Paul on the road to Damascus.

peter hoh said...

Ruth Anne, I think Paul is referring to the pre-conversion Paul, aka Saul.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

He was a serial killer? I thought he was the Pharisee's pharisee, going around enforcing the law. He used the law to properly execute the wrongdoers. How is that serial killing??

He was also Saul the tent-maker.

wgh said...

al... if you mean Archuleta, "whiny" isn't a very apt description even if you hate him. Whiny voices are nasally, and Archuleta's is the anti-nasal. He's breathier than an asthmatic labrador. (Which I actually like... just wish he'd occasionally choose from the not-a-dramatic-ballad category).

But back to Carly... I admit it, I was a Carly Hater. Initially because of the record deal expose, and from suspicions that she was a plant, but equally repelled by her shouty performances. Don't know how many similarly-reasoned Carly Haters were out there but I am guessing her lukewarm support this week wasn't much of an abberation... certainly not grounded in religious uproar.

Pogo said...

Last year I saw Ted Neeley as Jesus in a revival of the play. It was weird because he's clearly too old for the part, but still has most of his singing chops.

Offensive? Not to me. Our Catholic grade school went together to see it in 1973.

Why would NYTimes give a rip if something is offensive to Christians anyway, except to mock them for being toothless rubes?

Beth said...

After watching this clip, all I found offensive was that it wasn't in her key. She was yelling Jesus Christ because she wasn't able to sing the first note, the first syllable in Jesus, on key. It was too high. So she kind of bellowed it at a lower pitch and let the backup singers actually deliver it.

bill said...

How about this. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Judas = William Shakespeare's Brutus. The true believer betrays the leader he thinks has betrayed the cause for fame.

Brutus:
It must be by his death: and for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crown'd:
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder;
And that craves wary walking. Crown him?--that;--
And then, I grant, we put a sting in him,
That at his will he may do danger with.
The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections sway'd
More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may.
Then, lest he may, prevent. And, since the quarrel
Will bear no colour for the thing he is,
Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities:
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which, hatch'd, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.


Judas:
You sad pathetic man - see where you've brought us to
Our ideals die around us all because of you
And now the saddest cut off all
Someone has to turn you in
Like a common criminal, like a wounded animal
A jaded mandarin
A jaded mandarin
A jaded faded mandarin

Everytime I look at you I don't understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand
You'd have managed better if you'd had it planned

Paddy O. said...

I'm with Ruth Anne. Saying Saul was a serial killer is hyperbole to make him sound particularly wicked.

He didn't kill anyone. He did seem to lead the charge against those who violated religious law, leading to their arrest and then trials and punishment.

He sought to punish and silence who he saw as heretics, but always within the confines of the approved legal structure of the time. Like when Stephen was killed he didn't even throw a stone. He was a witness.

More to the topic at hand, I liked Jesus Christ Superstar. Trying to figure out Judas' motives is a very interesting topic, and completely unknowable. The musical is a fascinating perspective, and I think well within the bounds, though maybe not entirely fitting the bounds of conservative churches. Though such churches, in my experience, have made their own Jesus as well that often has only the barest bit to do with the man we read about in the Gospels.

It's funny to think of folks who have pictures of a blond, blue-eyed Jesus arguing against a black man playing Judas. Such folks don't want an authentic Jesus of any kind and get mad when others push their own interpretation.

Henry said...

Peter Hoh said: The idea that some Christians consider the song and/or show offensive is news to me.

As I remember back, there were definitely people in my parent's church who were loudly appalled. I'm pretty sure my parents considered it lousy theology, but they aren't the types to get up in arms about anything. We actually had the sheet music kicking around for a while.

Madison Man said: Additionally, do the Christians who might consider this offensive -- if they do in fact exist -- even watch AI or vote on it?

Not my parents. They don't (and will never) own a TV.

PJ said...

Punishing religious heresy does not explain how Syesha's sublime performance landed her in the bottom two slots.

Come on, MM, that's too easy for a regular Times reader. Racism! (And I do agree about Syesha's performance this week, but I gather we're in a discount demographic.)

Carly has been in the bottom three before, and has deserved to be. She has a good voice, but she tends to belt when she shouldn't and she's not an engaging stage performer, in my opinion. Yes, this week Brooke and Jason were worse, but overall I was tiredest of Carly.

