At the behest of a friend, I logged on to The Mikey Show website to listen to several of his Friday-morning radio testimonials.
For those who don't know the back-story, in January, Mikey Esparza, the infamous morning cock-jock, left Rock 105.3 (KIOX), and moved to FM 94/9 (KZBT), where the new Mikey morning show now resides. The Mikey Show is like every other morning monkey-house program, with one exception: Every Friday, at the end of his broadcast, Mikey—former purveyor of filth, smut and depravity; former self-proclaimed shit-talking assdouche—tells his audience the story of how Jesus saved his life. He calls the segment his “testimony,” and it is, judging from the shows I've heard, the same every week: Mikey cues up the melodramatic music bed—a gloomy, meandering, reverb-drenched guitar track (think Ry Cooder on morphine)—and, in a soft, contemplative voice, tells the story of his sexual molestation as a child and the vortex of depression, self-loathing and addictions that ravaged him until Christ came along.
“In 2003, I was laying in bed one night,” he says. “I knew I was going to die, so I asked Jesus to come into my life.” Apparently, Jesus did just that, because soon after, Mikey's life began to improve.
At the end of his Friday testimony, Mikey tells people with addiction problems where on his website they can find help, then segues into a song. It's usually the same song, a tune by Third Day called “Tunnel,” about which he implores, “Listen to the lyrics. I mean, really listen. It's a song of hope.”
Now, I want you to understand that despite my many sarcastic writings about religion and the religious, I don't have a problem with Mikey's radio testimonial—per se. For one thing, I'm usually up all night drinking, drugging and sacrificing small animals, so rising early enough to catch his blubbering is difficult. Secondly, and I've said this before, I don't blame believers for spreading The Word as they tend to do. Truth is, if I were to believe in that stuff—if I were to believe that there's a great ancient king who sits in a throne overlooking a city on the clouds, where the houses are carved from giant strawberries and a chocolate river runs through the village square, and all you have to do to live in this fantastic city is to heed the king, but if you don't heed the king, then you go to this other city, down below, where it rains boiling blood all day and the vapors from a lake of fire melt your eyeballs over and over again, for eternity—then, yeah, you bet, every freaking column I were to write till the day I die would be about accepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior and how to stay the hell out of Hell. So, I get why Mikey talks Jesus talk on the air. What I don't get is why 94/9 allows it.
Hey, 94/9, I love you guys, but c'mon. Rock 'n' roll radio is no place for religious worship!
Forget the contradiction in scheduling one of those morning hornblower shows after years of snickering at the other radio stations for having morning hornblower shows. Forget that your tagline says you're “about the music.” And forget how you incessantly bragged that you never talked over the songs, even though, now, not only are you talking over the music, but you're talking over the music—with Jesus talk!
Et tu, rock radio station? Please leave the Jesus music to the choirboys, church organists, sweater-vested minstrel folk groups and vocally marginal, Brillo-haired housewives whose families convinced them to record albums of drippy worship songs. Rock 'n' Roll is Satan's domain, dammit, and any radio outfit that doesn't understand that should be stripped of its rock credentials and become a 24-hour Pat Boone-a-palooza station.
So, yeah, it's 94/9, not Mikey Esparza, who's to blame for this crime against rhythm and bluesmanity. That said, Mikey, if you're reading, I have two pieces of advice, both involving the music in your testimonial segment:
1. Lose the guitar bed. It's an obvious manipulation of your listeners' emotions. Earnest testimonials about molestation, addiction and despair don't need sappy music backgrounds. Once you rip a listener's heart out of his or her chest, it doesn't much matter what you do with it next. After that, it's all overkill. Just tell your story unaccompanied by musical melodrama and let the words do all the heart-ripping.
2. If you're going to play the same song at the end of your testimonials, and you implore the audience to listen to the words, well, then, you had better be certain the words do not suck. They need to be intelligent, unique, creative words and not simply a repetition of clichés, such as with the lyrics of “Tunnel”:
“There's a light at the end of this tunnel / Shinin' bright at the end of this tunnel / For you, for you / So keep holdin' on…”
That's your song of hope? Ugh. That's the kind of song that would make me swallow a handful of sleeping pills, not flush them. Telling someone to concentrate on those words is like telling the heretic you're torturing to concentrate on the spikes of the iron maiden you've strapped him into. “OK, now, listen carefully to the sound of the blades as they pierce your flesh and organs. I want you to listen, really listen, to the sound of your own screams.”
Other than that, Mikey, good job on taking your life back. I would argue that it wasn't Jesus that saved you, but that's hardly what matters here. You are alive and thriving and helping people in your sincere, though utterly ridiculous, way. I can respect that.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. For songs of hope, visit www.edwindecker.com.