Friday, February 23, 2007

Egotism is Not Sexy

I usually don’t hop on the “American Idol” viewers’ bandwagon until later in the season, but this week I checked out the show and saw most of the female Top 12 perform. I haven’t seen the men yet, but I hope they have their egos more in check than their female counterparts.

Several of the contestants, when critiqued by Simon, Randy and Paula, obviously bristled under the criticism. A couple of them expressed a sort of “this is me, don’t tell me to change” attitude. They seemed to think it more important to have rock-steady self-assurance than to be able to apply the advice of wiser, more experienced people.

Obviously it takes great self-confidence to be an American Idol contestant, but to my mind that’s no excuse. Especially when two of the best performers, Melinda and LaKisha, both exhibited great humility and even a bit of shyness when talking to the judges and Ryan. They proved it’s possible to be humble and self-effacing and still turn in a barn-burning performance.

Interestingly, Melinda and LaKisha are also not the most physically attractive of the bunch. This suggests to me (1) they had more talent to offer and didn’t need to be drop-dead gorgeous, and (2) some of the others may have made the cut partly due to looks. Simon made more than one disparaging comment about how contestants were attempting to ride on good looks alone. It was refreshing to hear commentary that emphasized the value of talent over physical appearance, especially applied to women.

And frankly, LaKisha and Melinda’s attitude and demeanor made them more attractive. There were a couple of girls that I found very cute until they opened their mouths to disparage the judges. Their physical appeal suddenly paled in the light of their arrogance. These women need to realize, egotism is not sexy.

One performance I found particularly telling. Alaina performed The Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket.” As soon as the song started up, I wondered, why would anyone choose a song like this, that gives so little opportunity to demonstrate your vocal skills? It’s more about rhythm than melody. But in the post-performance exchange, I began to suspect the reason: Alaina was attracted to the “I’m special” theme of the song, and wanted to exhibit the exuberant cockiness it expresses.

That, in microcosm, was the problem demonstrated by some of the women that night. Great performances are not achieved by attitude, but by talent. It seemed too many of them were more proud of their attitudes than their singing abilities. When you feel that way, the problem is that you are putting your own opinion above that of others: you’re saying, “I don’t care what you think of me, I think I’m fabulous!” And if you don’t care if you please other people, you are going to fail as a performer—unless the only audience you want is yourself.

Here’s an idea: Attractiveness—and sexiness, if you will—comes from thinking about and caring about others. You can take pride in your abilities, but you should also recognize that it is the value your abilities bring to others that give them worth. The joy of listening to Melinda’s and LaKisha’s performances was a true gift these women gave to their audience. And to my mind, that makes them both very beautiful and truly sexy.

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