This is from a guy who thought "King Herod's Song" would have been a much better song choice for Jason, so religion is obviously not an issue for me. I think the Times just jumped on an opportunity for a little gratuitous election-year religious right bashing.

bearbee said...

The idea that some Christians consider the song and/or show offensive is news to me

I just looked at the original movie version. I could see where the production in 1973 could have been upsetting to many Christians, with its gyrating go-go dancers.

Windbag said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Windbag said...

At 3:01 the camera angle catches a hand movement that makes it look like she flips somebody off. Is she flipping Jesus off, on top of singing a blasphemous song? That would repel the average gun-toting, xenophobic, Bible-thumping rube. Or maybe, like Simon pointed out, people didn't like that it was "a bit shouty in the middle." Looking like the goth chick at the mall that you wouldn't let babysit your children probably didn't help the total package.

Paul Snively said...

I was indeed referring to Saul of Tarsus, who perhaps did not literally pick up the stones and throw them himself, but who most certainly did travel throughout Judea, sit in judgment on the Christian sect, and in the most well-known incident, held the cloak of the first documented Christian martyr, St. Stephen.

His reputation preceded him: to be a Christian and to hear that Saul of Tarsus was on his way to your community was to experience terror and the need to vanish into the crowd.

It's true that he was operating within the structure of Jewish law as understood by his sect of the Pharisees at the time. But he was not the chief priest nor even a member of the Sanhedrin. Nor, although he was a Roman citizen, did he have legal standing from Caesar in support of his actions.

A person going around killing Christians without the sanction of either the Sanhedrin or of Caesar because they are Christians is a religiously-motivated serial killer—which only serves to make his conversion on the road to Damascus that much more striking and profound from the Christian point of view, or perhaps more predictable, from the modern mental health point of view.

Bender said...

Saul was not merely a witness -- Saul was, at the very least, most particularly an accessory to murder and related persecutions of Jewish-Christians. Even if one says that he "merely" held the coats of the others, Saul encouraged, advised, and aided in the stoning of Stephen, making him an accessory to the act.

Indeed, it was precisely because he was such a self-admitted great persecutor of the early Church that his conversion is so great, and proof that Christ forgives all who accept such forgiveness.

As for JCS, it has been mostly the fundamentalist/evangelical crowd that was most offended by it. Indeed, the most offensive thing for most of us Christians (well, me anyway), was Ted Neely's atrocious girly portrayal of Jesus, as well as the laughable hippies that dominated the movie version. The Jesus on the original concept album -- recorded before any stage production even -- was much stronger. That the libretto includes some blasphemies and heresies along the way is true, but no one really looks to a rock opera for their theology anyway.

Telford said...

My evangelical Christian college is okay with projects like Jesus Christ Superstar (though we've also hosted showings of the films "Dogma" and "Saved", so we may be unusual). A colleague shows clips in class.

Two points on Paul:

Serial killer? He sure didn't think so. After becoming a Christian he still regards his zeal, which drove his persecution of the church, as something he could be proud of (Philippians 3:6).

And he didn't give up his name of Saul or "become" Paul. Many Jews had Roman names, as many Korean-Americans have both Korean and Western names. Saul (Shaul) is his Jewish name, Paul (Paulus or Paulos) his Greco-Roman one. Luke is still calling him Saul well after his conversion (Acts 13:1), and only says he is "also Paul" (Acts 13:9).

AJ Lynch said...

I wonder if NYT editor is using "the vote off the island" methodology to pick the reporters he must layoff?

You know - let the NYT readers vote on who stays and who goes.

PatCA said...

To sing Weber well, you have to be an actor. It's theater, folks. Carly missed that aspect completely and just belted it out like a rocker, a sarcastic rocker, at that. Of course the NYT blames bitter, gun-totin' Christians for it. Somewhere, Obama is laughing.

vnjagvet said...

It must be a Lutheran thing. Our church, then a growing mission church in Stone Mountain, GA, not only encouraged buying the record, but put on performances of a number of the songs for Sunday services. Our Pastor used the rock opera for some of his best sermons on the mystery of the humanity of Christ and His ministry to sinners.

Another thing. JCSS is essentially a setting of the Passion of Christ. Lloyd Webber's dad was an obscure, but extremely talented composer, organist and church musician. I am pretty sure Andrew would have been well aware of Bach's St. John and St. Matthew Passions. These works told the same story as JCSS in the vernacular music of eighteenth century Germany.

