America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Hillary, Barack and John Square Off on a Show That Was Never Seen
(From the American Idol Archives)
Ryan: Good evening, America. Three contestants. Three dreams. Three journeys. You will vote. You will decide. You'll hear them tonight singing their hearts out. Each of our contestants will be given his chance to show us what he can do. And then America will vote to choose THE NEXT AMERICAN IDOL
(Thunderous applause and a commercial break.)
Ryan: O.K., we're back, and before we start let's hear from our judges. Randy, what'll it take to win this competition?
Randy: O.K., dude, it's what we've been saying all along. This contest isn't about performing, it's about singing. If all you can do is perform you don't belong here. America wants to hear you sing. Yeah, baby, that's what it's all about. So let's hear some real singing tonight.
Paula: I ... it ... you ... you know ... I ... I agree with Randy one million percent.
Simon: For once I have to go along with my colleagues. We've seen some pretty good performers but none of them made it to this stage of the competition because their singing just wasn't good enough. I think we have the three best singers in the competition before us and all I can say is may the best man or woman win.
Ryan: Well said, Simon. And to start off the evening, here is the first of our contestants, but before we hear her sing, let's hear about her journey. Hillary, how did it all start for you?
Hillary: Well, Ryan, as long as I can remember I've wanted to be THE NEXT AMERICAN IDOL. It was always in the back of my mind, no matter what I was doing, washing dishes, taking out the garbage, trying to find out where my husband was. I just kept saying to myself: grin and bear it, honey, one day it's going to be your turn.
Ryan: And when Bill was chosen? What was the feeling like, having your own husband chosen first?
Hillary: Actually I thought it would be a pretty good way to keep an eye on him, but it turned out I was wrong.
Ryan: O.K, Hillary. And here she is now singing "Health Care." Let's hear it for her.
Hillary: You know, when I wasn't successful about getting universal health care, I didn't give up. I just got to work and helped to create the Children's Health Insurance Program. And, you know, today in Ohio 140,000 kids have health insurance. And yet this morning in Lorain, a mother said that she spent with the insurance and everything over $3 million taking care of her daughter, who had a serious accident. And she just looked at me, as so many mothers and fathers have over so many years, and said, "Will you help us?" One of us has a plan to provide health care for every single American, no one left out. And I believe – I believe health care is a right, not a privilege. And I will not rest until every American is covered. That is my solemn promise to you. My opponent leaves out at least 15 million Americans. The question is: Who would we leave out? Would we leave out the mother I met who grabbed my arm and said the insurance company wouldn't pay for the treatment that her son needed? Will we leave that family out? And who will pay for those we leave out? I don't want to leave anyone out. I am not running to put Band-Aids on our problems; I'm running to solve our problems.
Ryan: Let's hear from the judges, Hillary.
Randy: You know what, dawg, you were a little pitchy in the beginning, but once you got into it you really hit your stride. I liked it. I liked that little story and the way you hit that high note at the end. Good for you!
Paula: I ... when ... what I want to say ... it ... I think you look really good tonight.
Simon: Not as good as Margaret Thatcher, if we're going to be honest about it.
Paula: But better than Angela Merkel.
Simon: I'll grahnt you that. But that's not what the competition is about, is it, Paula? Hillary, I'm going to be very honest with you. I liked you better last week when you did "Experience." We've heard "Health Care" a thousand times and you're not bringing anything new to it. To tell you the truth, it all sounded a bit karaoke to me.
(Incredulous groans from the audience.)
Ryan: Well, that's one man's opinion. Hillary, what do you think about what Simon just said?
Hillary: Well, you know, that's my song, and if anyone doesn't like it, heck, he can vote for someone else.
(Thunderous applause and a commercial break.)
Ryan: O.K., America, you have the numbers for Hillary. And now here's Barack. You know, Barack, people have said you have the purest voice they've ever heard, as good as such previous Idols as Martin L. and John F. Where does it come from?
Barack: Well, that's a mighty big compliment and I'm honored to be put in such illustrious company. You know, Ryan, I guess it comes from deep inside. I don't even have to think when I sing. The words just pour out. Sometimes, when I read them over, after I've sung, I realize that they don't really mean anything. It's all in the sound. That's what singing is all about.
