On “Shout to the Lord” and American Idol

This week on American Idol, the remaining eight finalists sang the Darlene Zschech/Hillsong Australia chestnut Shout to the Lord. In trying to stay PC, instead of directly using the name “Jesus,” they sang “Shepherd,” but referred to the Christian God throughout the song otherwise.

Non-Christians have reacted negatively, with one particular blogger commenting that he is both offended and angry at the religious overtones of that particular song choice, saying that saving people in Africa and New Orleans has nothing to do with the Christian God. Methinks it’s relative. That particular blogger loves Carrie Underwood, and you didn’t hear a peep out of him when she released Jesus Take the Wheel. He didn’t say he was offended by Kristy Lee Cook’s Amazing Grace. Nor was he particular incensed by several Christmas albums released by various American Idol alumni, many of which sang directly of the birth of the Son of the Christian God. (Even now, he’s linked to the Shout to the Lord track on ITunes. He’s gonna make money off this song through referrals.)

While we can’t fault these people for feeling this way, I, for one, think the situation’s a little tempest in a teacup. Know your market, and American Idol knows its market. Who are voting for these wannabe superstars? They’re the Southern Baptists, the western evangelicals, the northern liberal believers. Come on, David Archuleta is Mormon, you don’t hear anyone questioning his faith, but he sang Shout to the Lord anyway. Tickle your audience in the right spot, and you’ll have them reaching for their wallets, credit cards, and telephones in a heartbeat.

I know it’s quite cynical, especially coming from a Christian. I’m a Christian marketer and PR guy. In my eyes, from a strictly industry-based standpoint, choosing Shout to the Lord was a brilliant tactical move. The offense it stood to generate doesn’t even come close to the goodwill it would generate in the eyes of its core audience.

Non-Christians can – and should – look at that song in the context of its simply being a song. In this show, people sing songs they dislike all the time. At the end of the day, they’re raising money for good causes. It’s still a heckuva lot better than three years ago, when no efforts were made at all. Come on.

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