David Archuleta (or, Ratatouille Meets American Idol)


Tuesday night my wife and I watched American Idol on our DVR. We fast-forwarded full speed through the commercials and Ryan Seacrest’s Mary Poppins perfect delivery, and wondered aloud how all that fast motion might be re-wiring our brains.

The performances ranged from forgettable to uber-cheesy to impressive, which seems about right with 20 people still left in the competition. Then, for the finale, seventeen year old David Archuleta of Utah walked out to sing the last verse and chorus of John Lennon’s Imagine. I did not expect to be moved.

I watch American Idol, but I mock American Idol. We love Kelly Clarkson in our house, but we don’t take her seriously. And then, this unassuming and very normal, smiley young man asks me to imagine no possessions, doubting that I can. He’s 17, singing about the brotherhood of man, and I am weeping, gaping at the television.

In the beautiful, Oscar winning animated film, Ratatouille, the climax of the film occurs as the uppity and aptly named food critic, Anton Ego, tastes Remy’s entree. Ego’s reaction to his first bite is the stuff of movie legend. The beauty of the moment was not that a rat could actually cook. The beauty of the moment was that food could do that to somebody.

In Tuesday’s American Idol, the earlier contestants came out bouncing and shaking and strumming and belting. The band rocked, even if some of the songs and performances were lame. Then little Mr. Archuleta walked out to one band dude strumming one acoustic guitar. Maybe there were some keyboard pads that filled in as the song went along, but it was far and away the smallest song of the night. And it was by far the biggest. His voice captured my attention immediately. After the first phrase, Amy and I shared a glance that said, “??!?!?!” and after he finished singing with control and phrasing and maturity way beyond his years, and the judges agreed with our assessment, we rewound and watched that clip over and over. We were giddy, and tearful… stunned to feel so moved.

You will hear the name David Archuleta again. I’m sure he will do some cheesy songs over the next few weeks, but I’m also certain that he will win. More importantly, I am pleased to be healed of a bit of ‘Ranton Ego’. For even in the glare of commercial juggernaut, American Idol, I am reminded that “a great artist can come from anywhere.”


  1. Loren Eaton

    I love the joy that sneaks up and surprises me when I’m reading a powerful section finely put in a book or a beautiful song that’s well-sung. I never get enough of it.

  2. Bill Beaton

    I came into the room after he finished the song and saw the reaction. Then I looked at him and wondered. Then they played a bit of the song at the end and I understood.


  3. Chris Hubbs

    I didn’t watch the show, but my wife did and kept the Tivo recording so I could see it. Amazing performance. And like Loren said: that beauty that just sneaks up on you from the most unexpected of places? Incredible. Praise God.

  4. Curt McLey


    I don’t watch American Idol but when David De Sabatino wrote, “Doesn’t get any better than this. This is better than Lennon’s version. This kid is going to be a megastar,” on his Facebook home page, I had to check it out. With a link to You Tube, it was easy. That was my first web visit this morning, before I made my rounds here.

    I love finding these reflections of God as I venture through my day. Often I them in music, but they are all over. Sometimes we have to look closely. Sometimes they are so obvious, that they bowl us over like a freight train from which there is no escape.

    I remember attending a music program at my son’s high school and being so moved by a violin solo from a young Asian student, that I shed tears. Like most men, I can usually hold back tears at will, but on this night, the tears had their own will.

    I’m astounded that the anatomy of human voices are largely the same, yet some have been created by God for profound beauty with the capacity to move us towards Him. And I suppose that is the point.

  5. Jeff Cope

    I think this kid is amazing.

    I hope he doesn’t win.

    In the few short years my wife and I have been watching (and yes, it was initially to mock…then got sucked into the whole thing) I have become more and more convinced that actually winning American Idol is not the best thing for one’s career. The winner is enslaved to the contract they win and have (usually) little creative control over the results. Compare Daughtry’s album to Taylor Hicks.

    There’s a part inside of me that’s screaming at David Archuleta to get out now before the industry takes this genuine, unassuming young man and leads him down the ego-driven path of indulgence.

    But, wow, there’s no denying the kid is good. Real good.

  6. John Michalak

    I have mixed feelings about the kid. He has a great voice, but his personality is a bit grating. I think he’s genuine, but he is so over the top with the “aww shucks…you like ME??” schtick that it’s already getting a bit old.

