A hot mess…

That’s my wife’s new catch phrase it seems. I first noticed her using it a lot the other day, when we watched the Blind Boys of Alabama sing with the Oakridge Boys on Fox News. She said it sounded like, “A hot mess church choir.” She’s used the phrase of herself a couple times, to which I promptly inform her the only truth to that statement is the “hot” part.

Let me tell you about another hot mess, this time labeled so by me. De won some Josh Groban tickets to the opening show of his new tour. There was this… piano “player” who was the opening act. He played avant guarde classical style covers of pop/rock/alternative songs. He didn’t use a stool–just stuck one leg way behind him and leaned toward the piano. And he did this Dino thing where he’d turn and grin at the audience, playing without looking. At some point, his songs became rhythmic banging…and I’m convinced I could probably make some similar sound on the piano myself.

In short…it was a hot mess.

But this phenomenon has got me thinking. How does something like this happen? I mean, how does a hot mess get so popular?

There’s a few things happening, I think. First, there must be some legitimate talent there. I’m sure this guy can calm himself down and play in a rather refined manner. I have no doubt that greater undiscovered talent exists, but neither do I doubt he’s devoid of talent. Second, his success has less to do with talent and more to do with his confidence, though it seemed to have taken the form of pride. And third, the combination of the base talent and the confidence is the reason the audience responds to him. By the time he gets to the point he’s known enough to share a stage with Josh Groban, it’s all broken down into a hot mess. Will it last? If he stays a hot mess, probably not.

How can this be applied to writing? Well, obviously you have to have some base talent or you won’t go anywhere. But neither do you have to be the most talented. Do something unique and do it with confidence, and you’ll be noticed. I think many talented writers sit undiscovered because they lack the confidence to talk about themselves or their books.  Telling others and being excited about your work is not prideful. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but pride is a heart issue. Talking about your work is a marketing issue.

So I think that writers with a base talent who have enough confidence to talk about their work, stand the best chance of being discovered.

Ah, but there’s a warning to my story too. That confidence can turn into pride. Your success might corrupt your heart attitude. If that happens, you’ll care less about your work and more about the audience. And when you care less about your work…you become a hot mess.

Have you seen it before? Talented musicians, writers, and filmmakers who have this amazing debut, and then their next project is like… what the?  And they then end up on “Where Are They Now?” ten years later, if you even hear about them at all.

Don’t be that. Please.



About Keven Newsome

Keven Newsome is an author, musician, and theologian. With a music degree from William Carey University and a theology degree from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Keven has actively served in ministry as both pastor and worship leader. He is the author of the Winter series: Winter, Prophetess, Acolyte, and Mantle. This supernatural thriller series has been an award finalist for multiple awards. His short stories can be found in the Aquasynthesis anthology and Avenir Eclectia Vol. 1. He is also the author of We Are One, a non-fictional study on generational ministry (published as KW Newsome). Though originally from south Mississippi, Keven now lives in Camden, South Carolina with his wife and children.

16 comments on “A hot mess…

  1. 🙂 Love you! Glad I can inspire you! 😉

    Oh, to hear a sample of a hot mess….


  2. It took me a minute to understand exactly what a “hot mess” is. LOL

  3. Good post! I enjoyed reading about this “hot mess” business.. I kid, I kid, I know what a hot mess means! ha!

    • You have no idea…I tried to remember the really horrid piece he played but couldn’t. I even explored his youtube page. You should hear his rendition of Sweet Home Alabama…

  4. Great words there, Keven. As for someone whose debut project is “wow,” and their next project is “what the…?” I can’t help but think about George Lucas. He directed the original, 1977 Star Wars (Epidsode 4 to the current generation of fans) and then didn’t sit in the director’s chair again on the franchise until Episode 1, The Phantom Menace, if I have my facts straight. The 1977 film changed the face of film making. Phantom Menace? Um. Well…not exactly genius. But if you want to talk about pride issues, the interviews with Lucas regarding the Star Wars franchise lead me to believe there may be some chest puffing going on.

    • Good heavens, Becky, you can’t insult George Lucas on a public spec fic blog! You’ll be virtually crucified!
      (Not by me. I happen to agree with you, but, still…)

      Speaking of pride, isn’t his name trademarked now? Shouldn’t we write it with the little “tm” sign after?


  5. Did they bring people onstage? and did they bring them up inflatable couches and milk in wine glasses?

  6. I was at the show too. Pretty easy to be offended by what he does, but that’s because he is directly challenging traditional piano music presentation. Yet he is exploiting a hole in the professional world of “classical/jazz” music. He knows the average person wants to sing along to music. So his Smells like Teen Spirit is not so bad to the average person because they just sing along. Karaoke. And they have fun! So while music critics and music nerds are analyzing his articulation or whatever, the overwhelming majority of people are Loving the Karaoke. Because they can feel nostalgia. And if you listen to the popular music you ll notice that what you called rhythmic banging is similar to rock guitar shredding. Pride? Well that is also in rock culture. And the guy is reaching for that, not music school or concert hall performance traditions ala Lang Lang, joshua Bell. But Arena traditions ala Lady GaGa, Ozzy Osbourne. And that’s where we saw ELEW. At the Arena. BTW I’m sure it required massive technique, strength and dynamics and speed and rhythmic coordination to play while standing and wearing armor for 30 minutes in front of the pressure of a few thousand people who know the tunes. And Clocks was not banging. Nor was Human Nature. But Smells like Teen Spirit was. And maybe it should be banged. The point is he is being understood by way more people than most pianists simply because he understands the people way more than most pianists. That’s why his “talent” is getting him hired. By the Grobans. Alternate angle

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