Our ever-deteriorating popular culture fires aesthetically offensive mortars at us all day long. Taylor Swift. Jay Leno. The Grammy Awards. Twilight. How I Met Your Mother. Whatever the Hell Happened to MTV. It's a near constant bombardment of shallowness and crap, and occasionally I'll close my eyes and daydream scenarios wherein those of us who are most aggrieved seek out one another, form a resistance, and begin to fight back.
Now of course daydreams are by their nature exercises in self-indulgence, and so I'm not ashamed to say that a full two thirds of my pop culture war fantasies culminate in me taking the podium at the Academy Awards and raining down rhetorical hell on the VIP audience. I've written before that I'm a dork, and probably too much of my free time is given over to the composition of these lecture-rants I'll never give at the Oscars. But we have other weapons, and one of them is Sinéad O'Connor, psychotic guerrilla songstress. She's our most radicalized asset, we've been holding her in reserve for a high-stakes mission, and we've been only barely able to contain her fury. Now we're going to unleash her on American Idol.
Picture this: a young, mangy woman with shaved head and downcast eyes steps tentatively onto the Idol set. It's a put-on, of course, because we know how fierce she is, and we know her plans. Simon, Randy, and Paula raise eyebrows in perfect synchronization, but they at least act as though they're reserving judgment. Susan Boyle, right? You never know. It's clear from his face, though, that Simon is piecing together a thousand-word rant on the "hair gimmick."
The woman looks up. Her eyes, cool and blue, betray nothing of her intentions. She stands lightly, with arms at her side and ankles crossed, and she waits.
"It'll be this 'Mandinka' song, then?" Simon snaps, squinting disdainfully at the note in front of him.
Sinéad shakes her head.
"The musicians have rehearsed 'Mandinka.'"
Sinéad speaks for the first time, says quietly, "No musicians."
Simon snorts. Paula shrugs. "Do whatcha gotta do, Sister," Randy contributes, in his signature faux-hip argot.
Sinéad tiptoes to the microphone, drops feet to flats, turns wild eyes on Camera 1. "I remember it," she begins. "Dublin in a rainstorm . . ." And she sings "Troy" straight through, a capella.
What follows is something of a cross between the final scenes of Carrie and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The sheer power of Idealized Guerrilla Siren Sinéad O'Connor shears the flesh from the judges' bodies. The audience reacts in a panic as the stage catches fire, fissures appear in the walls and widen, and a great chasm opens in the ground in front of the stage. By the time the song is finished, the American Idol studios have been obliterated, along with much of the surrounding city block. Somehow, miraculously — as if Sinéad had wanted it this way — only Ryan Seacrest survives. Now deaf and blind, he climbs out of the rubble to tell the world what he saw and heard, The Last Things He Saw and Heard.
I haven't decided whether Sinéad survives. "THE PHOENIX FROM THE FLAME! I WILL RISE!" are indeed lines that receive particular vocal emphasis in the song she sang, but it's not clear to me that they don't carry more force if she herself succumbs to her own destructive power. That is, if she doesn't rise immediately, she can be, in a way, more threatening. Does she martyr herself to destroy American Idol, or does she reveal a certain degree of invulnerability by escaping the building's collapse and the ensuing conflagration, without a mark or a scratch? Tough call. I'll have to think about it.