We watch American Idol every season, a small nuclear family sitting in a Scottish living room, eating pizza, my husband and I drinking wine, all of us enjoying not only the talent, but the stage-managed drama and entertainment of it all. It cuts across the age gap and gives us common ground to discuss.
This year, Adam Lambert has been our favourite from the start. But here’s why he got me thinking about writing the other day.
Talent alone is not enough.
Millions of people want to sing or write, to touch hearts with their voices. Millions would love to make masses of money from doing it, too. But what makes some people stand out?
Adam Lambert started young, that’s clear to see, and I reckon he’s had the support of his loved ones since the moment he figured out what he was born to do. I loved when his dad pointed out, against a backdrop of childhood photos of Adam dressing up and performing, that he was never much into sports.
He’s not a new phenomenon. He’s put in hard graft, earning a living from delivering Broadway performances every night, week in, week out. Maybe he even failed a few auditions along the way and learned from those, too.
He’s honed his talent with hard work and determination, and has learned how to command a stage, create presence and connect with an audience.
He chose to go the American Idol route, confident that the time was right. Impeccable timing and choosing the right platform are crucial for all artists who want to take their work to a wider audience.
He came to the show, daring not only to be different, but to be himself and different. The hair, the earrings, the painted nails, they’re simply symbols that say I’m not afraid to be me.
And just when we were getting used to that, the hair got slicked back and the image changed, just to mix things up.
He’s been versatile, experimenting with a variety of styles yet always, always letting his unique brilliance shine through.
Sometimes understated, sometimes over the top entertaining. That clear, haunting, passionate voice, that core of self-belief and keen sense of what he wants to do, where he wants to go and who he wants to connect with – it comes out in everything he does.
My teenage daughter sings, writes and acts. Some Idol performances get her ranting or raving, others leave her indifferent. But Adam Lambert’s performance of ‘Mad World’ – a song that she herself sings – stunned her, left us all transfixed.
We felt we’d had a glimpse of genius. The pain, the passion and the experiences he distilled into every syllable connected straight to that part of the soul where empathy lives. He made an already beautiful song his own. He made it an anthem.
He sang like a part of his very soul would die if he didn’t. I wish more people would aim to do that in their writing.
Some days I feel myself wanting to scream at fellow writers that it’s not all about the money, the fame and the glory. When you’re hard-working, passionate, driven to hone your talent, your gift, your life’s work, till it’s gem-bright and brilliant, the money follows.
Make people cry. Make them smile as they sit alone reading your words. Stun them into silence. Make them say Wow! with wide open eyes and gaping mouths. Don’t settle for mediocrity or pander to the people who pay. Be brilliant. Be yourself. Be your best self.