ended its night of giving by taking away a contestant. That's right, after a night of A-list performances, bad comedy bits and some moving telethon-worthy packages about the work being done by charities stateside and abroad, one more Idol
hopeful's dream ended. So, who turned out to help Idol
's cause? And which singer said goodbye?
First, a message from President Barack Obama. "Ya'll are all my dawgs," he said in his show-opening address, quoting Randy Jackson. He and first lady Michelle Obama thanked everyone in advance for giving generously to the cause. And Mrs. Obama told Simon to be nice.
Over in Pasadena, Calif., Queen Latifah — not Brian Dunkleman — co-hosted and fired up a crowd that was on hand to witness most of the night's musical performances. We'll get to those a little later. Back in the Idol
studio, the judges were all dressed up — Simon even wore a jacket before finale night — and the contestants decked out in white. Is white the color of giving? To kick off the show, this season's eliminated singers return for one more group lip-synch.Top 12 Group Number, "Keeping the Dream Alive"
As usual, it was pre-recorded and somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Lyrically, I suppose the song set the tone for the evening, but the whole number felt a little cheesy. At least the show rightly gave Crystal the spotlight, as she dominated most of the performance.
Jennifer Garner visited the home of a family in Kentucky's Breathitt County, a low-income area. The family often has to use their kitchen stove for heat, and the family's four children were reading below their grade level. Money from Save the Children helped put books in classrooms and has helped the kids catch up.
Back in the studio, Victorica Beckham sits with two other children who have overcome reading difficulties through Save the Children programs. I guess to show the importance of reading, Beckham reads her whole speech from a teleprompter. Even when she's introducing the kids, she can't even pull off a natural head turn.Comedy
Since all the comedy routines that were spaced through the night were rather lame, I'll address them each here.
Jonah Hill and Russell Brand's phone bank bit — they promised Ryan to get their celeb buddies to answer calls, but no one showed up — was way overdone and unfunny. The eventual punch line was that they got look-alikes and relatives of famous people there, and when Jim Carrey showed up, he was scared away. I would have preferred it if that dopey duo had just walked out, said the name of their movie and been done with it.
George Lopez was the highest bidder to replace Ryan in revealing the results. After playing with the dimming of the lights and having the singers stand up and down, he decided to judge the judges. He basically made jokes from three years ago, called Kara by the name Carla D'Guido (sensitive!) and told Simon that America voted him back to London, but he couldn't fly because of the Icelandic volcano. Yawn.
Wanda Sykes, whom I love, basically just made fun of Idol
, including a second joke about Simon's nipples. It would have been funny if it all wasn't so obvious. And if the show hadn't gone over its scheduled end time by 26 minutes, much of which could have been saved by nixing the comedy. (And sorry, Ryan, but saying repeatedly that the show is going to go long is no excuse. The producers could book fewer bits.)Black Eyed Peas, "Rock That Body"
The sound mix was all kinds of messed up, which only further emphasized Will.I.Am's lack of singing talent, even with heavy auto-tuning. But hey, at least he was singing live. Not sure what Fergie was going for with her superhero outfit, but it kind of scared me.
Ryan then narrated a package about malaria, and a man who lost his wife and unborn daughter because they couldn't get to the hospital in time. A $10 malaria net could have prevented two deaths.Jeff Beck, Joss Stone and the Jubilation Choir, "I Put a Spell on You"
The choice of song was a little odd. Jeff Beck is amazing and I've always found Joss Stone easy to listen to. Although, I did get distracted when Stone repeatedly sang "I can't stand it" and it sounded like "I can't stained it."
Morgan Freeman and Randy Jackson traveled to Mississippi for a look at poor graduation rates and childhood illiteracy. Freeman takes it an extra step to include physical fitness. "Literacy is the ladder out of poverty," Freeman says, "but we've got to be fit enough to climb." He urges education and graduation as a way to ensure our next generation is competitive in the world.Alicia Keys, "Unthinkable" and "Empire State of Mind Pt. 2"
This week's mentor got to sing two full songs, and though I think Keys is super talented, her voice was clearly not all there. She sounded pained throughout both songs, but she soldiered on and gave it her best.Carrie Underwood, "Change"
She sounded better than pretty much anyone else who took the stage. Among all these big names, the little country girl whom Idol
found showed them all up. (Of course, she is a big name now, too.) Also, 36 cents from every ticket sold on the fall leg of Underwood's tour will go to charity.
David Cook traveled as a United Nations Foundation ambassador to Ethiopia to visit a school that takes care of girls who would otherwise be swept up by the country's sex trade. It's absolutely heartbreaking, but most of the girls, many of whom have lost their parents, remain hopeful that they will someday be doctors, nurses and teachers.
Annie Lennox shares the night's most moving story, as she introduces a 7-year-old girl who was born HIV positive and developed AIDS. At 7, she weighs as much as a 1-year-old child and has pneumonia, which the doctors think will kill her. However, a couple months later, she has responded to treatment and has recovered, gaining lots of weight and looking incredibly healthy. The uplifting story was remarkable.Annie Lennox, "Universal Child"
Lennox performed from London because the Icelandic volcano prevented her from performing live in L.A. as she planned. Her song was simple but powerful, and beautifully sung.Mary J. Blige, "Stairway to Heaven"
I think she's awesome, but this performance had too much going on. The "All-Star Band" as it was dubbed consisted of Randy Jackson on bass, Orianthi and Steve Vai on guitars and Travis Barker on the drums. Unfortunately, it didn't feel very cohesive. Mary sang well, but the whole thing was a bit all over the place.
Simon visits Arizona where a young girl has benefited from the Children's Health Fund's mobile units, which travel into rural areas. We also meet the young girl's physician, Dr. John, who travels in these units, providing care to those in need. But the need is great. "How do we get 100 Dr. Johns?" Simon asked while sitting with the family. Back in the studio, Simon reported that since the broadcast began, the show had already raised $15 million.Elton John, "Your Song"
I was bored senseless by his performance. Maybe it's just the billionth time I've heard the song. John did get to plug his AIDS foundation and promoted the use of condoms and regular HIV testing. And the crowd loved his performance, so what do I know?The Bottom Three
Despite all of the evening's good will, the show had to attend to the business of sending someone home. But first, an announcement: Shania Twain, who was great as a guest judge during auditions, will mentor next week. But the Idols have to sing her music. That could be bad.
And so, the three unlucky contestants who had to sweat it out:Aaron Kelly
His performance wasn't terrible, but the song choice was. He was the first person Ryan sent back to safety, and I hope his placement in the bottom 2 the past two weeks lights a fire under him to choose a more interesting song next week. (He should do well in country music, I'd think.)Casey James
He of the golden locks and equally golden smile has yet to be in the bottom 3, but that's exactly where he landed tonight. Again, he's been consistent vocally, but he has got to show some diversity week to week if he wants to stay around. And he will get at least one more shot, as he is also safe.Tim Urban
That means at long last, Teflon Tim was sent home. For Tim to make it this far after being cut from Hollywood Week is some kind of achievement. He clearly should have gone home weeks ago, but at least he's been a lovable punching bag.
So, what did you think of the show? Glad Tim is gone? Who do you think will win? Vote below in our poll and sound off in the comments.