...What in the holy hell was that? It was like that part in Clockwork Orange, crossed with the Jerry Lewis telethon. My irony meter is like permanently bent. I think I cried. I think I went running all Sanjaya wild through the streets. I don't really remember what happened. Ryan held down the stage at the Idol studios, and Ellen D was taking care of business at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, those things are true. So but then Earth Wind & Fire goes insane on a medley of songs, and then Randy remembers how New Orleans had a crackhead Leroy, then a Katrina, and then shows us how much things still suck there, and it's pretty hard to deal with, because the trailer parks FEMA gave them are full of drugs and gunshots so the kids can't go outside, but there's a community center that gives them a safe place to be, which needs money. The Idols hang out with Quincy Jones, and then sing a world-music kind of song about how it's time to care, with total insanity noises in the background like Banjo & Kazooie, which is only mildly insulting in that Lion King way, then Ben Stiller persists in thinking he's just the cutest fucking thing, then we see the gritty details of Simon and Ryan's trip to Africa, and they are quite gritty, and they include cryin' Ryan and cryin' Simon, and I guess I do have feelings, because turns out I cannot handle those two men crying for anything, so I was pretty much a waste for the next hour, and then Melinda is safe at this point, then Paula goes to the Boys & Girls Club around the corner and meets a little girl who isn't entirely believable but nonetheless has a believably hard life. Paula cries; I feel nothing.
Then Il Divo. Not in my fuckin' house.
Then Jack Black being, as usual, so mysteriously effin' hot, and Blake is safe, and still makes me wanna shoop, and then Carrie sings to African kids and then puts flowers on their parents' graves. This is in a music video. Then Rascal Flatts sings a song, then we go to Kentucky, which is even more tragic than we thought, and much is made of illiteracy, which is my personal thing I really can't handle and makes me hand out money, so that's when I donated some money, then the pimpmercial is "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," but inside the pimpmercial is a total freak-out hell-ride of a bunch of celebrities singing "Stayin' Alive," and that part was very GOD LOVES YOU AS HE LOVED JACOB, and supremely freaky, then Phil is safe, then Ryan and Simon cry some more in Africa, and it's heartbreaking, and like twice as intense, and I'm kind of not ready to talk about that either, so then Ellen pledges $100,000 and challenges her rich friends to match it, then she starts crying while she introduces Josh Groban, singing "The Josh Groban Song" with the African Children's Choir, then we meet some people from ExxonMobil and Esso Angola, who say with a straight face that they give a fuck about saving the lives of the people they're murdering, then a hundred actors say how many funerals they've been to, and all the movie stars in the world cannot equal the funerals that this one old African guy has been to, and most of them were kids, and lots of them were from malaria, which is stupid easy to fix if you've got a few bucks, and then Kelly Clarkson sings "Up To The Mountain" with Jeff Beck, Ben Stiller's still douching it up, the Simpsons feed Simpsonized Simon to the lions that ate Dunkelman, and then Lakisha is safe; at this point I stopped crying about Africa and started worrying about Jordin.
Randy hangs out with a kid and throws a football. The charities are: Save The Children, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Children's Health Fund, and America's Second Harvest. They are good charities and you should donate to them on any old day and not just via this stupid show. Then Celine Dion sings a duet with ELVIS PRESLEY. IN THE PAST. It's like Forrest Gump. In many, many ways. I got my cynicism back at that point, which was good because then there was Madonna in a moon-landing-fake kind of Malawi -- or, as she calls it, "the baby store" -- all guilting you and being all sucky, and then Annie Lennox singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" dressed like Kat McPhee, lots of intense African kids, and then Chris and Jordin are left, and then Chris is safe! Jordin is not! It's shocking! But then Jordin is safe too!
So all the votes from this week go to next week, and they lose the bottom two, and that's when Jordin wigs out, and then they sing "American Prayer," a song I suppose, with Bono lurking about, and he tells them all manner of things, including another really depressing story about a kid that died, and then they group-sing that song again. I am going to go take a nap for one million years and then do some thinking about these things. So far here's what I've got: I am glad that Sting wasn't there. It's pretty cynical to trade on the misfortune of others when you're part of the very multinational conglomerate that depends on keeping them down; it's pretty awesome to do something to make a change, even if it's something small. What makes me feel cynical is patting yourself on the back for doing so, when what you really need to be feeling is not fake bullshit Hallmark pride and a sensitive Phil Stacey kind of feeling that you cannot name, that will fade by tomorrow morning, when your real life starts up again. What you need is a holy Sanjaya kind of anger that doesn't stop until you've accomplished the job, today and all the days that come after that, until the end of your life, and that's how you know you changed the world.
