I'm just going to warn you that if you like inspirational music you should stop reading this writeup right now because I tend to hate schmaltzy treacle, and we got a lot of it tonight. Some of it was sung quite well but I will never get enthusiastic about any version of a Goo Goo Dolls song or "I Believe I Can Fly." I'm just that kind of jerk. If Idol wanted to make money of iTunes downloads for Idol Gives Back it should have chosen a different theme, like "Music people want to pay money to hear."
Casey kicked things off with "Don't Stop" which will always remind me of the Clintons and Gores getting their groove on at the 1992 Democratic National Convention so I didn't anticipate Casey being able to make it very current, and he didn't. As he's done the last two weeks, he sang and played guitar proficiently but it was Classic Casey: good but not great. The judges agreed. Dude is coasting.
Lee took on "The Boxer" which is a very good song but I thought with the strings, backup singers, melody switcheroos, grand piano and yarling (thanks to Maura Johnston for introducing me to that word) the whole thing got a little too-too. Lee sang it well as he always does but I think I would have liked it a lot more had he pared the arrangement down significantly. The judges loved it though and Simon decided right then and there to declare it the best of the night.
Tim sang "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls. His hair was flatironed and I was bored. I'm realizing the best thing about Tim's performances are Ellen's food similes and today she compared him to the soup of the day: sometimes she likes it and sometimes she doesn't, and today she didn't. Simon tempered his criticism saying that Tim's improved over the past few weeks but this week was a bit of a letdown. If I can verbally chart his progression on the show it went from whatever to awful to not so bad and we're back to whatever.
Aaron sang "I Believe I Can Fly" and even mentor Alicia Keyes said it's a song that can be "overkill." At first I cringed at how cheesy the performance was as Aaron shut his eyes and shook his head about how he did not think he could go on but he sang the song really well especially towards the end (complete with a splay-legged pose, singing into mic held aloft). But Simon made the same observation I did: would many people want to listen to this on the radio, let alone buy a version of it?
Once again, I have no idea what kind of singer Siobhan wants to be. She took on "When You Believe", a Mariah AND Whitney song, and I had a feeling it would be annoying when Alicia advised her to pause before hitting her bit note to let the audience know it was going to be special. Actually, it wasn't as precious and cheesy as I thought it would be: it was duller than that. Her Midsummer Night's Dream getup was more interesting than the performance. Randy didn't like the song choice and the other judges agreed that she failed to nail a performance or give a good idea of what kind of recording artist she would be. Once again she took what felt like forever talking about how nothing is going to scare her away from singing the songs that touch her so deeply and once again the audience applauded. As she spoke the camera got in tighter and tighter on her face until I thought I could see my reflection in her lip gloss.
I like that many years ago Mike made a list of songs he would sing if he got on the show: we've all done that. Tonight he performed one of those songs, which was "Hero." I thought he did an OK job. He sounded a little like Seal to me tonight but true to the song it was very grandiose and like a superhero of some sort he looked like he was bursting through his shirt. The judges seemed a little mixed on it but my favorite criticism came from Simon who couldn't get past the fact that the song reminded him of Spider-Man. He still thinks Mike will be around next week though and I can go along with that.
Crystal's performance was noteworthy for a couple of reasons other than the fact that she was as usual one of if not the best singer of the night. She sang "People Get Ready," and it was surprising to me that she was the only singer to take on a gospel-style song. I think is a genre of music that can handle "inspirational" without getting too corny, I guess maybe because church music is all about sincerity and doesn't worry itself with being cool. Of course the other big deal was that she broke down and cried through the last big note, which is something I sort of saw coming when she started singing with her hand to her chest. A cynical side of me wondered if it was a bit of a push to make herself seem more emotionally raw, but on the other hand, her father was in the audience for the first time and she almost left the show and was betrayed by Ryan Seacrest, something that would make anybody cry. Anyway, she sang the hell out of it (I almost wanted her to do the whole thing, not just the first few bars, a cappella) and was to me the only person of the night who sang within the parameters of the theme but didn't go all cheeseball. The judges adored it and Simon had to amend his declaration of Lee being the best.
Tomorrow night I'll be tuning in for all two hours of giving back but I'm just there for the taking-away of one contestant. I'm thinking this time it will be one of the adorable young things: Siobhan, Tim or Aaron.
—One thing I really liked about tonight’s episode was that it was an hour long.
—If Sully Sullenberger were such a true American Idol he would be flying people home from Europe right now and not cooling his heels at some TV show.
—Why did I find it so cute when Simon said "I like Spider-Man!"?
—Happy 4/20: Crystal's microphone stand looks like the base of a hookah.
—A pre-school graduation featuring a kid singing "I Believe I Can Fly" might go under the "Reasons NOT to Have Children" column.