Cold opening – Ryan is standing in the control room looking very serious. “Tonight, ” he says, “We are presenting a very special show. We’ve got the same 3 judges, the same 6 finalists (Each face is displayed on a monitor, the camera pans them). But one huge difference–the calls that you make will not only save your favorite contestant, (Ryan pauses dramatically and turns around) they will also save lives. THIS is Idol Gives Back.
Holy cow. In comments, when things get tense, I say stuff like ya know we ain’t solving world hunger here, peeps, it’s only a tee vee show, so be cool! So much for that excuse. At least for tonight.
I suppose I could get all cynical at this point. Sure, there’s plenty to be cynical about. TPTB may only be doing this to burnish their reputations–particularly since the most successful elements of the show rest on humiliating and mocking people. Or, perhaps the sponsors are merely playing the typical PR game rather than truly helping the poor. Of course, this Idol Gives Back deal could be merely a way to boost ratings and maybe even finally win that coveted Emmy (would not be surprised if they finally do). Could TPTB be exploiting the poor children of the world in order to serve their own interests?
Eh. Maybe. Probably. Who cares. Me? I’m just happy they’ve decided to use their immense power for good, whatever their motives. Beyond the money collected over the next few days–if this is done right, and I will reserve judgement, because tomorrow’s show remains to be seen–the fact that this show has the potential to raise the awareness of millions of people on some very important issues is good enough for me. (oh, btw, Douglas R. Scott? Bite me. Just sayin’). I’m not going to sweat the small stuff.
Do ya think Bono is suddenly now some big American Idol fan? He probably still hates it with every fiber in his being. But do you think he’s analyzing motivation? If you know anything about Bono and what he’s accomplished you know the answer to that one.
So I here I go with my Top 6 recap. The Idol Gives Back edition.
Ryan reminds us at the top of the show that all WE the vast viewing audience had to do was vote as usual, but THIS week, our toll free calls are going to make a much bigger difference. News Corp will donate 10 cents a call, up to 50 million calls. (hey, what about text votes? hmff. I don’t want to admit I sent a bunch of text votes before I realized I’d done the wrong thing. Ok, I just did. Me dumb. I hope the rest of you voted. With a toll-free call.)
Then Ryan thanks the sponsors–fordcocacolaat&t for their generous donations (whatever they are–Ryan never sez–it would be nice to know since they are mentioned constantly tonight) to Idol Gives Back.
Ryan tells us what we can expect from the two-hour results show. We’ll be asked to donate via phone line and website, AND the lucky kids had a phenomenal mentor…BONO! Oh man, that’ll be great if he actually coached them on their songs…ha ha…but I don’t think it’s that kind of mentoring. I’m sure he’ll be teaching them all about poverty and stuff.
So the deal tonight is–interspersed with the kids singing songs described as “songs that inspire” will be video of Ryan and the judges visiting poverty afflicted areas in Africa and America.
The first clip is heartbreaking. Ryan and Simon visit a village that’s literally shacks sitting on a garbage dump. The result is many many starving people, many sick and dying from malaria. After surveying the wretched conditions people of this village live in, Simon says, “It’s just wrong.”
The clip sets the very serious tone of the show, though subsequent clips aren’t all doom and gloom. They follow a familiar arc–despair, hope and then resolution–but only if you help. That’s some pretty basic and effective fundraising, right there, kids.
Chris Richardson is up first.
Chris Richardson “If I Could Change The World” by Eric Clapton – Chris picks a song that I absolutely adore. He says he thinks the song defines “what this show’s all about…” Chris’s soft, lightweight vocals aren’t quite as nasally this week. And, he’s fine when he sits still on a chair and sings the song. But, then he stands up, and throws in a few sloppy vocal runs. You know, the word “change” does not need to be hung on a mess of notes strung together. I don’t particularly like my Clapton boybanded up, you know? Randy loved it. But then he loves Chris’s runs. Paula blah blah loved it. But, even Simon has praise. He mentions that it feels like the competition was “really starting tonight”–no doubt because Sanjaya is gone. He goes on to say that Chris is finally showing the promise that he saw at his first audition. This wasn’t a bad performance but it’s hardly Chris’s best performance, either. I think the judges like the idea of having a highly-marketable Justin Timberlake-type singer in this competition, even if the vocals in reality aren’t exactly up to par. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed in the studio, right? Or, was Simon making up for his eye roll last week?
Ryan mentions the Idol Gives Back My Space. So I will too.
The next clip sent film crews across the USA–to Louisiana, the Appalachia in Kentucky, an Indian reservation in Arizona and the streets of Atlanta, GA. Ryan and Randy visit their home towns (Atlanta and NOLA), Ryan and Paula visit a health clinic.
Melinda Doolittle “There Will Come A Day” by Faith Hill – Melinda picked her song because it talks about a “hope for a better tomorrow.” Another masterful, professional performance by Melinda. Seriously, she is just perfect in every way. Maybe that’s why I was so bored with her performance? Or maybe that I found the song itself really bland? I dunno, there is just something here that does not reach out and grab me in a visceral sense, although I know intellectually that what I’m hearing and seeing is incredible and deserves all the kudos delivered by the judges tonight. Hmmm. Randy says…you are so dope. Paula says, Melinda there is no one like you…you are magical. Simon says it wasn’t a copy cat performance….a vocal masterclass. In the meantime, Melinda works on looking NOT surprised. She’s improving. Too bad her singing has nowhere else to go. Maybe that’s the problem.
