It's a big week in Idol World.
Tonight marks the almost annual star-studded Idol Gives Back charity episode, and, no matter how hard-hearted you are, you have to admit that the show is an emotional, feel-good, do-good piece of prime-time. Celebs of every level will grace the stage and screen with performances, recorded messages, video journals of time spent in third-world countries and more, to encourage the mass of Americans who watch the talent contest to donate even a little to numerous charities. For all the crap people talk about American Idol -- myself included -- there's something good going on tonight. And if you cry easily, mind yourself during any Annie Lennox performance.
In preparation for the big show, philanthropist and HIV/AIDS activist Alicia Keys mentored the remaining seven contestants as they rehearsed "songs of inspiration." It seemed appropriate -- Keys has many a "you can make it" song in her repertoire and her charitable deeds certainly match the Idol Gives Back message.
Fort Worth blueser Casey James
was the first to get a tutorial on his version of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." Keys urged him to make a connection and add personality so the audience would love him
instead of just recognizing and loving an old favorite.
He brought out the electric guitar (one of Lindsey Buckingham's, CJ later told Ryan Seacrest) and his usual husky voice, but I wasn't blown away. He was no Lindsey Buckingham, by any stretch of his ringlets or guitar. I appreciate that he's "staying true" or whatever, but with the exception of his Beatles week "Jealous Guy" performance, I'm getting bored. Funny thing is, I didn't truly realize it until tonight, I was with Simon for a few weeks and thought he was improving -- then again, that's probably because he's a great showman. But it's just becoming harder to understand how, with different genres and themes, he's essentially playing the same song over and other: mid-tempo tunes with a good few guitar hooks that he can turn bluesy, by offering vocals in about the same register.
A ballad would have been great, but alas...
Randy thought it was good but not his best and wanted him to step out of his comfort zone. Ellen said that though he's consistently good, at this point -- referencing the used judges save -- someone will go home every week so greatness is required. "I don't think anyone's gonna be talking about that tomorrow," she said, and I totally agree.
Kara also missed the range and vulnerability of "Jealous Guy" and said that Casey came out all "jam band" last night, with guitar wails and cocky attitude. "But that's not showing us what makes you different," she said. "You made yourself like everybody else tonight and I'm so frustrated about that...because I still believe in you."
Simon was...well... "Well, I'm just amazed you chose that song because I think the theme this week is inspirational songs and that wasn't particularly inspiring. Zero emotion. And as everyone said, you just stood there, played the guitar again, sang the song pretty much like the original, which meant there was no originality, so I actually thought it was a lazy song choice."
CJ didn't think it was lazy. CJ loves Fleetwood Mac. RyCrest sure asks all the tough questions.
Then Lee DeWyze butchered and pissed all over Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer." I realize he's not from here, but I was so horrified that the judges applauded him for taking the heart and balls out of that brilliant song and turning it into an adult contemporary MIX 102.9 piece of shit, I had to say something. When Simon gave him props for "[making] it sound as if it had been written a week ago," it actually made me sad. Apparently, nothing is sacred. So help me if anyone even glances at S&G's "America" I'm getting in the fetal position and rocking. But I digress.
Duncanville's Tim Urban
sang and played guitar for -- go ahead, guess -- "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls. I had so been waiting for him to sing this at some point this season and thoroughly enjoyed my "I knew it!" moment. Keys seemed impressed during his consult but TUrban had a shaky start on his actual performance, like perhaps it was a little too low for him or he was having a "pitchy" night. It was a natural song choice (which is not to say a good one) for him, though, and he looked like he was honestly into the song, IMO, so I really wished he had a better go of it in the beginning. I was disappointed for him because it seemed like he actually had stronger vocals in rehearsal, but with editing it's hard to be sure. Not an inspiring moment, but an oddly sympathetic one.
Um, wait. I'm sorry. Did I just kinda-sorta bag on CJ and get tender on TUrban? Something's wrong. I feel funny in my heartplace.
Randy thought it was "OK, good karaoke" and the song "just kinda laid there and sounded OK." Ellen equated Tim to the soup of the day and today she, sadly, didn't like the soup. Kara felt this area is where Tim belongs but the performance wasn't the best execution. Simon said that if that had been the first time we'd all seen Timmy perform, we'd all be impressed. Sime went on to say that it was not such a believable performance, but gave him credit for improving over the last few weeks (since his "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" misfire).
Based on the inaugural Idol Gives Back episode in 2007, I want to say that tonight no one will get voted off. That year, the results were announced as part of the special and to keep with the whole charity feel, everyone was safe. In 2008, a contestant was eliminated but the results show was aired on Thursday night following the Wednesday charity special so there was no need to be extra-nice. (And no, you're not remembering incorrectly -- there was no 2009 event due to the less-than-stellar economic situation.)
If someone is to be canned, I hope it'll be Lee (for obvious reasons) but, if I forgive the one-time Garffense (get it?!), it should probably be Aaron Kelly. His wee age combined with his elderly song choices may finally get him. Big Mike singing Nickelback was a problem, but I'm not sure he's out so soon after the save. Siobhan Magnus' performance wasn't so hot, but her defense of her song choice was awesome and will win more than a few votes.
Our local boys had a bad night but might be too beloved to be in jeopardy. And, no question, Crystal Bowersox is here to stay.