Tonight the remaining seven contestants perform on American Idol, and it’s also Idol Gives Back week.
I confess: I haven’t seen an Idol Gives Back show. Ever. I’m usually in Nashville for GMA week, and since there isn’t a GMA week this year, I’m home. Yay!
So join me here tonight as the contestants perform inspirational songs.
Tonight’s mentor is Alicia Keyes, and the song choices are “songs of inspiration.” Keyes says she’ll help the contestants bring out the emotion in the songs and help them “be a part of something that’s bigger than just them.”


Casey James is up first, singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop”, which Keyes calls “one of the biggest songs in the universe.” Is that an inspirational song? It’s encouraging, I guess. Casey looks like he got a little sun this week. It’s a typical Casey performance: good vocals, great guitar, but more like a guy doing a cover. Which is, I guess, what it essentially is. Randy says it was a good performance, but not his best. He wants to see something special. Ellen says great guitar playing, but she’s going to be tougher. She says he’s consistantly good but he needs to be great. Kara says it was like “jam band” and she’s frustrated because he’s just like everybody else. Simon says “it wasn’t particularly inspiring” and calls it a lazy song choice.
Lee Dewyze is up next, singing Simon and Garfunkle’s “The Boxer.” Lee always looks nervous, like he’s never quite comfortable when the camera gets to him. He tells Ryan that the song he chose tonight inspired him when he was a kid. Alicia has Lee speak the words to her, so she can help him connect with what the song is about. Lee’s playing the guitar, orchestra in the background. He’s actually a bit pitchy tonight. I think I would have liked this better just him and the guitar. Randy says he’s one of Lee’s biggest fans, and he thinks Lee is a great artist and will have a big career. Ellen says it was a beautiful song choice, and he’s showing more depth and he’s getting better and better. Kara says it was his “moment” in the competition. Simon says it was the best of the night (laughs), saying that the difference between Lee and Casey was “staggering.” Simon says he’s never been a “massive fan” of that song but Lee made it sound like it was written last week, adding “brilliant.” OK, I’m going to be honest: I don’t think that was Lee’s best performance. It was good, but maybe I missed something the judges saw.

Ryan points out Capt. Sully in the audience, the famous pilot who landed a jet in the Hudson River last year.
Tim Urban’s singing The Goo Goo Dolls “Better Days”. (Over at Joe’s Place Blog, their rehearsal spy said this was “Really good, his best week. Belting notes!”) Alicia says about Tim’s song choice, “I really like it on him.” He’s a little pitchy, like maybe he’s nervous. But he pulled that off. Randy calls it “OK good karaoke.” Ellen says he’s like soup of the day, sometime she likes it, sometimes not, and today she doesn’t like it. Kara says it’s the place he should be but it wasn’t the best execution. Simon says if it was the first week they saw him they’d have liked it, but remember it was only a few weeks ago he was jumping all over the stage so he’s not sure he believes this performance. Simon calls it a little bit of a letdown. But they say he’s growing.
Aaron Kelly is singing “I Believe I Can Fly.” Alicia says he needs to almost be crying by the end of the song. I think the song is too much for Aaron. Well, he pulled it off at the end. Randy says he picked a giant song, calls the arrangement strange, but he has “pure vocal talent” and did “a good job with such a giant song.” Ellen says “there was a brief time in the 70s when I believed I could fly” and says he was “real good.” Kara says it was like taking off, going down the runway and by the end he took off. Simon says knowing Aaron and liking him, he gave it his all. In the real world, though, Simon says he would have turned it off in 10 seconds. Aaron says he first sang that song at preschool graduation.
Siobhan Mangus is up next, singing the Whitney/Mariah song, “When You Believe” from “The Prince of Egypt.” Alicia says the song is “no easy feat, this song” and says she’s impressed with Siobhan’s voice. I’m sooo glad that Siobhan left the screaming behind, and is really showing us what a beautiful voice she has. She’s learned the lesson that sometimes less is more. I also like how she’s been able to “commercialize” her song choices but still keep her funky looks. I don’t love the performance, but compared to the screaming she’s done, I’ll take this any day. Randy says she picked the toughest song of the night, and says it was “just OK.” Ellen says it was more confirmation why she’s here. Kara, says technically it was really well sung, but it started to feel like a musical and says she’d like to hang out with her more than buy her record. Simon says the arrangemetn was too old fashioned, and he was distracted by the leaves. Which are butterflies. Simon called the whole thing odd and all over the place. She says the meaning of the song is why she’s here and she can’t compare to Mariah or Whitney, and she just loves the song. I guess I disagree with the judges; I didn’t love love it, but I really liked it a whole lot.
Michael Lynche is up next, singing “Hero.” Big Mike apparently has been collecting songs for a couple of years in case he ever got onto Idol. Alicia says Big Mike makes this song his own. He starts just him and the guitar and the orchestra comes in. He’s on key, he’s building up the song as he goes. It just all feels right. He looks a little sloppy with the jeans and t-shirt. Randy says he was worried but Big Mike held is own and it worked out. Ellen says he did a great job. Kara says it wasn’t her favorite performance. Simon says he sang it pretty well but the theme is inspiration, but “the song was about Spiderman, right?” It felt a bit artificial, compared to last week when he was sensational. Good grief, am I watching a different show than the judges tonight? Maybe because I can’t seem to place the original song in my head, so I’m not comparing Big Mike’s to it? Or I’m just very tired?
Crystal Bowersox closes out the show, and she’s not playing an instrument tonight. She’s singing “People Get Ready.” Huh, two gospel songs in a row? Alicia says Crystal is one of her favorites; Crystal says she chose the song because she’s very grateful for everything in her life right now. Alicia says she knows people will love this performance. Crystal starts a capella, orchestra comes in with horns. It’s nice to see Crystal show she can sing without an instrument, cool mic stand with the hurricane lamp. And a tthe end, when she sings, “You just thank the Lord,” she bursts out crying. Ok that was the only song tonight that even fit the inspirational theme. Randy loves it, Ellen says she just keeps evolving and it was beautiful. Kara says thank you for taking a risk, and they call her MamaSox because she just schooled al the other contestants. Simon says, “That was inspirational,” and he’s strangely glad to see her emotional, and they all saw this song meant a lot to her and it was in a completely different class from everything else they heard tonight. The mic stand is Crystal’s from home, the one she always uses, and she says she cried because her dad is in the audience for the first time, and when she saw him she thought, “Thank the Lord” for everything and started crying.
So the recap: Casey did karaoke with great guitar, Lee is better on the replay (which was probably from rehearsal), Tim was good but pitchy, Aaron did karaoke, Siobhan is worse on the replay, Big Mike was great, and Crystal was just outstanding (and that was clearly from rehearsal, because there was no crying).
What do you think? Who stood out? Who fell flat?
Tomorrow night, two hours, Idol Gives Back. See you then!
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