On a night that felt more like I was watching American Valium than American Idol, there were at least three really strange moments. The first came after Mandisa did a rock-gospel shout out to the Lord as sort of a testimony to her faith amidst the lion's den of American Idol where Simon compared her to a stripper last week, then called her â€śsexy.â€ť
Paula responded, â€śI worship at the Church of Mandisa,â€ť which, to put it diplomatically, was probably not anywhere close to the reaction that the Sacramento-raised singer had meant to evoke (some silly business about â€śfalse idolsâ€ť).
Simon then just shook his head at her and said â€śNope, not for me, Iâ€™m afraid.â€ť
I watched Mandisa stand on stage next to Ryan with her eyes suddenly wide open and sad, saying nothing, while she possibly wondered if spirituality and TV celebrity mix.
Certainly, there have been singers who could switch between singing sacred and commercial music without compromising either. Aretha Franklinâ€™s Spirit in the Flesh album comes to mind as does Mahalia Jackson, who might have been better than any singer of the last century at emotionally touching a non-Christian audience without compromising her spiritual roots. To go back and listen to either makes you question how Christian music devolved into Amy Grant ( I actually like Amy Grant). The great Christian music from J.S. Bach on down through Mahalia has always had this transcendent quality that makes even non-believers listen and think, â€śWhatever he or she has, I got to get some of that because I must be missing something in my life.â€ť
Mandisaâ€™s greatest strength as a contestant on Idol beyond her voice has been a sense of emotional centeredness. Itâ€™s very odd, but when she took on the kind of music that mattered most to her personally, instead of amplifying that strength, it diminished it. I donâ€™t know if this was her Godâ€™s way of telling her â€śNot here, not this way,â€ť but it brings me back to Paulaâ€™s worshipping at the Church of Mandisa.
The comment was appalling but bizarrely accurate in summing up all that was right and all that was missing from Mandisaâ€™s attempt to transform her stay on American Idol into ministry. She sang about the Lord but didnâ€™t quite touch the Simons of the world in the way that she managed so well when she calmly told Simon that Jesus would forgive him for making fun of her size.
The two other strange moments on this weekâ€™s Idol both involved Chris Daughtry. Itâ€™s apparent that thereâ€™s some intern at Fox who tracks message boards and blogs for rumors about the show and the contestants. So Ryan, the host and spinmeister, now does these one on one chats with the object of our collective pixel-based gossip and tries to â€ścool downâ€ť the buzz. So, there was Chris talking about how much he loved Liveâ€™s cover of "Walk the Line" and how he was trying to pay tribute to both Live and Joaquin Phoenix all at once, not take false credit for it and to beg them not to sue the show. The Washington Post then jumped in by announcing that Chris Daughtry was no longer one of the candidates to replace Ben Domenech as the right-wing voice on their website.