Preview by Joshua Maloni
Hollywood and faith aren't exactly PB&J.
And yet, one of Tinseltown's most elaborate endeavors was propelled to global star status thanks in large part to Christian entertainers.
It was on "American Idol" audiences first met faith-proclaiming - and in many cases faith-based - performers Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, Scotty McCreery, Colton Dixon, Angie Miller, Hollyn, Chris Sligh, Mandisa and Danny Gokey.
So what gives?
"I think it really represents our country. There's this view - a lot of times Hollywood represents our country a certain way. But then when you have a show that brings people from Middle America (together), people who are not part of that scene, a lot of us represent faith. And faith is a big deal in this country," Gokey said in a recent phone interview. "There's a few voices out there that say faith is irrelevant, but it's not irrelevant. We hold onto faith. It got us where we are today. ...
"Even on 'The Voice.' I'm hearing about this person made a run. 'This Christian did this.' Faith is a big part of America - what we believe in. I'm not trying to sound preachy, but what I'm just trying to do is say it's just who we are as America. And really, Hollywood, although it is a very loud voice, that's a small population. And it doesn't represent fully what the massive representation is."
"American Idol" producers were not naïve to this fact, and at times even showcased Christian songs (particularly with the fundraising special "Idol Gives Back"). Slowly, other Hollywood entities followed suit. In recent years, several faith-based movies have scored at the box office, including "The Shack," "God's Not Dead" and "Heaven Is For Real."
"Like I said, there's this view that the small sector has in Hollywood that they think represents all of America. It's funny: When you open the doors to the name of Jesus, or say it, what they learned now is that - it's funny; now I'm in the industry so you hear about this stuff - but it's one of those things were people are actually supporting movies that are about Christianity - that have faith," Gokey said. "They're staring to realize, 'Wait, ah, we missed it.' Sometimes for them it's about a money thing. 'We can make money off it.' Which is fine. I get it. All I'm saying is they're starting to realize there's this diverse culture out there. Part of that has to do with faith."
While "American Idol" allowed Christian artists to have a stage, songs and styles weren't preachy. Nor did the show become a church service of any sort. Rather, musicians used their platform to encourage and inspire others (more than 25 million at the show's peak).
Gokey applied a similar philosophy when making his record, "Rise," which debuted earlier this year.
"Honestly, the album is eclectic. It's got different sounds. It's funky; it's soulful; it's very poppy. It's very raw in dealing with real emotions. But the goal was to just - the goal was to bring hope. The goal was to bring entertainment. The goal was to bring good music, regardless of what people believed," he said. "You know, because, one of the things since 'American Idol,' I did learn that there's a lot of people out there. Some people don't share the same faith that I have. I wanted them to be able to listen to my record and feel inspired by it. And, maybe to open their eyes to a few different things that they may never have thought about faith. Because I saw the power of 'American Idol,' and how it surpassed religion. It surpassed culture/cultural boundaries. It surpassed age limits. And I really kind of picked up from that show that I want to reach people where they're at - because everybody needs hope. Everybody at some point needs hope in their life.
"That's the sound, and that's how I went for it. And, man, from the feedback that I've been getting on the album, I feel like we accomplished a lot of it."
Gokey is performing this weekend at the Kingdom Bound Festival inside Darien Lake.
Recalling his time at the annual event, he chuckled and said, "When I performed there last time, I didn't get to go on any of the rollercoaster rides, so hopefully this time I can sneak away and hit some of the rides.
"I've done it before, and some festivals that I've been at have been a mix of the theme park with the stage. But I just look forward to it. I always look forward to the crowd. The energy of the crowd. The energy was great last time. And I love good energy and a good crowd."
Festival Communications Director Dave Bruno said, "Kingdom Bound will be an amazing four days filled with fun, excitement and faith-filled, encouraging messages all across the festival. With over 50 bands and inspirational speakers, plus an amusement and water park with amazing and thrilling rides, a great time is sure to be had by all."
Later this year, Gokey will hit the road with Mandisa.
"You know, for me and Mandisa, we both have been open about our struggles with depression that we've had. We talk about that on our records. It just seemed like such a good fit for us to go on tour together, because of that," he said. "We put a lot of effort into exposing ourselves, so to speak, so that other people can know that they're not alone in what they're dealing with.
"And I think the 'American Idol' has a big appeal to it, as well. And so, with that being said, we really, really, really, we look forward to bringing (the show to audiences) - and the thing is, we both have similar tastes. Our bands are very similar. Our bands are very funky, soulful, gospel. They just get down. And we have those things similar together. So, it just seemed like a good fit.
"And there's just a buzz that's going around. I'm super, super excited about it."
Danny Gokey is scheduled to perform on the Darien Lake PAC Stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Click HERE for more information. His new album, "Rise, is available now. Find Gokey online at www.dannygokey.com.