Ryan: I'm sure America will agree. So here's Barack now singing "Yes We Can."
Barack: When I hear the cynical talk that blacks and whites and Latinos can't join together and work together, I'm reminded of the Latino brothers and sisters I organized with and stood with and fought with side by side for jobs and justice on the streets of Chicago. So don't tell us change can't happen. When I hear that we'll never overcome the racial divide in our politics, I think about that Republican woman who used to work for Strom Thurmond, who is now devoted to educating inner city-children and who went out into the streets of South Carolina and knocked on doors for this campaign. Don't tell me we can't change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future. And as we leave this great state with a new wind at our backs and we take this journey across this great country, a country we love, with the message we carry from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire, from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast, the same message we had when we were up and when we were down, that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we will hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words – yes, we can.
Randy: You know what, bro', that was right on the money. You were groovin' out there, man. You were really groovin'!
Paula: You know ... I think ... You've got your own ... and you know what... I mean ... just go for it.
Simon: It's what I've been saying all along, Barack. This isn't about performing, this is about singing, and tonight you really sang. I liked that song. I think you're going to go pretty far in this competition. On the basis of what we've heard tonight, you're the man to beat.
(Thunderous applause and a few whoops.)
Ryan: Well, we haven't heard John yet, have we? John, come on over here. You know, your rendition of "Integrity" last week made you a front-runner in this competition. What have you got for us tonight?
John: I'm going to do "Iraq," Ryan.
Ryan: O.K., John, let's hear it.
John: As president, I would bring the army and Marines from the currently planned level of roughly 750,000 to 900,000. This will cost real money, some $15 billion annually, but it will not require a draft any more than similar levels did in the 1980s. It is vitally important for the next president to issue a call to service, to summon the young men and women of America to defend their country and its noble ideals. I am confident that this generation will answer the summons just as so many of us did in previous generations. We must recognize that our enemies are in this fight to win, and so must we be. We must use our strengths, our resources, our inventiveness and our fortitude – qualities that have distinguished us through history and which have never failed us – to defeat our unpardonable foe. We must act boldly and with confidence that history has not yet assigned us a challenge that we cannot meet successfully. Though we regret the mistakes we have made in this war, they must not cause us self doubt. We must learn from them, as Americans have always learned from our mistakes, and fight smarter and harder. Though we mourn the losses we have already incurred in this war, we must not let our grief weary us so that we cannot do the work that is ours to do.
Randy: Listen up now. You know what I like about you, John, you've taken a song that few people sing nowadays and you've made it your own. Right on, dude! Just one question. Why'd you leave out the second stanza?
John: You mean about staying in Iraq even if it costs us a million American lives?
Randy: Yeah, that one.
John: Well, it's a little long and kind of a letdown after the upbeat lyrics of the first stanza.
Paula: You ... I ... it ...
Simon: I don't blame you for leaving out the second stanza. Whoever wrote that song really didn't have his thinking cap on. You can't play poker with the Arabs. You throw in a million lives and they'll up the stakes to two million. What are you going to do then, go for four million?
John: Don't look at me, Simon. I just sing the songs. Someone else buries the bodies.
Ryan: And keep right on singing, John. There are plenty of people out there who love your songs. And now let's bring out all three of our contestants. The choice is yours, America. Remember, this is a contest about singing, not performing, so vote for your favorite and help make him or her THE NEXT AMERICAN IDOL.
18 May 2015
Fred Russell is the pen name of an American-born writer living in Israel. His novels Rafi's World (Fomite Press), dealing with Israel's emerging criminal class, and The Links in the Chain (CCLaP), a thriller set in New York with an Arab-Israel background, were both published in 2014. A collection of his opinion pieces called Short Takes: American Notes (Scars) appeared as a chapbook in 2015 and his longer stories and essays may be read in Third Coast, Polluto, Fiction on the Web, Wilderness House Literary Review, Ontologica, and Unlikely Stories: Episode 4.