Cedarford said...

whether blasphemy is abhorrent, it's an ugly, angry, repellent song....

It is a song. It can be sung in an ugly angry tone, which Smithson did and her demeanor had more to do with people disliking her performance than a theological spin. Any Fundies voting for Idol were pretty unlikely to be in tattoo'd married to Lizard-Husband, angry belter Smithson's camp before this song. They were with "sweet, dear Brooke", "nice Jason", the excretable beauty queen Cooke.

I've heard the song spun back on Judas by certain performers who sang it as not angry, certain accusations but of a Judas full of doubt, uncertainty, fear - shame -(after all, the biblical Judas hanged himself in shame, remorse, regret). So Smithson didn'r HAVE to sing it as if she was head of the Jewish lynch mob - or maybe she did, as she only appeared to have one singing style.

(I hated her take on it, and was glad to see her go as Brooke and Jason and Syesha have more likeability and Syesha might last it out to top three with the Davids with another few top performances.)

Paddy O. said...

Acts 9:1-2 --

"Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem."

Saul was acting under the authority of the High Priest, who had been given leeway by Rome to rule on religious matters (though variously, depending on who was the Roman authority at the time, making for some NT criticism conversations). He wasn't a rogue vigilante. He was acting as a representative to the authorities, though almost certainly due to his own zeal.

"to be a Christian and to hear that Saul of Tarsus was on his way to your community was to experience terror and the need to vanish into the crowd."

This is almost certainly true, which makes his reception by the earliest Christians quite interesting and no doubt had very long lasting effects. Imagine hosting the man at your home for dinner who had led your husband or wife or parents off to punishment or death.

dannyboy said...

Good afternoon everyone. It’s such an awesome day I decided to bag the office and enjoy myself. It started off wonderfully with a little morning delight from my conquest of last night. Nothing like a bit of morning dew to start the day with a sparkle if you know what I mean. Gets the heart moving and the blood flowing right before a run or swim.

Although I do hate it when I’m trying to stretch for a good run when you have complete strangers bugging you. Trying to get a nice hammy stretch and this pudgy guy with a receding hairline and wearing plaid pants was walking his dogs kept asking me about how to get fit, how did I get such fabulous abs and then said something about me having nice guns. I don’t know what that was supposed to mean. I have a Glock .45 but I wasn’t even carrying it at the time.

And those dogs were f***in weird looking too. I kept staring at them and he said “How do you like my rare clumbers?”

I might have to start carrying my Glock again.

Bender said...

Well, whether Saul had legal authority for his persecutions is beside the point. Indeed, Nero had absolute legal authority when he decreed the arrest and execution of Christians in Rome, as did the emperors who followed him. They were all complicit in the wrongful slaughter of witnesses (in Greek, martyrs) of Christ.

AlphaLiberal said...

It's a great song. It's not meant to stand alone but to express Judas' inner turmoil.

JC Superstar was a wonderful tribute to Jesus Christ. Last year we saw it with my aged and very traditional Lutheran folks in a conservative midwest town. Everybody was moved and the audience was of all ages, smiling as they left.

If there are some people who can't tolerate different means of expressing love and devotion, that's their cross to bear. I wish them well in loosening up and learning the tolerance Jesus preached.

Or, they can throw stones.

colleenjk said...

Well needless to say her performance sucked alot! I don't find the song to be offensive and I know many devote christians who absolutely love JCSS. However, her screaming "Jesus Christ" at the top of her lungs may turn any average american off. I think she got voted off because she sucks though.

Palladian said...

"I wish them well in loosening up and learning the tolerance Jesus preached."

Lol. Something in that Bible thing about motes and beams in people's eyes too, Mr Liberal.

Trooper York said...

"Re Syesha, I think that performance impressed heterosexual men, and they aren't the biggest voters. You need women to love you."

Damn those straight guys. Why can't they vote for the black dude, when they are digging them some Syesha.

Personally I think it's all about the tits. But that's just me.

PS. For all you Christians out there, please be advised that David Archuleta is the Anti-Christ.

Windbag said...

Trooper, you mean it's not Scott Baio?

dannyboy said...

Personally I think it's all about the tits. But that's just me.


I'm a leg and butt guy myself. Don't get me wrong, a great pair of hooters is great but I think they're over-rated. Medium sized, perky and upright is how I like em.
More than a mouthful is a waste.

kimsch said...

