After last week's double elimination, only seven finalists returned to the Idol stage to take on Inspirational Songs in honor of Idol Gives Back week. Didi Benami, Lacey Brown, and Paige Miles were in the audience, and Simon is wearing a vest, so you know it's going to be a big night.
Superstar Alicia Keys served as the mentor this week which is appropriate because she's a talented singer, songwriter, and piano player, and she also gives back to organizations like Keep A Child Alive to serve children affected by HIV/AIDS. Idol Gives Back is her favorite show so she's happy to be here this week.
A very orange Casey James kicked off the night with Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Yesterday's Gone)" which would've also been a great group song. I love that song! Alicia must've heard me, because she told Casey to connect with the song so that people don't say "I love that song" but they say they love him. Casey grabbed yet another guitar and took the stage in a blazer. Gone are the days of his button down paisley shirts -- he's in the big leagues now! His guitar skills are amazing, which the judges acknowledged, but they want to see him do something different. He's consistently good, but they need him to show originality and something different. They want "Jealous Guy" Casey back. Will Casey have the chance to search for a different guitar for Top 6 week?
Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" inspired Lee DeWyze to learn to play the guitar. I never knew this song was called "The Boxer," I always called it the "Lie la Lie" song. The judges really lie-la-liked it. Kara DioGuardi thought "Treat Her Like A Lady" wasn't Lee's moment like Simon had said, but she thought it happened this evening with "The Boxer." Simon called it sincere, emotional, inspirational, and brilliant. With that kind of praise, it's no wonder Lee is showing more confidence up on the stage!
Hey, Captain "Sully" Sullenberger is in the Idol audience. Talk about inspirational!
Tim Urban sang a more current inspirational song -- "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls. He also played his guitar, so I thought it was going to be the side of Tim that Kara likes. However, the judges didn't like Tim's Inspirational Week performance as much as his Elvis week performance. Randy said, "It was just kind of like okay good karaoke." A bit of a mixed message, but Ellen provided another analogy that made me hungry, saying, "You're like the Soup of the Day. Sometimes I like the soup and sometimes I don't. I've liked your soup, but today I didn't." Ryan talked about how Tim is always cool and collected and called him, "Gazpacho -- a cool soup." That works too because Gazpacho can be spicy or bland.
Aaron Kelly always knows how to make me feel old, and today it was by saying he has been singing "I Believe I Can Fly" since he was five years old. I wonder if he had "Space Jam" underoos. Alicia Keys said if Aaron's almost crying by the end of the song, then he'll have taken it to a whole new level. Aaron was accompanied by an orchestra, and although he didn't cry at the end, he did show a big side of his voice. The judges were mixed in their comments to Aaron; Ellen talked about believing she could fly in the '70s and Aaron gave her a little chuckle even though he probably didn't get the joke, Kara talked about taking off, and Simon talked about changing the radio. When Ryan read the voting number for "A. Kelly's version of R. Kelly," I was ashamed at myself for not picking up on a "fun with names" opportunity earlier.
Siobhan Magnus decided to break two suggested Idol rules to live by with one song. The unofficial Idol rule book states, "Never sing songs by Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, or Mariah Carey, unless you want to be compared to three of the greatest vocalists." Siobhan took on "When You Believe" which is sung as a duet between Whitney and Mariah. When Alicia met with Siobhan she said that the 20 year old can do things most people can't do with their voice. David Archuleta sang this as his Inspirational Week pick, but Siobhan made her version sound different. The judges commended her for picking a tough song, but Simon thought it was old fashioned and he didn't like the "leaves" on her body. They were butterflies, Simon. Perhaps another shout out to Ms. Mariah.
A handful of these inspirational songs are from movies, and Michael Lynche picked Chad Kroeger's "Hero." A great song, but not one I picture for Mike's smooth vocals. They're better for someone with gruff, growly vocals. However, Mike created a 200 entry songbook in case he ever made it on American Idol, and "Hero" was one of them. I love how premeditated his Idol journey was! He brought out his acoustic guitar and played along. The judges thought Mike did a pretty good job with the song, but Kara thought the song became unrecognizable, and Simon didn't think a song about Spider-Man could be inspirational. Um, the dude saves the world and gets the girl. Unless he was talking about the more recent emo Spider-Man -- that dude is less inspirational.
Closing out the night was Crystal Bowersox, without an instrument for the first time, and she's wearing a red-carpet ready dress. The girl is taking risks at the right time! She sang Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready." Crystal is playing this game well. Not only did she put down the instrument and step up the attire, brought a lamp-turned-microphone stand from home (not sure what that has to do with my point but it was cool looking), she started a capella, was later joined by an orchestra and back-up singers, and then ended it in tears (that was supposed to be you in tears, Aaron!). Randy gave her a standing ovation, Kara said she's called MamaSox because she "just schooled those contestants," and Simon said, "Now THAT was inspirational." Crystal said she was emotional to see her father in the audience. Cut to a man wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses indoors -- he's already so Hollywood!
Crystal reached for Ryan's pocket kerchief but then realized it was taped in there. "Hollywood," she replied with a shrug.
At the end of the show, Alicia Keys hopped up on stage in a floor length jumpsuit -- take notes, Paige Miles!
Ryan warned that the live show might go live so to be prepared, and while you're waiting for the show to start, give back!