Thursday, October 11, 2012

X Factor

Please watch the video before reading.

It's hard not to have an emotional reaction to the singer and the song. Emmanuel Kelly's story, the song he chose and the manner in which he sang it combine into a powerful viewing experience. His story, in fact, could have easily overshadowed the performance, making it difficult for the performance - his voice and his use of it - to be judged separately.

But that's the job of judges.

It is a TALENT show.

Before continuing, let me just say that I was moved to tears by the performance, I also admit to being pulled in by the master manipulation of the X-Factor team. After watching it the first time, I watched it a couple of other times, moving the video along to just the song, just the performance, and found myself equally moved. He is simply talented. He is simply a terrific performer. He simply has a wonderful voice along with the ability to use it to put meaning into the words he sings.

What I wanted to write about was the performance, not of Mr. Kelly, but of the judges. Did you notice that only one of them, Guy Sebastian, judge three, mentioned the fact that Mr. Kelly could actually sing. All the others spoke of his bravery, of his courage, of his cheeky grin. One judge said that he had them from the moment he walked on the stage. Really, that's all people with disabilities have to do? Show ourselves? Show up? Show even a modicum of ambition? Can we acknowledge that anyone who shows up to audition is showing courage, and bravery, and may even have cheeky grins - that isn't what the contest is about. It's about TALENT. And Mr. Kelly, as Mr. Sebastian thankfully pointed out, is talented.

It was such a relief to hear Mr Sebastian push the story aside and speak to the young singer about his voice and his talent and his gift. It's also interesting to note that, as talented as Mr. Kelly is, he did not make the final cut to be one of the 12 finalists. The same Mr. Sebastian cut him when he didn't do well earlier on, repeatingly forgetting lyrics to a song. There was moral outrage and the twitter world lit up at the cut.

But for me?

I'm thankful that Mr. Kelly was allowed to succeed or fail based on his talent and his performance as distinct and separate from his disability, his story and his, um, courage.

I did a little looking and found that Mr. Kelly has written some music and sings his songs with conviction. I hope he is bound for stardom, because of his drive to be a singer, and only his drive to be a singer.


cheeselady said...

He's also quite handsome, which has nothing to do with his voice - but plenty to do with his appeal - and will certainly help his career.

Louise said...

My immense sympathy (not pity) for him was due to the fact that he was found abandoned in a shoe box, and doesn't know the story of his roots, not the fact of his disability. That, and his description of being an infant in a war zone.

Anonymous said...

You make an important point, Dave, but I detected another dynamic at work as well that I really like. How often is a disabled person told “everything about you I just love” (to quote the second judge)? I saw an element of celebrating his disability, recognizing that it (along with his whole story) contributed to his performance, that it’s what makes him who he is, and that’s a GOOD thing. I hear what you’re saying, but knowing a lot of people who are used to being told that they need to change, that their disability is something to hide or be ashamed of, this was really refreshing.

(Even before I hit “publish,” I’m thinking of rebuttals to my own argument and starting to wonder if I’m wrong. But I can’t get the words of that second judge out of my head. I just wish every disabled teenager could hear them.)

Anonymous said...

I WAS MOVED. I have never watched that show. His PERFORMANCE was wonderful. He IS quite handsome,
(as is his brother) spot on cheeselady!!! So far all of the points made collectively are along the same lines as my observations.
I LOVE how much the MOM shows her love with abandon and how these kids receive it. MINE would be so mad/embarrassed to be kissed and hugged IN PUBLIC like that ;)
Thank you for making me aware of this gentleman. I will watch for him in the future!

Kimberly said...

I am glad I watched the video before reading your post, Dave. Because I, too, thought the same thing. Mr. Kelly does have a beautiful voice, but it is not surprising that he didn't make the final cut. What I embraced was a man with a disbility who was able to compete with those who do not. His talent got him on the stage (ok, and maybe his story had a part in it) but in the end he does have talent. There are so many artificial settings so that people with disbailites can "win": Special Olympics, etc. In my opinion this only perpetuates the mentality that those who have a disability don't measure up to the rest of society. And while I understand the philosophy behind those "special" programs, true recognition of someone's skills and strengths only will come when eveyone plays on the same field.

Anonymous said...

To the poster Kimberly, I agree that Mr. Kelly has a wonderful voice and competed with others with such talent in the competition. I have to say strongly though that while I agree our society can be laden with many "artificial" opportunities, both for people with disabilities and for people who consider themselves to not have a disability... I do not agree with lumping the all of Special Olympics into this category. I don't know if you have participated as an athlete in SO or coached or volunteered or attended events as a spectator, but if you do certainly I respect your opinion of your own experience. But as a whole unless we were to say all sports except the "actual Olympics" are artificial, I don't think we can condemn SO to being that. Not really on topic, but I felt strongly as I was reading so I had to comment.

Unknown said...

I would be interested to know which of the commentors are disabled and which are not. I am a Disabled person and, at the best of time, s i despise the x factor and its ilk but on a disability/access to mainstream front, i'm between to minds.

I run an inclusive theatre company so am in favour of the abilities working together, more of it i say. I absobloomin love the man for getting up there and singing in front of so many, but the attitude of the judges was awfully patronising. Ithink the sob story bit is terrible but i am not sure that it is simply about his disability, its the media! They like to tear people apart, make people sympathise, play with the audiences emotions with photos, videos, long camera shots on proud family members. Its a shame but thats the way it goes on those sorts of programs.
Oh 'Anonymous'..'how often is a disabled person told'everything about you i just love?'...that worries me...i cant quite put it in to words, but have a think about it and you might get it!! The word 'patronising' springs to mind!
We need to work together to break down these barriers, it will take time but it can be done.