I’m from Jasper, Texas, and though I haven’t lived here my whole life like most of the inhabitants, I was born here and graduated from Jasper High School. I was notified a month ago that Jasper boy Michael Sarver had not only made it to Vegas, but was competing for the top spots on the road to being the next American Idol. I thought, “Hey that’s pretty cool I guess, someone from Jasper is on national television that isn’t talking about racism.” (The last time Jasper was in the news was after the brutal dragging of James Byrd.) So I decided I would try to tune in and catch an episode or two even though I don’t usually watch much television; I wanted to see what this guy was all about. The first song I was able to see Sarver perform was “I don’t wanna be” by Gavin DeGraw, a song I don’t particularly like but isn’t much different from most of the other songs contestants choose on the show.
However, I appreciate all kinds of art and music even if they aren’t my style, so I rather focus my attention on the contestants’ abilities. In this case I was not impressed, at all. In fact I found myself questioning how he advanced as far as he has. But I reminded myself, maybe he just had a bad night, right? People have bad nights all the time, I’ve had my fair share anyway, I know that much. So when I heard that the show was going to be doing a tribute to Michael Jackson, I was exited to see which songs everyone chose to do and how they decided to “make them their own,” a phrase that the judges often use. Doing so is even more important when performing someone as renowned and unique as MJ because otherwise it will be unoriginal and karaoke-like. Sarver chose “You are not alone,” one of MJ’s more mellow ballads and quite frankly, I was again disappointed. I can understand perfoming worse than MJ when singing it, I mean, I don’t expect anyone to out perform him, but Gavin DeGraw is not a particularly famous or unique musician; I’ve only ever heard two of his songs and only one on the radio. I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least to see an American Idol contestant sing one of his songs better than the original.
After watching those two of Sarver’s performances I discovered what it is about his singing that I dislike so much… He does all this weird mouth action that changes the inflection of his words and adds more syllables than exist. It reminds me of the song director of the church I attended in my youth, a guy named Roy Parker. He would always out sing the choir and turn Hal-le-lu-jah into a seven or eight syllable word. Now I’m not one to shoot down people’s dreams and Sarver seems like a pretty nice guy, but in a competitive situation that counts very little. I’m just very surprised that he is doing so well, I see that he has mainstream appeal, but what upsets me is the discrepancy between what the mainstream is attracted to and what is talent these days. Michael Sarver has a nice voice, but he needs to go back to singing at church because I don’t see his nice voice as being extraordinary in any way. Isn’t the American Idol supposed to be the best new talent that the country has to offer? Or, has it gotten to the point that people with real talent realize that the kind of fame the show brings is not quite as sweet as the real thing; maybe all the really exceptional talents are working bars and night clubs and maybe they’re doing it for the music and the catharsis it provides them. Who knows…?Michael Sarver is from Jasper, Texas.American Idol did a tribute to Michael Jackson with contestants choosing from his wide collection.Wisely, most contestants chose MJ’s less famous titles to avoid scrutiny.Simon Cowell is the only American Idol judge who actually gives good criticism, and Paula might as well be a paper-weight; a group of words make a sentence Paula, you can do it.