This is like the best Top Six ever. I'm pleased. Simon and Ryan spend some time together in Africa listening to Coldplay -- our go-to band for poverty and horror -- feeding kids and being horrified, then Ryan travels the US with the judges being horrified at various injustices; for a normal person it would be disingenuous but the outrageous amount of Hollywood that these people are goes right through sincerity and out the other side, making it actually somewhat touching. The giant hairy Rupert Murdoch octopus reinvents monetizing easy-chair altruism for the tenth time; Ryan's classy about it. I think he's trying to make Anderson Cooper notice him. Simon goes to a food bank and loses it, handing out hugs and learning about money. After Chris's Virginia Tech debacle last week, the kids decide the only way they can combat Phil's weekly onslaught of meaningless sentimentality is raise the comparative level of their own, creating a dull roar of meaningless sentimentality that's so unforgiving all you can really pay attention to is the singing. Imagine that! Luckily, everybody's great. The theme is "songs that inspire," meaning "songs about doing something instead of actually doing something," and everybody rocks it. Chris sings "Change The World" by Eric Clapton in a completely inscrutable suit and intro package, voice reedy and nasal as usual, and then gets awesome at the end so Paula will cry. Melinda sings "There Will Come A Day" by Faith Hill, a wonderful song about doing absolutely nothing until something amazing happens and the angels come and fix everything. She does a great, great job, of course. Blake is wearing probably his most awesome outfit in the history of Blakeology, and sings "Imagine" by John Lennon, because he is a pothead. It's basically a repeat of the Keane performance, but even less dynamic. What it is, is oddly sexy and delivered with sincerity so intense that Simon's heart grows three sizes. Lakisha sings "I Believe" by Fantasia, in the style of Fantasia, and is blasted for it by the judges, who apologize for overshadowing her amazing vocals with this critique. Phil is still around, and dedicates his performance of Garth Brooks's "The Change" to his children and the Oklahoma City bombings, having officially run out of horrible things to dedicate his songs to. He sounds like Peabo Bryson had a baby with Michael McDonald; it's totally rad. Jordin ends the night with a wildly proficient rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone," a song with which I am not familiar, but we're assured was perfectly performed in every way, by the hyperactive judges, to the point they seem scared she's getting bumped. Tomorrow: two hours of celebrities pretending to care, plus Bono, who invented the concept.
There's two kinds of cynical. There's the Simon Cowell kind that looks at something sincere and says, "That is not genuine, we're all slime," like, that's a cynical person, a negative person. But there's the other kind, the Ani DiFranco kind, that says, "I know you can't tell the difference; so buy my fake sincerity." One thing I've never been able to discern is whether Ryan Seacrest is either of these, and I have thought about it over the years until my brain did a backbend, and I am no closer to figuring it out. This week the show is like a Turing Test of that. The sincerity's sitting in another room doing its nails, while the whole song and dance is distracting you from the fact that five million dollars, which FOX/News Corp will be donating tonight, is not that much money. It has nothing to do with voting, or who votes, because there's a five mil cap on it. So not only does the show want you to vote because this show made you crazy, like every week, but now you get to feel like you're making a difference in some way, by being one of the first 50 million crazy-person votes. I don't remember how many votes the show's been getting lately, but that doesn't seem like an unattainable goal -- add the complete laziness of sitting on your couch and dialing your phone a few times, which you were going to do before you even knew it made you a hero, and everybody wins.
Except for how five million dollars is not ten million dollars, or twenty million dollars, and how no matter how much money you throw at a problem, if the problem exists on the level of national and international policy, as the nebulous "poverty" problem does, the problem itself will not change. You're putting Band-Aids on a cancer victim and calling yourself a hero for doing it, and I really cannot stand that disingenuous self-aggrandizing shit. Doing one cool thing doesn't let you off the hook, no matter how easy or hard it is. You don't get permanent cred for doing something good, because the sun's still going to come up tomorrow, and there's still going to be stuff that needs getting done. The problem isn't that there's not enough money going to the right places, it's that our society is built on keeping that money in the wrong places, and you and I both benefit from that. Deal with it. You eat meat, you deal. You buy clothing, you deal. You get legally married, you deal. Just understand what it says above the fountain you're drinking from.
Anyway, so tonight is all about the live performances and how tonight's a very special show, with the same three judges and the same six finalists we've come to expect, but with one huge difference: the calls you make can save your contestants...and also save LIVES. This is Idol Gives Back. This is also a lie. There's a $5M cap on the donations NewsCorp's willing to make on behalf of IGB, which means that if they donate 10 cents per call, that's 50 million calls, and then the Giving Back stops. So...your vote means less to those people than usual; usually they want you to vote so they can brag about it (and in order to appease Cingular, "the new AT&T," who benefits every week along with the rest of the cell networks, who gets the public handjob every week) but this week they want you not only to brag about it, but so that you'll brag about it too. Because you found the one way to sacrifice and give of yourself in a way that demands neither sacrifice nor giving of yourself. Because they found a way to leverage even the meaningless bullshit of this show against your own sense of well-being. Since apparently I need to explain these things now, I want to be clear: this recap is not tomorrow's recap, and I'm not going to talk about tomorrow or the ultimate result of this shit, because that's not what's going on now, in this episode we're talking about now. Tomorrow night, I'm going to wuss out and cry and donate money, but we're not talking about Wednesday, we're talking about Tuesday, and Tuesday is one million times more bullshit than Wednesday night's amazing amount of bullshit.