The unpleasant slog through American Idol's unimpressive ninth season continued last night as Alicia Keys showed up to guide the remaining seven hopefuls through "inspirational songs" tied to the show's all-star Idol Gives Back telethon. The tunes — by R. Kelly, Goo Goo Dolls and Nickelback (yes, really) — mainly inspired negative critiques from the judges, save for Crystal Bowersox, who is so clearly the most talented in the group it's almost criminal to force the rest of the crew to get onstage for five more weeks.
Ones to Watch:
• Crystal Bowersox left her guitar at home, but brought her own mike stand (some sort of hippie candle stick) for her rendition of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready." She burst into tears upon spying her dad in the audience, and Simon Cowell told her what everyone's thinking: she's in a class by herself this season.
• Keys instructed Casey James to pack "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac with personality. He opted for some guitar doodles and his winning grin, which weren't enough to land the judges' endorsement this week.
• It's unclear why the judges have been pulling for Michael Lynche, but what about their epic love for Lee DeWyze? The former paint salesman (don't they love to point that out?) sang a so-so version of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" with an orchestra, and Cowell gushed, "absolutely brilliant."
• Aaron Kelly took on a song by R. Kelly, "I Believe I Can Fly," that he says he's been singing since he was five. After a plethora of painful "lift-off" references during judging, the consensus was definitely meh.
• In her own way, Siobhan Magnus has brought a dose of Paula Abdul back to Idol this season — when she starts talking, you never really know where she's going, or where it'll end. Last night she responded to the judges' critique that "When You Believe," made famous by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, was too big a diva song to tackle with an epic ramble.
• Cowell's biggest criticism for Michael Lynche was that he selected a song from the Spider-Man soundtrack (Nickelback's "Hero"). DioGuardi more helpfully pointed out that his voice didn't have the right tone for the tune.
Thanks for the Memories:
• Tim Urban was so far off-key during his take on the Goo Goo Dolls' "Better Days," even Ellen DeGeneres couldn't find anything nice to say. That, young Tim, is the sign of the Idol apocalypse.