What was Pop Idol?
Pop Idol was developed by Simon Cowall with his trousers tucked up into his midrif and was about putting ‘average’ people on TV, getting them to sing and making them a pop idol. You could also say Britain’s Got Talent / X-Factor or anything similar currently being shown.
NB. It’s interesting that two American Idol finalists had CD sales under half that of the leading US Contemporary Christian Musician.
What People Want
Just ask the young people you work with these questions on bits of anonymous paper. Don’t let them know that you’re doing a session on Pop Idol yet:
1. Which people do you look up to (other than your high quality youth workers)?
2. If you had a dream about your ideal career, what would it be?
3. If you could meet one person who would it be?
Now, I guess that many people will respond with jobs in entertainment, music, movies etc. Many of us look up to these people – they’re the heroes of the last few generations, publicised heavily by mass media.
Choose a clip from American Idol from YouTube
(Season 12 of American Idol apparently had 9 out of 10 faith-based performers in the final).
Think of the Charts – Questions and Facts – Discussion
1. What style of music is currently in the Top 10? (Get searching online)
2. Who is the pop industry aimed at? (mainly at girls aged 8-14)
3. There are various ‘charts’ now – from Radio 1 to iTunes and beyond. There’s also a very different chart made up of sales of physical CDs and vinyl with very different artists – http://www.officialcharts.com/charts/physical-singles-chart/ (link checked April 2019)
4. ‘Pop’ and ‘rock’ are by far the most popular music formats in the UK – making up for 67% of total music sales in 2016.
5. Many of the successful bands doing are because they are also successful brands or are used by successful brands.
6. Get the lyrics of a few songs and assess them. Have a look at any of the top US r&b / hip-hop or pop singles. Many lyrics are suggestive and sexualised – but this gives an idea of what people are listening to and watching.
7. Whatever happened to famous bands from your past? Have a look online and see if you can find what they are doing now.
Feed back and have a discussion about all this with the young people in your group. Mention that one winner of Pop Idol had been part of a church in Bradford yet changed after coming second in a ‘Pop Idol’. How can we avoid falling into the same traps?
Interesting that at one awards event, three lots of rappers all thanked God. Now, maybe they are thanking the wrong ‘god’ or just saying words that sound good – but how many of us thank God for things he does or when we celebrate?
Stormzy – Blinded By Your Grace (2017)
In the BBC Live Lounge – https://youtu.be/OuTuGS3hXtM
Your Own Pop Idol Competitions – Ideas
Yep, we need to be very careful here but maybe get a panel of youth workers to sit and listen to various people sing a song. They then have to feedback on the performance.
IF – it’s young people, then be affirming and positive only. Every act gets a prize and applauded.
IF – You want a laugh, get other youth leaders to ‘perform’ or other musicians from the church. They will need to do things differently or sing out of tune, wrong lyrics, sing terrible songs etc, over-act – all for a laugh!
Another idea is to show 4-5 clips from artists (record a show from online or TV or simply play back music) Play them back one by one. After each one, pretend to be feeding back to the artist.
Or get a panel of young people to assess youth workers singing songs. Depends on the characters you have!
You could organise a talent show to get young people and youth workers to show off their talents. Again, everything done should be affirming.
If you do this, go all out with lights, cameras, visuals, an audience, smoke, tables, logos etc. Go to whatever level you can or would like to go to and make as professional as you feel like.
Show A Clip from American Idol (Pop Idol no longer exists)
If you get the timing right, video part of an American Idol, maybe a bit just before adverts where they show really bad singing, or the end of a show where they compile performances.
Alternatively, find someone singing who is a Christian (Series 4 USA Carrie Underwood) or others and show that.
What Are You Listening To?
Challenge the young people about what they’re listening to and why. A lot of music is great but just listen to many of the lyrics of many songs. A lot of alternative rock or metal songs can be very depressing offering no hope. A lot of rap and r&b is so sexually explicit it may come as quite an eye-opener! Dance music is incredibly sexualised or when it gets more towards techno has more of a drug culture – I speak as someone who knows!
Watch what young people are watching – but also be aware of protecting your own mind and guarding against any evil or temptation yourself.
Some Pop and Star Quotes – from cypu.org
“I personally have never been to a strip club, but I turn on MTV and see in every single video what it must be like to be at a strip club.Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), Herald and Weekly Times, September 19, 2003 (from RockRebel.com)
“When something as terrible as your father dying happens, you start redefining everything. I feel the finiteness of life – I’m still grieving pretty heavily~but I realize that we are all going to die, so I want to be with people that I love, and I want to travel.”Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Associated Press, September 23, 2003
“I try to think happy thoughts to put myself in a good mood. It usually works. If all else fails, there’s shopping.”Actress/singer Hilary Duff, YM, October 2003, p. 87.
“I think I always thought being a star would make everything okay. Make you loved, make you this or that. But as time went on I found out that just wasn’t true.Hal Riddle, 83 year old retired actor, Entertainment Weekly, September 19, 2003, p. 56.
Singer of the famous band, Nirvana, called Kurt Kobain, famously committed suicide, as have many other people since. In 2017, the lead singers of Soundgarden and Linkin Park both committed suicide. Suspicious deaths have been confirmed for a number of other singers such as Michael Jackson and many others. It is also worth thinking about the fact that the number of musicians taking their own lives has increased every decade since the 1950s.
Does being a pop singer, a pop idol, really make you happy??
I want to be famous?
There was a famous song which you may hear sometimes called ‘When will I be famous?’ by a band that really should never have been allowed to see the light of day (like all 80s bands) and they were called ‘Bros’ or something.
For many people this is true. We seek fame and fortune. We look at New York and Times Square or LA and think ‘wow, I so want to be there.’ I’ve been to New York as yes I love the place. But what does the Bible say? Get people to look up these verses and then read them back if they can..
1. Philippians 4.11-12
1 Timothy 6.6-10
3. Hebrews 13.5
4. Proverbs 30.7-9
You see, the whole problem of TV shows making people into pop idols or celebrities is not about one person winning; it’s not that we do or don’t like the style of music; it’s not that these shows shouldn’t exist necessarily. The problem is that God sees into the heart, not what’s on the outside. Too many times we value what is on the outside not on the inside.
We celebrate the young, the good-looking, the fit, the healthy, the rich, the famous, the movie star, the pop idol. Yet we shouldn’t worship or aspire to this as our priority. God is the priority and out of this relationship with God will come real and true satisfaction.
A vicar on TV recently said, ‘maybe we should have vicar idol’ where we choose the best dressed vicar, presumably where we assess their teaching style, ability to lead Communion etc. He was making a joke, as I am.. but the point was deadly serious. God doesn’t see how ‘cool’ you are and he doesn’t see your spots, big backside, or bald head. No, God sees your heart.
We don’t want to be following Pop Idol but worshipping the greatest King there is – Jesus. Who do you think invented music? In one of my raps I say:
‘Writing controversial lyrics, talkin bout things that haven’t ever been done
But like King Solomon said, there ain’t nothin new under the sun
It’s hard for me to see, how you claim originality
When David wrote Psalms better than all our lyrical agility
I’ve got nothing against shows creating stars. It was great that a committed Christian once won Big Brother in the UK and was loved by the others. American Idol has been a great place where Christians have had chance to let their faith shine. When people do this for the glory of God (as several bands do who are in the ‘secular’ charts but are Christian – for example Wildwood Kin – then it is amazing.
But we won’t get anywhere unless God is number one in our everyday lives – and stays that way! There’s only one God, one ‘idol’ that we should have in our lives.