American Idol Judges Use Their Save on Casey Abrams



Casey Abrams, the American Idol contestant facing elimination starts to sing but the judges won’t even let him finish. Randy Jackson announces that they’ve decided to use their save. And Steven Tyler makes it clear that the judges clearly disagree with the nation’s vote. Casey’s bends over and looks like he’s going to pass out or throw up. Host Ryan Seacrest steadies him.

Casey finally gets himself together enough to rush to the judges table and say “Are you really? Why would you do this? I can’t believe it.”
“I thought that they wouldn’t use the save, because there’s 11 people,” explains the shocked Casey Abrams. The timing does seem wrong.  Using the save on this night changes the dynamic of the summer tour. They’ve never had a “Top 11.”

After Casey finishes his round of hugs and congratulations he stands before the judges again.

“We just want you to get back to being the musician that you are,” Jennifer Lopez tells him. “No more antics. You deserve to be here.”
Casey doesn’t fit the “Idol” image and up until this point he hasn’t really seemed to care. He’s done what he wanted to do. Former judge Simon Cowell might have called his last two performances “indulgent”  but current judge Steven Tyler compliments Casey on his “perfect pitch and …out of control ego.” Randy Jackson calls Casey “fearless.”

I don’t know Casey and don’t know whether his performance choices are about ego or musical vision. Casey has the sort of talent that musicians appreciate but may be lost on the listening public. The problem is that the public is looking for performance, perhaps even over musicality. Most of the viewing public don’t recognize the degree of difficulty in fellow performer Jacob Lusk’s vocal runs or whether someone gets creative and comes in on the 7th. The irony of “Here we are now, entertain us” from Kurt Cobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit was probably not lost on Casey but much of the audience didn’t get the joke (or maybe were just unwilling to be the joke.) I actually loved it but I don’t think I am in the majority. At the end of the day the audience does want to be entertained.

While the judges have called out some contestants for being off pitch, much of their advice relates to performance rather than musicality. They’ve entreated others to “connect with the song” or to “connect with the audience,” or both. They’ve made comments about appearance, energy, dancing, facial expressions, and stage presence. As entertainers the judges seem to understand that singing a song to a live audience is really about communication and connection. Performers make adjustments to their performances in order to draw in the audience.

There has been a lot of talk about presenting the “whole package.” This “whole package” has to do with the tension between being fearlessly true to personal artistic vision and making that vision accessible and relatable for the audience without pandering. Performance is not just about the music, it’s also about bringing the audience along on the  journey the artist is taking with a song. A truly amazing performance happens when both the performer and the audience become partakers in the same truth communicated through music, or any art form.

God puts music (or some other talent) in each one of us and provides us with opportunities to express truth through our gifts and talents. We sometimes let our own antics get in the way of real communication. We can become so focused on innovation or creativity or process that we forget that even in those pursuits we are contributors to a community.

God uses his one save, Jesus, on each of us then He sends us on tour together to communicate his love and truth. God work of transformation occurs when the lines are blurred between the performer and the audience, the servant and the served, and instead everyone present becomes a participant in the truth God is telling through a particular use of our gifts and talents.  What are some of the indulgent “antics” that hinder our communication?

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