My Lutheran family had no issues with Jesus Christ Superstar either. We had the soundtrack on LP and played it until it started skipping too much.

The New York Times seems to be doing its usual projection of what they think the average Christian thinks and feels.

wgh: David A. does need to sing a fun, upbeat, joyful song.

Syesha was great this week. She was in her element and clearly was having a great time. I was very surprised to see her in the bottom two. I was sure it would be Jason and Brooke in the bottom two this week.

Windbag said...

The New York Times seems to be doing its usual projection of what they think the average Christian thinks and feels.

JCSS was a major deal in the fundamental circle I grew up in. It's enlightening to see how few people grasp the mindset that defines many people's faith in America. For once, the NYT hit it on the head. They didn't need to footnote that statement, because it should be common knowledge to anyone who lived through the era.

Heck, even Archie Bunker confronted the issue. If Norman Mailer was mocking Archie for it, you know it was more than a lunatic fringe that opposed JCSS.

I'm not denigrating anyone's beliefs or comfort with JCSS, nor am I slighting anyone who is unaware of the controversy at the time. All I'm saying is that I was aware of the noise it generated when it was released, and I was only seven at the time. To dismiss the controversy just because you weren't aware of it or weren't offended by the artistic license the script took, doesn't diminish the effects on others who were.

Pal2Pal said...

She's gone because she was a screecher. The awful tattoo didn't help and when they showed her husband, with tattoos all over his face, I think the public was revolted. The only reason she was there as long as she was, is because she was a favorite of Simon's.

They voted out the best singers in Michael Johns, Amanda,and Kristi and now they're stuck with second bests for the rest of the season.

Syesha should have gone home weeks ago as well. She managed to redeem herself this past week with a song she finally managed to sing all the way thru on key.

They want to crown David A., but he was positively terrible this week, as was everyone else. This is what happens when you let tone deaf Randy pontificate. You get a bunch of screechers and sliders, while the good crisp and talented singers get criticized and sent home.

At this point, David Cook has the best shot of those that are left.

Paddy O. said...

unaware of the controversy at the time.

I don't think people are suggesting there wasn't a controversy at the time.

What the New York Times has done, however, is express what Christians thought and felt, not what they now think and feel.

Praise and worship music in Evangelical churches show how much older views have changed, as they have taken on pop and rock and other forms, replacing hymns. So too the absolute pervasive influence of CCM (contemporary Christian music) which incorporates all kinds of music and lyrics, some very honest in approaching faith and doubt.

So to say that the views of 1973 is an accurate assessment of a broad range of Christians today is pretty much the definition of out of touch with the topic.

Triangle Man said...

As Simon sort of said, someone has to go, and at this stage of the competition no one is completely safe. I would have preferred to see Jason Castro go based on his insipid, cloying, butchery of "Memory". Not that I care terribly much for the song, but he was simply not good. He has no wind.

vbspurs said...

My parents loooooved Jesus Christ Superstar.

After they went to see it live in London, then later during its US tour they brought back an LP playing it almost every day for months afterward. I must've been a few years old, but I remember it vividly.

I can't say I find JCSS obnoxious, or anti-Christian, per se.

This obviously is a reading of the situation by the NYT that anything which is "religious" has to be seen through the prism of fanatical adherents approving/rejecting anything to do with their religion.

That sounds like modern-day Islam, not modern-day Christianity, but I suppose for them, there is no difference.

Me, I just dislike ALW's works intensely.

BTW, Ann, since this is a thread about religion and television, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright will be on Bill Moyer's Journal Friday (tonight) on PBS. Then on Monday, he speaks in front of the National Press Club.

I'll be watching.

Reverend Wright. The gift that keeps on giving.

Cheers,
Victoria

jeff said...

"The idea that some Christians consider the song and/or show offensive is news to me"

shrug. I was nine in 1970 and I can remember our conservative church singing that song. I was in Jr High '73-'76 and somewhere in there that song was in one of the shows for the parents. Bet that doesn't happen in a public school today.

John Z. said...

"I Don't Know How to Love Him" could be taken as blasphemous too. Yet I submit that had Carly sang that one, and shown a more "romantic" side, she'd have made it to the next round.

Speaking of being offended by religious heresy, when did the newspaper of record print those Mohammed cartoons that have caused so much controversy in Europe?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Dannyboy:
You're Titus' evil twin, aren't you?

