Tuesday's "American Idol" was one of the most earnest hours of television I've ever seen. From Seacrest's intonation — "This Is 'Idol Gives Back.'" — to the videos from Africa to the "songs of inspiration" theme, "Idol" went to great lengths to prove that "Idol Gives Back" is Very Important. How important? For what might be the first time, the performance show was taped in advance so producers could spend more time on Wednesday's benefit.
Really, though, it's tough to be snarky about "Idol Gives Back." I appreciate that "Idol" picked a charity that will help both in the U.S. and abroad, in inner cities and rural areas. And hey, maybe this will encourage people to seek out other organizations that could use their time or money.
But because I can't be nice for this whole recap (unlike the judges, who were unusually sweet on Tuesday), I've got to harp on a couple of things:
- In one of the taped segments, Simon visited a food bank and discovered that — shock! — there are poor people in America! And there are kind-hearted volunteers who help feed them! Either he exaggerated his surprise, or he needs to get out more.
- News Corp. is donating 10 cents per vote for the first 50 million votes. Now, $5 million is nothing to sneeze at, but I just wonder how that $5 million compares to their revenues from just one episode of "Idol."
Onto the performances. Don't forget to tell me who you think should go home, and you can get my take on the matter if you read more
Chris Richardson (at right): Chris sang "Change the World" that way he does, which is to say nasally and oddly high-pitched and boy-band-ish. We even got a little Backstreet Boys-style dancing breakdown about halfway through. The judges seemed pleased — Simon thought it was sexy, even — and I'm going to bet that if you generally like Chris, you probably liked this, and if you don't, you didn't.
Melinda Doolittle: I didn't think her version of Faith Hill's "There Will Come a Day" was her most compelling performance, but I could also imagine it being on the soundtrack at a Starbucks right now, and I mean that as a compliment. Honestly, now that she's looking better and more comfortable with herself, I'm not sure anyone (including Jordin, this year's dark horse) can beat her.
Blake Lewis: Blake rocked the popped collar — well, as much as a popped collar can be rocked — while singing John Lennon's "Imagine." Not gonna lie, I thought the performance dragged on a bit, but that's what "Imagine" does, and it was cool to see him try a straightforward take on a classic. It's maybe the most pure singing we've heard him do, and it wasn't bad.
LaKisha Jones (at left): OK, this is LaKisha's third time singing a song made famous by another "Idol" contestant: "And I Am Telling You" (Jennifer Hudson), "Jesus Take the Wheel" (Carrie Underwood) and now "I Believe" (Fantasia). Hey Keesh? Put the iPod on shuffle next time; we're tired of the "Idol" songbook. I've got to admit, LaKisha's worn out her welcome with me, and I wouldn't be surprised if she's the one going home tonight.
Phil Stacey: Phil (who's now being backed by Vote for the Worst, if you hadn't heard) went country again this week, singing Garth Brooks' "The Change." I'd started to come around to Phil after last week, but this performance reminded me of all the things I don't like about him (wobbly notes on verses, awkward stage presence). It also felt like it was about 20 minutes long. The judges must have been listening to someone else, though, because they said it was his best outing on the show. Simon even said he had a "spring in his step."
Jordin Sparks (at right): As we've seen several times already, Jordin's quite the crier, so I'm going to blame her emotions for all those wobbly, super-quiet notes at the beginning. By the chorus, though, she was on. I hate to keep hammering on the "she's 17!" thing, but ... dudes, she's 17, and she's miles more mature than the other "Idol" teens of the past (Diana DeGarmo and Paris Bennett come to mind). I wouldn't say this was one of the best "Idol" performances ever, like Randy did, but it was pretty great.
Who should be in the bottom three: Chris, LaKisha and Phil
Who will be in the bottom three: It's hard to say — will the Idol Gives Back incentive incite more people to vote? and will they spread their votes around or pick favorites? But I'm actually going to go with Chris, LaKisha and Phil
Who's going home: I have a pet theory that nobody's going home; it would spoil the charitable mood. But if someone does, I'm guessing it will be LaKisha. Her support seems to be waning (only our national frustration with Sanjaya saved her last week) and her "Idol" copycat behavior might doom her this time.
Photos courtesy of Fox