Someone mentioned in comments yesterday Simon’s famous line, “What the hell was that?” and I replied, “’What the hell was that’ is our manta.” Some people may have thought I was joking, but I was dead serious. In light of the widespread panning of the new album cover, I feel that now is a good time to remind people of the night that Simon made that statement. It was March 17th, Adam’s American Idol “defining moment.” It was, of course, Simon’s initial reaction to “Ring of Fire,” followed by “absolutely indulgent rubbish” and “horrific” and the equally famous line, “People are throwing their televisions out the window.” Adam just laughed.
It was at that moment that people either agreed with Simon or realized that we were seeing someone special – someone who was telling us that they wouldn’t conform an inch more than they absolutely had to. It was someone who’d promised during Hollywood week that he’d “twist it” and was delivering. It was someone who could surprise us, shock us, and give us something we’d never seen before. And it was someone who could entertain us – not just sing, and not just perform. A performer, to me, implies someone going through the motions – an established series of moves or steps. There’s almost a mechanical connotation in the word “performer” for me. Adam takes it a step further – he’s an entertainer. By definition, he captures our attention and holds it. It’s an indefinable thing – call it the “it” factor, or whatever, that separates performers from entertainers. (Which is why I finally now “get” the album title!)
I was saddened yesterday by not only the sheer number of people who commented on the web that they disliked the cover, but the brutality of the comments. I read “soft,” “feminine,” “cheesy,” “amateurish,” and that wonderfully creative adjective “bad.” Some people, of course, are non-fans. I don’t care about them. They never got on the bus and never will. But I’m disturbed by the number of Adam fans who sent up a collective wail of “why o why did he choose that cover? It’s not what we expected!”
So what happened between March 17th and today? Maybe it was the long weeks of the concert tour, seeing Adam every day in the same outfit, singing the same songs, making the same moves. Maybe that one image of the fierce Adam decked out in studded and spiked leather became burned in our brains. Yeah, baby, drop him in the desert, hand him a weapon, and he can kill bad guys alongside Mel Gibson! Maybe this “manly” image, coupled with the Details photo shoot, had people thinking the heterosexual fantasy was reality.
Maybe it’s just personal choice. Maybe people find “manly beauty” more appealing than “androgynous beauty.” That’s fine – we all have our personal likes and dislikes. But to lament the choice and cry “why o why” makes no sense to me. Have we forgotten that this is Adam? Have we forgotten March 17th? Was it that long ago? Did we just get too used to the tour concert “look”? Is it that we want Adam to conform to our expectations? Are we feeling too entitled these days? Are we too selfish, wrapped up in our own wants?
Er, guys, this is Adam, remember? This is the man who loves to change it up and show us a different side of himself every time out. He’s a kaleidoscope – shake him up and you get a different look every time – but it’s all Adam, and it’s all beautiful. To me, the gender thing doesn’t matter – beauty is beauty, and the different looks are all sides of the same man.
I know I’m not going to change the minds of Adam haters. And if you’re an Adam fan and dislike the cover, I’m not going to change your mind, either. All I’m asking is that the next time you have a Simon moment and find yourself thinking “What the hell was that?” take a deep breath and remember March 17th and Ring of Fire. That was Adam’s promise to us for the future.
Adam is being Adam, and he’s delivering that promise by entertaining us – he grabs our attention and doesn’t let go. I don’t think he has now or ever had any intention of going “mainstream,” and if you hate what he does, I think he’ll laugh, just like he did on March 17th. He loves changing it up, and he hopes we love it, too. But if we don’t… Well, in my opinion, if you dish up hatred because he’s not conforming to YOUR expectation, that’s your problem – I don’t think he’s going to worry about it.
Of course, it’s the music that matters. But I have a feeling that people will have mixed feelings about the music as well. Critics and fans alike may not love all of it. It may not conform to what we became used to during Idol. Heck, I’m pretty sure *I* won’t like all of it. But when I have my Simon moment, I’ll remember Ring of Fire.
I hope we never get to the point where people stop asking “what the hell was that?” That will be a sad day, and that’s why I made the comment “’What the hell was that’ is our mantra, and we’re proud of it.” I don’t editorialize often, but I feel strongly about this. I think it goes to the core of what it means to be a fan of Adam’s. You either accept the fact that he’s going to be himself, or you don’t. If you don’t like being surprised, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Better yet, if you want something safe and sappy with a non-threatening cover, go buy Take One.
~~Jeanette, Glamb #5