The Hatchet Falls

I’m not talking about the four singers voted off American Idol tonight. I’m specifically thinking of what Simon Cowell said to the exiting Colton Berry. “I would say get a good job, and enjoy singing. Because I don’t think you’ll make a successful career out of it.” Ouch. This was after Paula and Randy both encouraged him to keep at it.

This is really my first year to watch American Idol from the beginning. I know, where have I been? I’ve heard a lot of things about Simon’s cruelty and ridicule of the contestants. After watching, I think my patience would have played out along with Simon’s. Some contestants really are horrible and shouldn’t be in front of anyone singing, maybe not even yodeling in their shower for fear of breaking glass. I do think Simon is honest. He doesn’t blow smoke and try to make someone feel better. I respect that. Why waste everyone’s time by saying, “you remind me of the color magenta.”

Notice that all the contestants love getting affirmed by Randy and Paula. They dread facing Simon. But when he compliments someone, he means it. And it’s like fireworks going off.

This music business reminds me of the publishing business. I hear a lot of authors saying they want an agent to be tough. Or some say they want an agent to be gentle and kind, holding their hand. I’ve always been the type that wants the truth. Plain and simple. And boy, sometimes it hurts. Hurts like I’ve been spliced open. But when my agent praises my work, I know she is being totally honest. I love that. And it makes me strive harder. Editors don’t sugar coat rejections usually. Yes, no. No, thank you. They don’t have time. So I’d rather hear the truth from my agent before I hear a slammed door from an editor.

But telling someone to go get a job doing something else other than their passion? I don’t know. To me, that crosses the line. And this may be where music and writing differ. Both require talent. But maybe writing can be more easily taught. You either have a voice for singing or you don’t. I unfortunately don’t. Still … Colton has a voice. Maybe he doesn’t have the charisma of a Michael Buble. Maybe. He’s still young. If singing is his passion, maybe he can make a good living on stage. Maybe not extravagantly. Maybe not earning what Simon is accustomed to. But who knows? Who am I to say? Maybe he won’t ever be at the level Simon is searching for, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make a living at it.

Killing someone’s dream is cruel. However, it could also be a test. I remember hearing of a famous author going to a college to speak. He stood at the podium and said, “No one here is going to make it in this business.” Then he left. Left the building. One student ran out into the parking lot and begged him to come back and speak some more. So when the author returned, he said, “This one might make it.”

So if Colton perseveres in spite of being told to get a job doing something else, maybe he will overcome. Or maybe he’ll stop singing altogether, nurse the wound created tonight by a careless hatchet of a comment. The world will be a sadder place.

So I don’t have the answer. Do you coddle a horrible singer who really should go find a job? Or do you speak the truth, even though it hurts? What’s the answer?

Jesus didn’t give easy answers. What did he tell the rich young ruler? Sell everything. And the guy walked away. Ouch. He didn’t make it easy. Hard answers. Hard questions.

To me though, perseverence is the key to opening your dreams.

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