    The other reason it’s hard to like him is the context of his introduction into my auditory universe. While it doesn’t always go their way, every year AI sets up their top 24 (give or take) weighted in favor of the demographic they want to win that year. Their preferred demographic is full of phenomenal talents placed among a bunch of mediocres, who eventually get voted off (influenced by the judges accolades).

    Usually it’s an ethnicity/gender focus, but this year it appears to be the “teenage phenom” demographic. (Their evil plans were thwarted somewhat as that 17-year-old blonde girl was just voted off, despite her great voice.)

    So, as petty as it sounds, I don’t like being told what to “like”. If I heard David Arch in some other context I might feel differently, but it seems clear that, among a few others, he’s this year’s ringer.

    Check with me in a few weeks. I may change my mind (i.e., fall in line with the masses).

    Related to his performance: I wondered if he skipped the first verse of Imagine because of the “Imagine there’s no Heaven” line. He didn’t say so, but I still wonder.

  7. John Michalak

    I’ve just watched every year, and the elements appear consistent. Call it a “soft” conspiracy, if you want. They can’t guarantee the results, but from observation it certainly looks like they weigh the top 24 in favor of different demographics, and hope the voting goes their way.

    I agree though that it’s not a true conspiracy until you hear it on Art Bell. 😉

  8. Randall Goodgame


    A friend raised to me this issue: Why do we feel so comfortable passing judgement or mocking strangers we see on American Idol or other TV shows? Or more pointedly, what has happened to us since the advent of media, that I and others will look a a guy trying his best and say, “That guy is a tool.”

    I really did heal a little bit on Tuesday night. After David sang, the prejudice I felt toward the other singers melted some. But there is a deeper heart issue that challenges the reforming power of the Gospel for our lives. Any thoughts?

  9. Tony Heringer

    I was sucked into Idol by my wife and daughter a few years back. My cynicism has been modified as we’ve watched the shows. This show is all about finding a winner. So, if you are engaged in watching it, just like watching a sporting competition, you are looking for the winner and invariably will pull for your favorites.

    I think that’s why a lot of folks really appreciate Simon Cowell. He is frank and sometimes quite rude to the artists, but I believe he is preparing them for the reality of the field these artists say they are dedicated to being a part of. Simon makes sure that is the case and that is why in almost all cases, the artist (and I think a lot of the voters too) look to his comments as the real assessment.

    The issue I think Randall is raising is a larger and broader topic than American Idol or reality TV in general. I believe this issue is are we judging their singing ability and potential star power (i.e. “judge a tree by its fruit”) or are we judging the person (i.e. “there is only one Lawgiver and Judge” and it ain’t Simon)? To that point, I’d say we tend toward the wrong kind of judgment – condemnation instead of artistic criticism. For Christians in particular, that should never be, but unfortunately, we forget that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

    The Gospel doesn’t preclude critical comment Randall, otherwise we’d all be like Paula and you can’t say that she is being honest with these kids. My wife stops her ears now and again when she is giving her “feedbacK.” However, the Gospel doesn’t give us the freedom to be as frank and downright rude as Simon. While his judgements are usualy quite real and true, he is certainly not always “speaking the truth in love.”

    Again, great thread and I hope to see more added to it when I return next week. Y’all have a great week!

  10. Randall Goodgame


    Well said, Tony. Though my question has to do with character judgements rather than skill assessments. I am very quick to use language that judges past the performance, into the whole person. But I bemoan that tendency, and am searching for other, similarly convicted folks, that we might encourage each other to be more like Christ there.

  11. Mike

    I too wept at this performance. I was taken aback when he started with the third verse. For some reason I can’t imagine that this kid could imagine that there was no heaven and he just flat refused to say he did. Maybe that’s why I cried but I admit that there was a place that this kid went that few ever go.

  12. Peter B

    I’m with you, John (about the “soft conspiracy”, as you call it). It’s their show; they shape it the way they want it. Case in point: I was all ready to audition when they came to Dallas in late 2007, only to find out that they had just capped the age limit at 26 for that season. “Teenage phenonenon” indeed.

    And, like Jeff, I agree that it would be truly horrendous to win. I was just hoping for a fun ride.

    Having never watched the show, I’m glad to hear of this young fellow, and that he skipped the worst part of Lennon’s writing (though it’s a bit of a stretch imagining no possessions when your wardrobe is worth more than my house; perhaps I’m still being too critical of the writer rather than the work).