Triangle Man said...

John Z., I don't know if it just the performances I have seen, but "I Don't Know How to Love Him" has always seemed whiny and a little annoying to me. I can see how Carly might have done it well though.

Windbag said...

Paddy O: So to say that the views of 1973 is an accurate assessment of a broad range of Christians today is pretty much the definition of out of touch with the topic.

Who said that? You've read way too much into what the NYT said. And I'll wager that precious few who found offense when JCSS first came out have ceased to be offended.

The NYT said "some" were offended, not "most" or "all good Christians." All we need for grievance is Pat Robertson or James Dobson to be offended to create a buzz that prompts people to wonder what's happening.

MadisonMan said...

to create a buzz that prompts people to wonder what's happening.

It's a beautiful opening given the subject matter, but I'll pass.

Or maybe not.

Kirby Olson said...

The five Lutherans on the comments list are all very positive about the song (Paul Snively, Peter Hoh, etc.). I was afraid, too, that I had missed something. My family was Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and we always liked this musical, as well as the one about Joseph and his Technicolored Dreamcoat. They are both marvelous, witty, charming, and pull out something very dance-able from the scriptures. I used to drive around with this tape as the one go-to tape in my car until the tape broke.

All the extreme emotions are in the gospel -- extreme anger, extreme jealousy (Cain v. Abel), lust, gluttony, hurt, etc.

Christianity has a very wide range of emotions in its texts.

Why shouldn't they be reflected musically?

It's the Maoist left that only has one emotion: self-righteousness. I suppose they think that is the only tone that's appropriate, and that everything else should be censored or something, and that Christians would agree? Maoists are zombies.

At any rate, I love this musical, and felt the young woman wasn't too bad at least at the beginning. She should have showed Judas' pain too -- and his feeling of hurt -- perhaps she didn't have enough emotional range, or couldn't really get into the Judas character's emotional volatility.

Chip Ahoy said...

She should have sang Mary Magdalene's song, I Don't Know How to Love Him.

blake said...

What about those of us who were musically offended? Don't we count?

Bender said...

The same goes for "Joseph" as it does for JCS -- the original concept album (available only in the original vinyl) is by far the best and all the actual stage/movie productions of it pale in comparison.

AND DON'T ANYBODY DARE SUGGEST that Madonna Ciccone's "Evita" is anything but a horrendous travesty -- Patti LuPone is the one and only Evita ever.

XWL said...

As Prof. Althouse pointed out, you don't vote 'against' anybody, just vote for them in Idol. That's why the Sanjayas of the world make it as far as they do (or the Christy Lee Cooks for that matter). If you appeal to an avid Idol watching group, and those folks like you no matter your performance, you'll achieve a place in the competition that seems out of proportion to your talent.

I think having two voting lines, one for a positive vote (make it +2 points), and one for a negative vote (make it -1) for each contestant would lead to better contestants, better performers making it further, and more fan interest.

You ought to be able to vote against performers you really dislike, seems more democratic that way.

Regarding Carly, she failed because she was a shouty, and usually uninteresting performer. But, Jason and Brooke probably should have gone first, anyway (and would have, I think, if you could vote against people, as well as for)

As far as ALW, I'm pretty sure he's Satan himself, or at least one of his top minions.

(and uggghh, Neil Diamond next week)

Paddy O. said...

Who said that? You've read way too much into what the NYT said.

Um, the article was about her losing because of massive religious backlash.

"Carly Smithson might be the first “American Idol” contestant to be voted off the show for blasphemy."

It's conjecture, of course, but the clear suggestion was that there was massive outrage. It began by saying "many Christians" have been offended by the musical.

The whole article was about such "many Christians" causing enough of a backlash that it ruined Carly.

It's not reading into it to note the point of the article.

al said...

al... if you mean Archuleta, "whiny" isn't a very apt description even if you hate him. Whiny voices are nasally, and Archuleta's is the anti-nasal. He's breathier than an asthmatic labrador.

Whiny is a bad description. Ummm - nails on a chalkboard/I want to shoot the tv when he's on. Yea - thats better. I know the producers want him to win but please no.

Joe said...

I agree with Henry; at his best Andrew Lloyd Weber is still average, though a very good singer can make some of his songs sound good.

