Guess what, y'all? No Sanjaya performance on tonight's American Idol. But don't forget, it's Idol Gives Back night, in which people's votes translate into money for charity. Don't understand it? Don't worry! I'm sure they will go over it a few more times.
And tonight's mentor is, I kid you not, Bono. OK, you probably knew that. I probably knew that at some point. But anyway: That should be interesting. (Turns out he will be on the show tomorrow, not this evening, so it's not the usual mentorship.)
First, Ryan Seacrest introduces footage of his and Simon's trip to Africa. It is, not surprisingly, quite wrenching.
The theme this evening is "inspirational songs," which is fitting considering the other theme of the evening.
Chris Richardson is up first, and he will be singing "Change the World" by Eric Clapton. No mentor footage, he just launches right into it. I could be wrong, but it sure seems like he's making an effort to not sing through his nose, so maybe he learned something. Randy says he showed he's in it to win it. Paula says he did "fantastic" and "well done" and then discusses how exciting his "journey" has been. Simon says, "It kind of feels like the competition starts properly tonight." He said it had more soul in it and was a sexy performance, and he did "really well."
How random. Ivanka Trump is in the audience. There is always someone who makes you go "Wha?" in the audience.
Next, Ryan shows some footage from some needy areas in the United States. Randy visits Louisiana. And others visited rural Kentucky, Arizona, parts of Atlanta, and Paula and Ryan stopped by a mobile medical unit, but they don't say where.
Melinda Doolittle is going to sing "There Will Come a Day" by Faith Hill. Miss Consistent gives another excellent performance. Randy says she has arrived, and he doesn't even know what to say anymore. Paula says it must feel good to get such praise every week, and calls her magical. Simon says it wasn't a copycat performance, and she absolutely made him believe she had recorded the song herself, and that it was "a vocal master class." Ryan ribs Simon about his open shirt (you can practically see his ribs), asking if anyone has seen his button.
Blake Lewis gets a viewer question about the hardest thing about the competition. He says being apart from his friends and family. He's going to sing "Imagine." He sings technically pretty well, but emotionally it feels kind of hollow to me, like he is kind of separate from the presentation of the meaning of the song, if that makes sense. Randy says it's a great choice of song, but that performance was "just kind of a'ight for me ... didn't really move me." Paula says she was feeling that at the beginning, but that once she started thinking about how emotional the song is, she decided it was his most sensitive performance yet. Huh? Simon says it's a tricky on because he chose "one of THE big songs of all time." He said it sounded sincere but didn't go anywhere, but the most important part was that he sang it with sincerity.
Ryan introduces more footage of a feeding center at a village in Africa.
LaKisha Jones is going to sing "I Believe" by Fantasia. It starts out kind of too low for her, but not for long. She's in her element belting pretty quickly. Randy says it was a great song choice, that she had a couple of pitch problems, that it wasn't her best performance, but he still liked it. Paula says she is a powerhouse of a vocalist and took on a monster of a song, and basically compares Fantasia to Mariah, Whitney and Chaka. That because her voice is so unique, it's hard to hear anyone but her singing that song. Hmmm, OK, I guess I can follow that logic, but that it doesn't take away from her vocals. Simon says, "I kind of think I know what Paula was trying to say, which is that she preferred Fantasia's version. ... Again, I'm having an issue LaKisha, with the shouting." He doesn't get to finish her thought because the audience overwhelms him with boos.
Phil Stacey takes a viewer question, what he misses most about home. He says his little daughters, who are with their grandparents this week. He's going to sing "The Change" by Garth Brooks. Is it just me, or is he stepping up yet again? He does have a few weird little notes, but there are so many big notes in the song that it's pretty easy to focus elsewhere. Randy says he is happy because he is back again with another really nice vocal on a really great song. Paula says he really "found your comfort." (An aside: I always feel like Paula isn't quite using the part of speech she means to, often using adjectives when she wants adverbs -- "You sang fantastic!" -- and here, it just seems like she didn't finish the sentence. I'm the last person who should be talking about public speaking, but I had to mention it.) She says it's his best. Simon says he really likes him, and he's back with a spring in his step and a good song choice, but that last week, he had more of a country tone to his voice, and that really suits him more. And hey, if he goes country, he can wear cowboy hats to cover up his dome.
Ryan introduces a segment about feeding centers in the U.S., called Second Harvest. Simon visits a center in L.A.
Jordin Sparks is going to sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." It starts a little rough, but it's weird. You just kind of forget she has this giant voice, and when she busts out with it, it's kind of a surprise every time. Randy says that it was one of the best vocals of any contestant on the show ever, and she's only 17. Paula says she did a great job with a hard song and calls her "glorious." Simon says she was fantastic, and that she could have a hit record with that song even though it's 60 years old.
I think Blake, LaKisha and Chris might be in trouble. When did Phil get kind of good? This is freaky. I don't think I can deal.