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The thing about inspiration is, much like Bugs Bunny, it usually doesn’t come when you’re running after it with a big net. Yet, here we are at “Inspiration” week on American Idol, in which everyone will take a page from the David Archuleta handbook and use pop music to convince us that they care about the Earth and the people on it. They hype machine regarding these inspiring performances and tomorrow’s giving extravaganza has been in overdrive for the past month. And if there’s one thing that hype does best, it’s making you want to hurry and get a thing over with, so let’s start by quickly marking the heights of faith and believing and dreams and whatnot we’ll reach tonight. And if you take a shot of tequila every time someone mentions dreams, faith, hope, charity, or inspiration, you might even have a good time doing it!

Let the Back-Patting Begin!

Ryan seems especially chipper and sprite-like tonight; I guess because the faux-hawk is just so pointy. What’s more, he can’t stop smiling, even when moving to introduce the judges. Since we’re here, I just have to say that Randy’s sideburns have also gotten disturbingly pointy lately; they’ve gone from regular mutton chops to looking like the state of Idaho. That can’t be on purpose can it? Unless it’s a subliminal ad for potatoes? But I thought we already had Carly for that. Anyway, I guess it isn’t fair to just pick on Randy’s hair, because Paula refuses to stop rocking the bouffant ponytail, and Simon continues to think that the landing strip on top of his head is stylish, so all in all, it’s a wash.

Now the Idols bring their big smile out onto the big stage, and Ryan informs us that tomorrow night they’ll be answering phones on the donation hotline, so be sure to call in and give at least eight times so you can speak to them all. Or you could just call in eight times, but that’s not really in the spirit of the week, is it?

So Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want

Luckily Michael Johns is up right away to inspire us all back into the right state of mind. He thought that a song about inspiration should be about finding ways to make your dreams come true, and so he came up with Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” which I never would’ve thought I’d hear on inspirational week, so thumbs up for that, Michael. Thumbs down for the return of the ascot. I guess he wants to start a trend of some sort, but look, Johns, it didn’t work for the po-hawk and it’s not going to work for you. As for the performance, it’s a pretty good way to get the evening going. Michael has a tendency to strain on his power notes, but overall his tone is full and throaty which fits the song well, and the band actually complemented his voice instead of running all over him. And I’m willing to pretend that those crazy falsetto wails never ever happened.

Randy says he still doesn’t know who Michael is but he ain’t Aerosmith, and Michael snaps back something about having to do this song because he’s living in America where dreams come true. Well, I see at least one person is read up on his AI literature. But then Randy drops the party line and says this show doesn’t have anything to do with dreams. I think my heart stopped right at that moment. The sight of Sinbad in the audience brings me back though. Paula goes on to babble about how much she disagrees with Randy and says Michael sounded as good as he looked, and something about her Chihuahuas jumping up on stage. I’m not even going to try with that one. Simon says it was a good performance, but Michael looked too much like a wannabe rock star, instead of the wannabe blues star which Simon prefers. Paula shouts that Michael is not a wannabe. Zig-a-zig-ah.

False Dawn

Syesha’s on. I bet you can feel my seething distaste through the computer screen right now. She’s in the interview stools with Ryan talking about how she used to room with Ramiele and saying how she really misses her with a huge smile on her face. Anyway. Syesha has chosen to sing “I Believe” which you might recall as Fantasia’s coronation single back in season three, or as LaKisha Jones’s offering for last year’s inspiration week. Wonderful. I think pretty much everyone is going to have the same thing to say about why they chose the song they did, so I’m going to leave it, and that also lets me off the hook of having to report all this girl’s fakey-fake sentiments. We all win. I will admit that I think Fantasia’s is the best of the Idol singles; that’s not saying a whole lot, but Syesha’s voice is not rich or compelling enough to make me forget Fantasia’s emotional original or even LaKisha’s cover, so whatever.

Randy appreciates that Syesha took on another big challenge this week but says she again failed to live up to the expectation. Syesha says Fanny is her Idol, but Randy says she didn’t have a smidgen of the emotional connection Fantasia brought to the song. I die a little inside when Randy and I agree, but it is what it is. Syesha says something sassy. Paula comes to her rescue and says that what Fantasia does is one thing, but Syesha had her own shining moment tonight. Simon says that Syesha is plum dumb to expect not to be compared when she’s taking on things that are so strongly identified with their original singers. He says ultimately that Syesha sang beautifully while not having any personal sincerity about her. I love that they’re all calling her fake. I’m sure she hates it.

Strumming and Dreams, and Dreads! Oh, My!

A tinkling piano ushers in Jason’s dewy clip package, wherein he talks about his song choice and how much it gives him hope. Jason is singing Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s (ha! I didn’t even have to Google it.) (Okay so I Wikipedia’d, but only to double-check.) beautiful ukulele remix of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Jason has brought his own ukulele to strum, and I don’t know from ukulele playing so I have nothing to complain about there. As a matter of fact the whole performance is peaceful, completely inoffensive, and one of Jason’s best, but I’d still rather listen to Iz any day, so.

Randy thinks it was hot. Paula says his sound is definitive, and even though that’s not quite the correct word usage, she is long due so I’m just going to give her credit for actually saying something that made sense. Seal claps for Paula! Simon thought it was fantastic. I’ve never known him to say so few words before in my life, so well done there, Jason.