Ryan starts out not really bringing his "A" game, and has to do the intro over again, including panning the camera backwards along the line of Idols, who are all wearing personalized bright-white outfits, and doing the whole thing over again. Ryan's smoothness is such that even as you're watching him fuck up, for like the first time ever, he gives the strong impression that it is not a fuckup, and that he and the camera guy are going to work together to bring this unfortunate situation to a conclusion agreeable to all parties. The judges are dressed up super nice for tonight's mega-nuts event, and you can see Simon's entire torso, which flirts with Ryan to an amazing degree, along with the rest of him. When they get like this it's confusing; it's like trying to be equal friends with both halves of a married couple: impossible and a little creepy. Ryan tells us that his "good friend" Ellen Degeneres is over at the Walt Disney concert hall, simulcasting or something. Ryan Seacrest called Ellen his good friend! Is that code for something? OMG are they dating?
Ellen offers for the millionth time to sing "Shoop," like she does at least once a day, and for the sixteenth year running, nobody's interested. "Ladies, what's my weakness? Australian Lipstick Lesbians!" Mine too! There's nothing worse than seeing Ellen at a loss, because she is so wonderful when she's on, but when she rests on her shtick like this, or God forbid gets aggressively earnest in the middle of a bit, it's hard to watch. I will always love her, but I think we should tell her that she doesn't have to be on all the time. That tank won't run on empty, but she persists in driving sometimes when the needle's past the red, and it's so unnecessary, because she's awesome just being normal. She simultroduces Earth Wind & Fire, who...seem to be from the future. The man sings like a lady, but dresses like an intergalactic assassin. Earth Wind & Fire is now my favorite band, I had no idea. They perform some disco song about a "Boogie Wonderland," I think, and it occurs to me that like, you know how I don't know the names of any songs? That's going to kill us tonight, because it's two hours of wall-to-wall singing, plus some AIDS. That's the mandate. There's a man playing the guitar that looks like Melinda. Oh, it's a medley! We'll just pretend I didn't say that above, because I actually do know all the songs. And as long as we're pretending, let's also pretending that I'm not bleep-blooping past my new favorite band.
Back to Ryan. Allstate produces a story about Randy remembering the 2004 New Orleans auditions, including that crackhead Leroy. Then, a year later, Katrina. The crowds were not quite so jubilant about that; they totally start with the scary music immediately. There's a bunch of footage of driving through the modern hell of New Orleans, and because this show is nothing if not on the nose, they start playing "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?" I don't know what to do with that. This whole two hours is bipolar? So you laugh and then it's like, "Now cry! Now laugh! Now stand up! Turn to Hymn #54! Sit down! Pray! Sign of the Cross! Cry! Laugh! Sing! Sit! Roll over!" and it's like, this whole event is so exhausting in many ways, but at least it limbers up your mental flexibility, because to navigate it at all you have to roll with those punches and stay with it. It's an endurance challenge. Randy sits in an air-conditioned sedan, being driven around. "The Dawg has come home...[beat]...to my home state." Because Randy's not actually from New Orleans, and we know that. He explains how...okay, you remember how Katrina ate New Orleans, and all those people died, and the rest of them were taken out of their homes and put into subhuman conditions at gunpoint, for months on end, because FEMA dropped every ball or spherical object it could get its hands on, and then after a few weeks, George Bush flew over it in a plane and couldn't even see the individual people? That's the nature of tragedy: too many small pictures adding up to a big picture that doesn't hurt. So anyway, things still suck in New Orleans. And everybody got tired of hearing about it, which is also the nature of tragedy, and started saying things like how they should clean up their own messes and stop waiting for the government to fix it. Because that's not the point of government anymore, that's not the point of the social contract, that you give up certain rights and privileges in order to have a safe place to land when things get too big to handle; no. The point of government no longer signifies; we clean up our own messes now.