  13. Bo

    Randall – the Ratatouile moment was truly incredible. I teared up and watched it a couple more times. I think that must have been a Brad Bird special (have you seen the Iron Giant?) Apparently, we must have children the same age…

  14. John Goodgame

    Rand, I can’t believe this didn’t make you think of that British opera singer guy.

  15. Tony Heringer

    Randall — Hmmm, perhaps you are getting too nitpicky here or, more likely, I’m dense. But I’m with you bro, let me offer this as encouragement – at least I hope it is…

    On Idol we are given back story on these folks all the time, so we are goaded into making assessments of each person’s character. Despite protestations from Mr. Cowell, it is not just “a singing competition.” Again, are we condemning or identifying with or showing emphathy/understanding to the person?

    Our ever-present sin nature tends towards condemnation and accusation and only by the power of the Holy Spirit does any true Christian trend toward Christ-likeness in this area.

    Jesus was all over this issue. Passages related to loving one’s enemies were cutting right to the chase on this matter as our enemies are the ones whose character we are ready to attack. But notice, Jesus didn’t say “love everybody.” He qualified it, knowing we’d have enemies if we follow Him. As someone has said, Jesus doesn’t command us to do things we would do naturally.

    However, to muddy this up a bit how about this from Jesus:

    Matthew 15:21-28
    “Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”

    Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

    He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

    The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

    He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

    “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

    Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

    Did Jesus call that woman a dog? Yes, but what was He after? I say He was after her heart and also the hearts of His followers–her heart to flush out her intent and His followers to show them their attitude in full as they were not willing to show any compassion to this Gentile woman (a dog in the mind of a Jew) and didn’t even have the guts deal with her themselves.

    If we are to apprehend the type of life we should live in Christ, we must carry about that same attitude. Not that we go around insulting people like Simon, but at times, we speak in ways that will make others go “that guy’s a Christian?”

    There is great tension in this matter for sure (see my Bono conversation with Jason). There is much to be unpacked here but I think the bottom line is there will always be tension. This tension forces us to rely on the Holy Spirit. He is our life support system and without Him we are dead and we act like dead people act – sinfully.

  16. Randall Goodgame


    Let’s take this example I mentioned earlier… One of the guys (who has been voted off the show now) got up to sing, and I said – “Oh, this guy is a tool.” And the friend I was with said, “Oooh gross, he seems like a total frat boy jerkoff.”

    All I’m saying, is, to quote Ricky Bobby, “That just happened.”

    And that is nothing like Jesus’ engaging of the Gentile woman. I’m not sure what it is like, though, which is why I’m bringing it up. Forgive me if I’m trying to find something that isn’t there, but something in me has questions about that behavior and where it is rooted.

  17. Tony Heringer

    Randall — Agreed, that is pretty harsh — “Simonesque” (sic?)? Thanks for being so transparent. Our reactions to other people do reveal our fleshy side, eh?

    I can pull out some good ones in traffic here in Atlanta. Not many F-bombs as prior to my coming to Christ and I haven’t flipped anyone off in years :-), but that old man flairs up again and again. We are not alone though, here’s Paul in Romans 7:24 “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

    Even before you post, I was ruminating further on this matter. This really is a convicting topic. Then Sunday morning, I had one of those sermons that felt like it was written just for me. The pastor delivering it talked to several of the ideas that were rolling around in my head. It should be posted here soon: http://www.perimeterchurch.org/index.php?module=pfamily&submodule=content&section=37

    We are in a series about the life of David — ‘the man after God’s own heart’. When this week-end’s message is posted, give it a listen and see if it hits you the same way it did me.

    Know that I’ll be praying for you and I’d ask you to do the same for me. There is another thread out here on favorite music lyrics. Well, for this particular topic, there is a song on the new Caedmon’s Call CD that gets to the heart of the matter here.

    It is called “Hold The Light.” It chokes me up because it grasps the essence of solid friendship — something God has blessed me with over the years. I’ll close with the lines that get me:

    “I want to feel redemption flowing through my veins.
    I want to see with clear eyes beyond lust and hate.
    I want the war to be over, and know the good guys won,
    and I want love to hold me to know I’m not alone.

    Standing around a willow weeping,
    we were praying in the backyard.
    In the chill of the night
    the friendship light reminded me who we are”

    Or better yet Whose we are! Hang in there bro and don’t rag on the top 12 🙂

  18. Tony Heringer

    Randall — That song I quoted, you probably know it, eh? I’ll check the writer credits next time. 🙂

If you have a Rabbit Room account, log in here to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.