Not Voting, Anyway

We turn now to Kristy Lee Cook, whose infamous stick-to-itiveness joined with constant suckiness have well nigh made her legendary. This week should be cake for her, since her preferred country niche is chock-a-block with uplifting tunes. In her package she talks about how Martina McBride’s song “Anyway” speaks to her because it has a verse about sticking to your guns even if people don’t like you. I will always give Kristy credit for being really self-aware. So she goes for it, all mournful and droopy-eyed, and singing about “singing it anyway,” because this is her passion, and who isn’t a tiny bit won over by her shrewdness? Randy is; he thought it was really good, in spite of a few pitch problems. Paula says forget the pitch, because this is Kristy’s best performance by far. Simon gives her thumbs up for playing to her strengths and showing “who she is” as an artist. He goes a step further and states that Kristy is totally smart for always appealing to the right people, and calls her a looker on top of all that. Well. I’ll certainly be surprised if Kristy makes it through another week, won’t you?

Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

I was going to use that subtitle for Kristy, but what the heck do you know, she’s the Cook who sucked the least this week. Spoiler. Anyway, David is singing Our Lady Peace’s “Innocent,” which drives him to see good in everyone. It turns out to be an unfortunate choice that lets us see the bad in David’s voice; his bass register is almost useless. But he picks up a little when he gets to the higher key of the chorus and gets joined by the ton of extra backup singers they’ve got this week just to add that tabernacle choir panache to all the goings on. David loses me when he hops into the mosh pit and ends by flashing his palm to the camera with the words “give back” written on it, because that’s just too supercilious to take seriously on a show like this.

Randy didn’t get it at all. Paula drones a bunch of stuff about David being the whole package and says hpw much she believes in him, which cleverly fills her allotted time without her having to say how much she thought this sucked, which you can clearly see on her face. Score two for Paula tonight. Simon says the whole performance was pompous, because he’s wearing a white jacket and singing a message song. Wait, I thought that was the whole point of this thing. Somebody get me the press release.

Coming On Strong

Carly. We all know she’s been kicked in the teeth by life before, so I’m sure we can all infer how much this means to her, and blah blah, yackety schmackety. She’s singing Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” and what are they, the mascots of this season? On the bright side, Carly’s finally learned how to dress this week, with slimming vertical stripes on her tank top and sturdy dark wash jeans. As for the singing, her voice is as powerful as ever, but she falters some on the higher power notes and is a bit too forceful in general. They give her a bona-fide music video though, with blinding white spotlights over the crowd, and quick jumps from Carly to the dynamic movements in the string section, so that’s fun.

Randy deems the whole thing “just okay.” What’s with him tonight? By this time, he’s usually doled out enough “dawgs” to start a pet shop, but he’s just kind of a bastard tonight. Anyway Paula says Carly’s voice was perfect, but that she didn’t feel engaged with Carly as she sang. Simon gives her props on the looks, but didn’t like the song choice, and thinks she oversang the whole thing. He says she looked angry, which is just not the point of inspirational week, thank you very much. Carly says she got thrown off a bit by seeing Simon’s face during the middle of her song, which excuse might’ve worked if she had burst out into peals of laughter at some point, but since she didn’t, I’m not buying it.

The Littlest Arch Angel

David Archuleta is back to inspire us yet again. Of course, he had only too many choices he’d like to sing during such a momentous week, but he finally settled on Robbie Williams’s “Angels,” which is kind of un-schlocky, and so a complete surprise coming from David A. Good for him. He’s back at the piano, singing quietly but also proving that he is another without much power in his low range. Just like David Cook though, when he gets the chance to soar during the refrain, he does a much better job and finishes the song in style.

Randy loved it and says this was Little David’s hottest moment yet, but he says that every week, so who in the world listens to him anymore anyway. Paula is satisfied with echoing Randy. Simon says this was a fantastic song choice and that this song is one of the best songs ever. He doesn’t think this was one of David’s best performances however; it was nasally and uneven, but none of what he says matters a pitch, because he knows David has this things well sewn up by now. Quiet as it’s kept, I think Simon thinks David A. is going to win the show. Don’t tell anybody though.

End It On This

Closing our evening of inspiration is loveable Brooke White. Big shocker: she’s singing Carole King. “You’ve Got A Friend” is the song, and it means a lot because Brooke once sang it with a group of her friends. That has to warm your heart, right? Even if you don’t know them, yeah? Brooke is letting someone else handle the piano tonight; she stands center stage holding on to the mic stand for dear life, and singing an uninventive but sweet and strong rendition. Randy thought it was a’ight, Paula goes to Nostalgiaville remembering how her sister always played that song, and Simon finishes us up by saying that it was kind of like “a walk in the park.” I see someone’s been working on refreshing his analogies. Good show, sir!

We’re already overtime, so my DVR cuts off before the performance recap plays, but that’s okay because I’ve already recapped them all, and you probably don’t need the phone numbers anyway because unlike last year’s fixed donation deal, our votes this week don’t count for squat in terms of real dollars (hi, Newscorp!). The spectacle of viewer manipulation also known as Idol Gives Back stands in our way before the results show Thursday night. The brilliant AJane will be back then to tell you all about which kid gets to live down the shame of being kicked off on charity week. Don’t miss it!

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