Somewhere Over The Bloodbath: Ingrid Michaelson's Grotesque Sandy Hook Singalong
The Sandy Hook shooting’s one-month “anniversary”—says those too overcome by grief to bother with the meanings of words—has passed. It is time for us as a people to come together. To stage a “national conversation.” To propose 23 executive orders concerning gun violence, as President Obama has done amid howls from the right. To hang a painting by one of the 7-year-old shooting victims above our desks, as Obama has also done, also amid howls from the right. To hold hands—regardless of our moral stances or lack thereof regarding gun control—in solidarity and sympathy with the slain.
And, of course, to sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” with a choir of traumatized Sandy Hook child survivors.
On Tuesday, Ingrid Michaelson visited the set of Good Morning America to breathlessly bleat her way through the heartwarming song made famous by Glee (and perhaps some other stuff). Accompanying her were 20 Sandy Hook students: one live child, presumably, to represent each dead one.
Michaelson is a pop star. Pop stars are generally known to be horrible. Until now, though, her horribleness has consisted entirely of being so sweet and smiley and chirpy and syrupy that there is nothing you could crave more fervently than to scoop out her larynx with a grapefruit spoon every time “The Way I Am” starts playing in a coffee shop or a dog food commercial or a shitty CW show or any one of my more perversely satisfying nightmares.
Singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” with Sandy Hook survivors should win her a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for Utter Fucking Horribleness. Not only does she deliver a rendition of the song as cloying as all her other dreck—she involves children who should not be given this kind of crass exposure so soon after such a traumatic experience.
Even worse, a recorded version of the song—produced by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads, who should know better—has also been released as a downloadable single. True, the proceeds go to charity, namely the Newtown Youth Academy and the United Way of Western Connecticut. Michaelson, Frantz, and Weymouth—platinum-selling artists all—could have simply and silently cut a check. Instead, they trotted out the youngsters with bells on.
While right-wing bloggers—most stridently Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro—have been beating their chests about Obama’s use of a little girl’s painting as a prop to ostensibly push his anti-gun agenda, no one’s complaining about Michaelson. The stakes, after all, are far lower. And just look at those adorable little moppets all squeaking out of key!
The exploitation is even more deplorable, though. These kids are being rewarded with fame and attention at the expense of their classmates, those who were hiding in the wrong closet at the wrong time on that bloody morning one month ago. This doesn’t help the healing. It adds a positive association, a rainbow-colored candy coating, to the tragedy. If the survivors of last summer’s Aurora Theater shooting got together with Prince to do the Batdance—for charity, naturally!—it would be no less unsettling.
Foremost in our minds, of course, should be the aesthetic transgressions being perpetrated by Michaelson and her innocent, unwitting choir. “Somewhere over the rainbow / Way up high / Birds fly over the rainbow / Why, then, oh why can’t I?” Because, little cherubs, you weren’t lucky enough to have been in the path of a bullet. It wasn’t birds that flew over the rainbow that morning of December 14, 2012. It was the corpses of babies. They weren’t chirping. They were screaming. Nor were they angels; if they had halos, they were made of gray matter. And their wings weren’t feathers, but splayed limbs and shredded flesh.
Michaelson probably has no ill intent. Nor do Frantz and Weymouth. That doesn’t change the fact that their actions have only added to the platform of misery fetishism and grief porn that our culture has erected in an effort to accommodate and cope with a new, hard fact: When we as a nation aren’t singing together, we’re slaughtering each other.
The survivors of Sandy Hook are being used, and society is telling them that’s normal. They’re being pushed, prodded, poked, probed, and made to perform in every corner of politics and the media, in hopes that their pain can be modulated into something melodious in the ear of the beholder.
Indeed, thanks to Michaelson’s poignant, blood-streaked version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the children of America have fresh hope. They may now pray that something as exciting as a mass shooting will happen at their school. That way they can appear on national TV, warble with a pop star, and get psychoanalyzed by George Stephanopoulos between celebrity interviews and cooking demos.
Why, then, oh why can’t I?