We’ve been hearing about this show for weeks. Idol Gives Back. After all the success that American Idol has had, they’ve decided to give back, organizing relief efforts for the poor in Africa and here in the United States. The votes tonight will not only be votes for the contestants, but money for each will be donated from corporate sponsors. It sounds great, and I was really looking forward to it, but a few things, the fact that inspirational songs can be boring when done in bulk, and the fact that the judges either hear something completely different from me, or have their favorites they pimp, which I have always defended as unfounded, are bothering me.
Before we get started, though, a very scruffy Ryan Seacrest talks about the corporate sponsors of Ford, Coca-Cola, and AT&T, and explains that if fifty million votes are phoned in, News Corporation will donate ten cents for every vote. Tomorrow night is the big extravaganza where the mentor will be Bono, yet if he’s not mentoring them singing their performance songs, I’m at a loss on what he’ll be mentoring.
It’s truly a different side of Simon that we see in yet another clip of his and Ryan’s time in Africa. They talk with a 12 year old boy who acts as father to his younger siblings after the deaths of his parents. It appears that as Simon and Ryan walk along, they’re walking through mounds and mounds of garbage, and Simon calls the whole thing intolerable with terrible conditions. There are 300 kids in a facility that are all being treated for Malaria, the number one killer in all of Africa. Simon again, is quite different, and says this is all just wrong, as it’s literally hell on earth. The people there, though, have an amazing spirit, just hoping tomorrow will be another day.
With inspirational songs as the theme, Chris Richardson is singing Change the World by Eric Clapton, noting it defines what the show is all about this week. If one person has the will to change someone’s life, imagine what millions could do. What makes this a great song choice for him is not the way his voice sounds on it, but how it bring out his emotions. Every week when he gets bad critiques from the judges, his eyes well up with tears, and you can just see his emotions, and just like that, you can see it here when sings. He gets in some great runs, especially at the end.
It looks like it could be Brandon Rogers in the audience, as Randy Jackson says he really loves the show this time of year to see who here to win, and for the first time in a long time for him, Chris is in it to win. Randy also mentions Chris’ “fly jacket.” Paula Abdul calls this a great song choice and really well done. She’s proud of Chris to see where his entire journey has gone and thinks it’s exciting to see. Simon knows what Randy means and says he kind of feels that the competition starts properly tonight. It’s reminding him of the first time they saw Chris. They said at the time “this guy has potential.” Tonight it was a good vocal with much more soul and a more “sexy performance.” Simon said that; not me.
We see another clip, and this time it’s Ryan, Paula, and Randy touring some of the poorer parts of the United States that need our attention. Randy went back to his home state of Louisiana to visit families affected with poverty and violence from Hurricane Katrina, and is seen hugging a local woman telling her it’s going to get better. As we hear John Mayer’s Waiting On the World to Change, we see additional trips to the Appalachian Mountains to fight literacy, and the Navajo Nation in Arizona. Ryan and Paula visit his hometown of Atlanta to help out in a mobile health unit that takes care of kids that can’t afford health care. It’s these people that will be helped tonight and tomorrow, and these organizations that will be receiving the money.
Melinda Doolittle is choosing to sing There Will Come a Day by Faith Hill, as it not only speaks of the problems that exist in the country and world today, but also about a hope for a better tomorrow, which is what tonight is all about. As she sings tonight, you can see one of her famous stories unfolding that Paula always talks about. Melinda is either sweating or shedding tears as we see a drop fall and hit the stage, and I believe I see some tear-stained makeup, so that answers that.
Randy knows he says it every week, but Melinda is the resident pro and so dope, as she has it all together in every performance. She has arrived; Melinda is here. Paula says it must feel great week after week getting the praise, love, support, and great critiques. There’s no one like Melinda, as she’s magical. Simon teases, and asks if she’s going to look surprised. What he loved is that this wasn’t a copycat performance, as she took the song and absolutely made him believe she’d recorded it originally. The second half was incredible, and it really was a vocal masters class. Noting that Simon’s shirt is open to the navel nearly, Ryan suggests playing Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?
Blake Lewis answers a viewer question and states the biggest sacrifice he has had to make since becoming involved with American Idol is missing his family and friends back home. He feels lucky to have their support in being here, especially on this special night. He is honored to sing Imagine by John Lennon, as it’s about committing together as one in an ideal world. Although we might not be able to accomplish that tonight, we can start by making it a better place. It sounds like the piano accompaniment missed a note, but instead it’s just a unique chord change they seem to have put on this song. I’m guessing there won’t be any beat boxing tonight from Blake, and I’m relieved to find I’m right. He makes it a little too breathy at times, and while he’s showing some emotion with the song, there’s this blank stare he does when singing ballads that is sometimes disarming.