Christina Aguilera’s performance of the national anthem at the recent Super Bowl has received many bad reviews. (On a related note, the downstairs toilet overflowed at my Super Bowl party.) One big criticism was her flubbing the words. Xtina’s performance certainly was a train wreck, but what went wrong goes so much deeper than messing up lyrics. Her horrific performance is emblematic of the lousy “American Attitude” I see manifesting itself everywhere these days.
What is this “American Attitude”? It’s swagger without substance. Hellfire without heart. Packaging without product. Superficiality seems to be much more deeply entrenched these days, and I’m only just scratching the surface of the issue.
I’d like to go on record saying Christina Aguilera is a talented artist. However, she seems to be resting on her laurels a bit, at least for her latest rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. Now, mind you, I think that Xtina’s fiasco is NOT unique to her, NOR only to women these days. But it proves handy in illustrating how the American Attitude is bound to backfire.
First, let’s review the performance. Ms. Aguilera got herself all “gussied up” (for all you young whippersnappers out there, that’s what old folks used to call people that looked like hookers), and she sang a really over-wrought version of the Star Spangled Banner. Now, I’m not often one to stand on ceremony, but some things should simply be delivered with a measure of austerity. The national anthem is supposed to be majestic. The ridiculous arrangements and improvisational variations on the tune I hear more and more of these days are the result of a misguided belief that “different” and “non-traditional” are always the way to go. Show your individuality. Screw authority. Do what you want; be edgy. The world is watching you. That’s what’s most important. This crappy attitude, in the aggregate, is part of this country’s ongoing downfall. It’s VERY unproductive. It is the cousin of the “there’s always a camera on me” mentality that clogs YouTube with, well, you’ve been to YouTube, so you know.
As I mentioned, although I don’t consider myself very “establishment”, I do feel that, ironically, in order to appreciate individuality, we need to view it in the context of a larger, traditional framework. Otherwise, we cannot appreciate individuality itself. That larger framework must actually be maintained, by, as you would guess, the traditionalists of society, who should by definition, form the majority, even if only by a narrow margin. So, we do need the stodgy “pillars” of society, if only so they can be pissed upon by the individualists.
How does this relate to Xtina’s off-the-rails performance last Sunday? She displayed too much individuality at the wrong time (i.e., the singing of the national anthem at a major sports event), and delivered a mediocre product on top of that. Instead of trying so hard to show what an individualist she was, she should have been more “pillar-like” in her delivery. While Xtina has probably never sung the national anthem “straight”, I guessed she could do better than she did last Sunday, and she has. I looked at an older video of her singing the national anthem at an NBA game, and she still did too many vocal acrobatics for my taste, but she was so much more authentic at that time. And that ties in to another problem I see occurring in this country: a loss of authenticity. People (and by extension, organizations) are afraid to be true to themselves any more, because that’s no longer entertaining enough. You need to be YOU, only MORE SO, these days. I think this unproductive way of thinking is reinforced by all the silly reality TV shows out there. Did you know that people hire consultants to advise them on how to act for reality TV shows? If that’s not a commentary on people not knowing how to be authentic any more, I don’t know what is.
So, how do we reverse a nation of window-dressing and bring back “value-added” to our actions? It’s simple. It’s up to each person to just be authentically the best you can be.
I would have enjoyed watching Christina Aguilera deliver a more traditional, “boring”, but heartfelt version of the national anthem at the Super Bowl. I wish she realized that she did not need to look like a call girl or do ridiculous vocal gymnastics to be entertaining.
I think of each person’s life as its own moving, changing documentary. It’s always entertaining enough, because it’s authentic. There is a reason why the best stories are often preceded with the line, “You just can’t make this stuff up!”