The American Idol top seven were singing for more than their own suppers tonight.
In honor of the returning Idol Gives Back special, the finalists took to the stage to warble (and, in some cases, sob) songs of inspiration after a bit of tutoring by 12-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys.
Well, if we were singing for Ms. Keys, not to mention America's adoration and Simon Cowell's good graces, we'd hope to put on a good show.
But read on to find out how they did.
Casey James: The endlessly appealing rocker turned in yet another feel-good, roadhouse-appropriate sing-along performance, this time tackling Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." Which Casey definitely should not, because we're pretty sure he's soaked up enough good will to carry him to at least the top three. "We're looking for something a little more special," Randy Jackson said. "You're consistently good, but I don't think anyone's going to be talking about that tomorrow," concurred Ellen DeGeneres. "You made yourself like everybody else tonight," lamented Kara DioGuardi. "That wasn't particularly inspiring, zero emotion...I actually thought it was a lazy song choice," sniffed Simon Cowell.
Lee Dewyze: Leave it to Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Lee to inspire with "The Boxer." He turned this Simon & Garfunkel greatest hit into a new stadium-rock song, and we wish he had been allowed to sing and strum his guitar for longer than 60 seconds. Kara spied a Moment, and Simon called the difference between Lee's and Casey's performances "staggering." "That was sincere, it was emotional, it was inspirational...You made it sound as if it was written a week ago," he said. "I thought it was absolutely brilliant, good for you."
Tim Urban: He didn't sound particularly great, but Tim's flat, pleasing voice sounded as good as plenty of other singer-songwriter types while taking on the Goo Goo Dolls' "Better Days." Ellen, bless her heart, wasn't a big fan of the soup of the day this week. Simon is still drinking the Kool-Aid, though, saying it was "a little bit of a letdown" but would have been impressive if it had been the first time they'd seen him.
Aaron Kelly: The kid was throwing some wild pitches out there. The end of his increasingly confident cover of R. Kelly's Space Jam theme song, "I Believe I Can Fly," was a slam dunk, however, resulting in a split decision (not to mention some mixed metaphors). The judges complimented him for taking on such a big song, but "in the real world, if we'd heard that on the radio, I would have turned it off in 10 seconds," Simon concluded. 'It wasn't very good, but you kind of made it quite good."
Siobhan Magnus: Fascinating! Her booming interpretation of the Mariah Carey (or Whitney Houston) ballad "When You Believe" was a combination disaster and mesmerizing pop-culture oddity, the 20-year-old looking so confident and poised yet sounding so...bizarre. Siobhan hit some beautiful notes, as always, yet also had us cringing on our couches. Randy made sure to note that the song was by two of the most "amazing, stylized singers." Thanks for that. Simon said she had definitely picked the wrong song and the performance was "all over the place." Kara said it was technically well-sung, so it must have sounded different up close.
Michael Lynche: More flying, this time thanks to Big Mike and Nickelback's "Hero." It sounded good to us, rich and melodious, but Simon quibbled with its origins. "That was about Spider-Man, wasn't it?" the Brit asked, recalling the first film in the superhero trilogy.
Crystal Bowersox: The previous six were all just placeholders before this one took the stage without her guitar, or an instrument of any kind, for the night's final performance. And she didn't disappoint. Crystal tore into Ziggy Marley's "People Get Ready" with both hands, her feet, a full set of teeth, etc., and ended the performance in tears, overcome by emotions. Randy gave her a standing-O for her efforts. "You have never looked more beautiful, and you keep evolving and growing," praised Ellen. "You know why they call you Mama Sox?" Kara asked. "Because you schooled all those other contestants." And Simon deemed her performance to be "in a completely different class" than all the ones that came before it.
Someone's leaving tomorrow, but there will be music and good cheer aplenty as the top seven and a host of all-stars, including Elton John, the Black Eyed Peas and Carrie Underwood, take the stage for hunger-battling charities in the U.S. and Africa on the two-hour Idol Gives Back special.
Do you agree that Crystal was in a class by herself tonight? Since he's stuck in a rut, is Casey winning votes based purely on cuteness? And, if someone does indeed go home tomorrow, who should it be?! Discuss in the comments, please.
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