A headline in this week’s Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, asked, “Is [Adam Lambert] too gay to win Idol, or is he too good?” The story went on to suggest that “wanton homophobes” in the A.I. viewing audience threaten Adam’s path to victory.
Later in the piece, the writer flashed back to last season when (in her words), “The judges continued to agitate for teenager David Archuleta, a Mormon who disquietingly sang Imagine at least twice.”
I fired off a letter to the editor that said, in part, “…[the columnist] dismisses David Archuleta, last season’s über-talented runner-up, as a ‘teenager’ and a ‘Mormon’ as if those descriptors have any bearing whatsoever on Archuleta’s stunning vocal skills. Perhaps the writer needs to examine her own prejudices — maybe then, she’ll be able to appreciate a singer who’s truly ‘gifted,’ regardless of their age or religious affiliation.”
After I calmed down, it got me thinking about the bigger picture. Could some of the very things we love about David — his childlike wonder and adorkable innocence, even his famous niceness and humility, be stumbling blocks for winning over a wider audience?
And speaking of stumbling blocks, let’s not ignore the elephant in the room — David’s religion. Even some of ArchuLand’s most liberal-thinkers, those who support “inclusiveness” and “equality,” seem to feel uncomfortable embracing the fact of David’s faith — and these are his fans.
David himself responded to one radio interviewer who commented on his being Mormon, that “people think we have horns.” He wasn’t exaggerating. Even Wikipedia has an entry for “Anti-Mormonism,” which cites incidents of “discrimination, hostility or prejudice [and religious persecution] directed at members of the Latter Day Saint movement (particularly the LDS Church)” dating back to the Utah War of the 1850s.
And beyond religion, David’s very niceness runs contrary to our traditional image of a hotel-trashing Rock Star (heck, even Sinatra decked a few paparazzi in his time):
“He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met,” says Tom of McFly.
“You are the nicest guy we’ve ever interviewed,” say countless disc jockeys.
“He’s even nicer than I am,” admits Mother Teresa.
Okay, I made that last one up.
As one of my English teachers used to say, “I hate the word nice. It’s such a bland, benign word.”
Bland? Benign? How could either word ever be used to describe David Archuleta? He’s fierce, passionate, electric onstage and quirky, charming, fascinating off. But nice? It’s one of those words that damns you with faint praise — like saying a blind date has a “good personality.” Code for forgettable, dismissable.
In the music world, nice just doesn’t sell records. Dangerous, mysterious, even chopping-your-own-hair-off crazy sells records. Nice? Not so much.
Do I want David to stop being so nice? Ohmyheck, no. In fact, I don’t want him to change one nice teenage hair on his nice Mormon head.
He’s an artist with a golden gift, but his path to success will not likely be a smooth one. He has his own Goliath to slay — misconceptions and prejudices to overcome. But behind his niceness lies the heart of a lion — and it beats with strength and courage … and in perfect time.
Yes, David’s youth, faith and innate sunny disposition will likely continue to make him the butt of tabloid jokes and cause hack journalists to ignore his unparalleled talent … for now. Until, that is, he has that inevitable row of Grammys on his shelf and double-platinum records lining his walls.
For I have to believe nice guys can finish first. I believe in David.