Some years ago whilst on holiday, I spent an evening at a karaoke night in the hotel where we were staying. My abiding memories are of a five year old Hannah asking the Spanish woman running the event if she could sing ‘He made the stars to shine’, apparently they didn’t have the backing track so she eventually settled on ‘Ugly duckling.’ A surprise rendition of ‘It’s in his kiss,’ from Rachel and some memorable performances by a middle aged Scotsman.
The man’s performances were not particularly good; in fact they were terrible, probably due to the fact that they were fuelled by a large quantity of strong larger. I’m sure without the ‘help’ of the ‘San Miguel’, the man would have been perfectly sensible but the aforementioned larger seemed to release in him the belief that he was really a great entertainer. Sadly this belief was totally unfounded and he proceeded to brutally murder a number of songs with out of tune singing and drunken dance moves.
You may think that the audience would be appalled by such a display, however, the opposite was true. It quickly became clear that someone singing quite well was not half as entertaining as someone singing really badly, with the result that each of the man’s performances were greeted with loud cheers of support. This in turn encouraged him to even more ‘heights’, his rendition of ‘Pretty Woman’ has stayed with me for all of these years for all of the wrong reasons.
The reason that this has all come back to me recently can be traced to last Saturday evening when I had that feeling all over again whilst watching the X Factor on TV. I was watching Wagner, not the 19th century German composer but the fifty four year old Brazilian singer who is a contestant on this year’s X Factor (At this point, I was going to include a link to one of his performances from Youtube but to be honest they are just too awful). He clearly cannot sing in tune or in time, his words are hard to understand because of his heavy accent and as far as dancing is concerned (I am something of an expert in things dance related), he looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights. I have to admit that I found the whole thing hilarious and just as I had done years before on holiday, found bad singing more entertaining than singing that was just ok. Although if I’m being honest, though these things are subjective, at least one of the other contestants had tremendous voice. I can understand that for fans of the show, whilst it may have been funny once or twice, the joke has well and truly worn off.
The question that has been voiced both through the media and through chatting with people is, ‘how is Wagner still in the competition?’ Better singers have fallen by the wayside and leaks suggest that he is consistently in the top three or four in terms of the number of votes cast. There have also been a number of stories in the papers which may or may not be true, stating that he is to say the least not a very nice person.
There is a similar phenomenon on the BBC’s flagship Saturday night programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ where Ann Widdecombe is performing. One judge unkindly described her dancing style as ‘like a tugboat pulling the Ark Royal up the Clyde’, meow! This follows a similar case last year when John Sergeant became a sensation on the show without actually being able to dance. When it was clear that he might actually win the competition, he diplomatically withdrew but Ann Widdecombe has said explicitly that she will not follow suit. In her defence, it could not have come as a surprise that she is not exactly Ginger Rogers and she has pointed out that ‘Strictly’ is an entertainment show in which the viewers vote, so she is committed to keep going until the voters decide otherwise. She also seems to be increasing her popularity as all concerned talk about her good humour, razor sharp wit and by all accounts she is a thoroughly nice person. In the betting stakes, she has moved from rank outsider to one of the favourites to win the competition.
All of this means that two of the most popular TV programmes have a man who can’t sing in the final stages of the singing contest and a woman who can’t dance in the final stages of the dancing competition.
Some have said that the voters are those who are not watching the shows and just like to see everyone else suffer but I am not so sure. There was a similar situation last year with the previously mentioned John Sergeant on ‘Strictly’ and Deadwood ‘Jedward’ on the ‘X Factor’. Add to this the concerted campaign to stop another ‘X Factor’ Christmas number one by promoting a ‘Rage Against the Machine’ song with a copious helping of swear words. The campaign succeeded and the song ‘Killing in the Name’ became the Christmas number one for 2009, though whether it could be played on air is doubtful due to its content. A Facebook group promoting the single had over 950,000 members.
These things add up to large numbers of people seeking to make a point. My suspicion is that many are fed up with the expert judges telling them what they should and shouldn’t like. The thought of making pompous judges squirm as they try to explain why the public are determined to ignore their wise advice as to who should stay in is obviously attractive to some. It was noticeable that during Wagner’s performance on Saturday, one judge had her head in her hands while others looked on aghast. I must confess that I find this thinking very appealing.
I suppose a desire to ‘go against the flow’ can be positive, since if we all did what we were told we’d all be atheists. It has to be good to look into things ourselves rather than just accept the received wisdom. The problem with this type of rebellion is that we all have hearts that are naturally sinful and rebellion against God is our default setting.
Isaiah 66 speaks of two types of people, those who reject God’s word and those who tremble at it.
“For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened.
They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.
Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word:” (Isaiah 66:4-5)
It’s a very powerful chapter that speaks of both judgement and salvation, really dependant on how we respond to the word of God. As stated in the passage, “when I spoke, no one listened.” God’s word is widely rejected, we believe that we know better than God, as did our first ancestors in the garden, the problems in our world can be traced back to that rebellion in Adam and Eve and also in our own hearts.
It’s one thing to rebel against an annoying judge on TV, it’s a good thing to question accepted wisdom but it is a foolish thing to question Almighty God. Let us be those who are esteemed by the Lord.
“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)