So the Diplomats – lightning rod group du jour – are on the cover of the Singing News. I’ve only heard them briefly at the NQC, where they were oversinging, out of tune, and out of any new material. This didn’t strike me as any big deal at the time, since I assumed they were just one of the many downmarket acts that lands a few minutes on the NQC mainstage by the impenetrable “logic” that goes into the NQC evening concert lineups, and that they’d recede back into the patchwork quilt of regional groupdom.
The comments-thread flame war that broke out over the “Dips,” as their diehard fans like to refer to them, shortly afterward only seemed to confirm this assumption, since it’s commonplace for the arguments to be loudest in southern gospel when the stakes are the lowest. But I guess we can interpret this appearance on the SN cover to mean that they are now to be taken seriously as mainstream talent. Personally, I liked this act better the first time, when it was called The Happy Goodmans, and the second time when the Perrys had their nostalgia phase. But whatever. I know where the skip button is.
What they’re doing on the Singing News cover is beyond me, but then it wouldn’t be the first time that the SN has showed up in my mailbox and I’ve had a “what thuh …?” reaction.
What I’m more interested in here is the larger phenomenon we’re all familiar with that’s replaying itself out: namely, nationally unknown group of debatable ability shows up all at once and is suddenly “in,” at which point, a punch-up proceeds to break out among, on the one hand, the group’s diehards, who take this sudden anointing as proof that years of faithfully following the group from one far flung church and county fair to another were not in vain; and on the other hand, an outraged contingent of dissenters who haven’t heard of these people (or have!) and cry foul.
The critics often go too far, or go about making their case the wrong way. In this case, the argument against the Diplomats has more than once drifted into the territory of comments about or allusions to members’ weight. God’s little people they ain’t, but given the history of heft among the southern gospel saints, it’s a leetle late to be making weight problems a barrier to success in gospel music.
It’s too bad, this tendency in southern gospel discourse to launch personal attacks on someone with whom you disagree, instead of making an argument on the merits of the issue. Because the outraged folks have a point, if only they’d make it and leave the petty personal attacks aside: when a group like “The Dips” - as far as I can tell, the sg equivalent of a cover band - show up on the mainstage of NQC and the cover of the Singing News, while, say, the Nelons get three songs on a crappy showcase that involves a ten-minute hardsell for Sally-Struthers-style feed the children outfits and the host spends another 10 minutes trying to get his iPod to play the track for the infinitely forgettable song he inflicts upon us … well, it sure does feel like a little line-skipping is going on here. For the millionth time, better quality control, please.