American Idol‘s second annual anti-poverty charity drive Idol Gives Back was a night for huge voices (Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood), big emotions (a weepy Annie Lennox, a generous Simon Cowell) and sizeable mistakes (Terry Hatcher singing Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” Ryan Seacrest inexplicably shuffling offstage along with the So You Think You Can Dance? stars). And don’t forget about the big corporate sponsors — Idol certainly didn’t.
The night began with the season seven contestants singing Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” and continued with Snoop Dogg performing “Can’t Say Goodbye” with help from Charlie Wilson and a pack of kids who play in his youth-football league. Miley Cyrus took the stage twice, and Fergie sang once with John Legend and again with Heart, punctuating her contributions to the latter by writhing around the stage in leather pants and doing two one-handed cartwheels (alas, Heart devotee Carly Smithson didn’t get to join in the fun).
After appearing in a moving pre-taped segment filmed in Africa, Annie Lennox played Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross,” and Underwood sang George Michael’s “Praying for Time.” Sheila E. (another alum of an Idol-affiliated show, The Next Great American Band) joined Gloria Estefan for “Get on Your Feet,” and the Idol contestants returned to harmonize on “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent. Brad Pitt introduced Daughtry’s appearance, and the night ended with Randy Jackson backing Mariah Carey on bass for “Fly Like a Bird.”
Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams attempted to lighten the mood, but it was hard to contend with the extremely serious tone of the show’s documentary segments, which featured Bono, Daughtry and Alicia Keys in Africa, Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus in rural Kentucky, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson in California farm country and Cowell in Harlem, New York.