* * *

I agree with the comment that Archuleta is breathy, makes everything over-dramatic and sound exactly the same.

* * *

I think we're seeing voters worried about the Daughtry effect. That is, someone who is clearly better than the rest losing because everyone thought everyone else was going to vote for him. Throwing votes to someone who isn't going to win is too risky a proposition.

reader_iam said...

"Superstar" is among the last songs on earth that ought to be performed as a stand-alone, much less in a vacuum.

That's an opinion, a judgment, an evaluation, that predates this blog by a couple of decades, FWIW.

As for the linked video from the show: In good faith, I clicked, and before I could even look at and evaluate the singer in question, I was assaulted with the horrible instrumentation, arrangement and even choice of instruments (not to mention the choice not to use, significantly, or even not all, the ones which were remarkable in the original stage productions of JCSS).

reader_iam said...

Given that, and what I've already read here, I suppose it'd be waste of time to give my exegesis and/or opinion of JCSS, in theatre, stage-show, movie or soundtrack[s] form? Yeah, OK. At the most shallow level, I will say this: there's pretty much ZERO value in evaluating the song "Superstar" (narratively, contextually, theatrically, musically and even theologically) by itself--and even less value performing it as such.

Ick.

reader_iam said...

Lest I've left a wrong impression, I should be clear: JCSS as theatre, performed on stage, can, was and has been amazing. It's early ALW, and of course he was (is) immensely talented. That's not the issue or problem, now and, in retrospect, then.

The problem is that ALW decided--crudely and symbolically speaking--that it would better to build a career on the the hyping of the likes of "Superstar," the "song," because that's what got attention, and because that was easier, then. And forget about the stuff that was actually remarkable, even within the work from which "Superstar" is lifted, and about ALW.

Well, that's the choice which ALW made. Even now, he's trying to make himself relevant by both rewriting and avoiding the reality of his own history. He'd still sell his own creativity down the river, for that (and even co-opt young talent, on AI, in order to make the point--how gratuitous and careless is that?!?). Even now, when he doesn't have to, if ever he did.

What a pity.

mrs whatsit said...

That might be the single worst article I have ever read in the NYT. Look for one actual fact, anywhere in the article, that supports the claim that a decades-old controversy about an nearly-forgotten rock musical had anything at all to do with Carly Smithson's elimination after her unmusical, unpleasant, screeching performance of an unattractive song. There are none.

First we have a tabloid-style breathless SHOCK SHOCK lead ("Carly Smithson might be the first “American Idol” contestant to be voted off the show for blasphemy.")Then we have a lot of passive-voice sentences that oh-so-conveniently avoid the need for actual sources. "Questions were being raised . . ." "'Jesus Christ Superstar' has been railed against . . ." Eventually we find a single sentence, not even a quotation, to the effect that some anonymous viewer "warned" that the song choice would eliminate her -- no reason given. When we finally get a quote, it's from some expert who talks about the history of the musical, not about AI at all. And some stuff about Christy Lee Cook and "religious overtones." Nothin' else.

Now don't you think that if the message boards were truly "abuzz" with actual Christians offended by the song choice -- as opposed to unoffended viewers speculating about what those crazy religious rubes that everybody knows are plotting to take over the world and the school boards might do -- the NYT could have managed to find just, maybe, one of them to interview, or at least quote?

Thank goodness most commenters here seem to be capable of seeing through this style of "journalism." But we do, sadly, have Paddy O: "Um, the article was about her losing because of massive religious backlash." Read it again, Paddy, please.

The NYT ought to consider hiring some reporters and editors who know how to write. Then maybe it wouldn't be losing so many subscribers who know how to read.

mrs whatsit said...

Sorry, Paddy, I just found your other comment upstream. I mischaracterized your reading of the article. Shouldn't have done that before reading the whole thread. My apologies.

Jenya said...

JCSS is blasphemy? Are we in the middle ages? It's no more blasphemous than anything else in modern America - including American Idol. Thou shalt not worship any false idols, right? What are good Christians doing sittin on their asses watching bullshit TV shows anyway?

And in any case, JCSS is a great rock opera. I mean, have you HEARD the Deep Purple guy as Jesus - that's some fun music. I watched a bit of the clip you posted but the girl is way too boring and gospel-y to do a rock opera anyways.

To all you Christians who think that girl signing that song is blasphemy - this is why your religion is becoming more and more obsolete.