Vote, vote vote vote vote, says Ryan as he mentions the corporate sponsors one more time…
What’s the biggest sacrifice Blake Lewis has had to make since since becoming a contestant on American Idol? Missing family friends and home, but he has their support being here blah blah blah. These questions are not very interesting.
Blake Lewis “Imagine” by John Lennon – Blake is very honored to be singing John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Blake gets mad props from me for picking such a beautiful song. The trouble here of course, is that “Imagine” is an iconic song forever linked to the great man who wrote it–John Lennon. It’s a tough song to cover on Idol. Not that others haven’t tried–Ruben Studdard sang it finals night Season 2 and Jennifer Hudson performed the glory-note edition of the song Season 3. Blake chooses to sing it straight and simple, with no embellishments. Of course, the problem with the song is that it has nowhere to go…no soaring crescendos or opportunities for flash (unless, of course, crowbarred in there). Considering that, Randy was of course, unimpressed with Blake’s effort. Paula says she’s reminded of how “beautiful and simple that song is, and it’s the first real sensitive and emotional performance from you…that I’ve seen and that goes a long way.” And Simon, also feels that Blake’s sincerity came through. Those who like Blake’s voice (I do) will appreciate his effort. Those who don’t, probably not so much. I thought it was a simple, heartfelt performance of one of the great pop songs of our times. Me likey.
Ryan tells us to look for a performance from Carrie Underwood on the big show tomorrow. A little hope in the darkness…
Next, a video piece on a “feeding center” for orphans in Africa.
LaKisha Jones “I Believe” Season 3 coronation song – LaKisha is singing “I Believe” by Fantasia. Wait, this is a joke, right? After she got slammed for singing a Carrie Underwood song last week, she is NOT choosing another Idol classic is she? Oh she is. I’m beginning to think LaKisha is a little, uhmm, slow? Is that politically correct?. Erm. Probably not. She chose the song because, “It inspired me.” Oh serious, covering a song that the great Fantasia ripped apart and put back together again on the Season 3 finale is just so….not the thing to do if LaKisha wants to stay alive in this competition. The lyrics, “Have you ever reached a rainbow’s end, and did you find your pot of gold, Ever catch a shooting star, And tell me how high did your soar, ” are quintessential Idol coronation song dreck. Why would anyone voluntarily sing a crappy Idol coronation song? I don’t get it. Having said that, LaKisha was certainly no Fantasia here, but she did not deserve the drubbing she got at the hands of the judges. Both Randy and Paula go on and on about Fantasia without really addressing LaKisha’s performance. Simon calls it “shouty.” Actually, she’s a little pitchy, but she’s not shouty. The song is in her range and sounds effortless. LaKisha has a few shaky spots here and there, but her performance is solid and heartfelt. The audience in the studio is clearly moved. It’s obvious the producers are done with LaKisha. There’s some major de-pimping going on here. But, it’s so transparent, it may backfire on them.
Phil Stacey answers some VIEWER MAIL! What do you miss most about home? Hey did you all know that Phil has kids? For the umpteenth time we are reminded that Phil has cute ‘lil chillrun. Phil loves the chillrun, so vote for Phil…
Phil Stacey “The Change” by Garth Brooks – All cynicism aside, Phil has come up from behind in the last stretch, which makes for some exciting TV right here. His performance last week of Keith Urban’s “Where the Blacktop Ends” was a personal best, and proved that Phil was adept at singing country. This week, he sings a song that is obviously close to his heart, because he sings it with a lot of feeling. I don’t particularly care for this mushy sort of power ballad, but can get over it if the performance is heartfelt, which it is here. Phil’s gained quite a bit of confidence on stage in the past few weeks–he not only looks present on stage, but his vocals have lost the pitch problems he’s had in the past. Check your rear-view mirrors, Idols–Phil Stacey is coming up from behind… The judges are enthusiastic, even Simon, who says he really likes Phil and if he remains confident, and sticks to country, he could do well in the competition.
In the last video clip of the night, Simon marvels at the fact that there are actually food pantries in LA. Oy. The piece is upbeat–people helping people, the power and good karma of volunteerism, a little humor (Simon asks some volunteers to give him a hug, because he needs to be nice). Yes, Simon, there are people starving in America, but Americans and their can-do attitude can help put a stop to hunger in the USA. Vote, people, vote!
Jordin Sparks “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the musical “Carousel” – Jordin picks “You’ll Never Walk Alone” because it offers a great message of hope. She hopes that her message is comforting to people. Jordin is adorable, charismatic and the emotion and feeling she brings to the song here is spot on. However, she loses control of the vocals about 2/3s of the way through the song. She’s pitchy, and literally screaming by the end. The judges give her a tongue bath. Randy says he thinks it’s the best vocal by any contestant ever on the show. No it’s not Randy. It’s not even the best vocal tonight. Simon thinks she’s fantastic. Simon thinks she’d have a hit record, even though the song is 60 years old. DING. Yes, Jordin is extremely marketable and that’s why she is the producer’s Chosen One, rather than Melinda or LaKisha. Just for fun, listen to Jordin and LaKisha’s performances back to back. Listen don’t watch. I’m just sayin’
Ryan urges the audience to vote, ’cause the votes translate into dollars. Ryan tells us to tune in tomorrow night for one of the biggest shocks American Idol has ever had! Hopefully, the surprise does not involve Elvis impersonators. But, I’m not holding my breath.