Idol Chatter: ‘Idol Gives Back’
Urban hits the road
By Burl Burlingame
Oh, this is so embarrassing. There I was, driving along today, when suddenly I had a sudden racking cough, a real Doc Holliday tubercular special, and a wad of yellow sputum erupted from my throat and splashed wetly on the center of the steering wheel.
It looked like cancer personified. Totally gross.
I grabbed frantically for scrap debris among the debris on the floor, weaving madly in traffic and than attempted to dab and wipe away the roiling mess, but it was smack dab on the horn button and every time I dabbed, the car horn brayed at oil-freighter levels and everyone started staring and pointing at this disgusting driver who’s weaving and honking and looking slightly red-faced and massively nauseous.
Could things get any worse?
An hour later, there was “Idol Gives Back.”
Every year they do this. Use the might of the show to raise money to spend on poor, sick, undereducated people. Ryan Seacrest enthusiastically announced they had raised $15 million. Surely that figure had to be wrong (and it was; guest Bill Gates carries around that much in walk-around dough).
But the money isn’t the issue. It’s all about “giving back.” Meaning, I suppose, “we take your dollars and your attention to an unholy degree, America, and we’d feel bad about it, but not really. So give us some more money, and we’ll spend it on the needy, this week only.”
It has become a formula. Guest stars with something to pitch make cameo appearances, the show’s judges and former stars make televised pilgrimages to needy areas — the irony is crushing as they ride in limos, staring at the poor — and to top it all off, in the midst of all the feel-good, one of the contestants is sent packing by the fickle voters of the United States of Idol.
I shan’t keep you in suspense; this week it was the toothsome teenager, Tim Urban, the mop-haired Disney mannequin.
So long, Timmy boy. Buh-bye! Don’t hang around backstage. No tears are being shed for thee. Aloha! Beat it, kid. Are we going to have to bring in Tim Gunn to tell you to pack your things? Scram! Or get Heidi Klum to go all Col. Klink on you?
”Either you are in, or you are out! Raus, kriegie!”
FOR ALL the trips to Africa, there are millions of starving, undereducated children in America, and the annual IGB fest manages, barely, to point that out. These are real problems, and it’s an uneasy relationship, pairing grim poverty and crushed spirits with the effervescent schmaltzitude of the Idol contest. Look, here’s a starving kid! Send us some dollars, and for our next trick — hold on to your butts — we’ll crush Tim Urban’s dreams!
Some of it is absolutely genuine. Annie Lennox, who is about as close as we come to a genuine angel come down to earth, appears on this thing every year, and her charitable work with and for the needy is legendary. She actually goes to Africa to help, and doesn’t drag along camera crews. Still, a crew was along this outing, and there’s the wonderful Annie Lennox comforting a little skull-faced orphan on the brink of death, and she reappears, a few weeks later, to check on the child, and medicine and real food have turned the tiny cadaver into a charming, smiling child, and Lennox’ spontaneous joy at the transformation provides the most moving moment of the night.
And it’s always nice to see Sir Elton’s pudgy panda paws pumping through “Your Song” for the billionth time, he’s a trouper, that one, and he had the most honest line of the night, when he admitted that part of the reason he’s the celebrity point man on HIV/AIDS prevention is because of his dodgy, dissolute youth. You’re a good man, Sir Elton.
Carrie Underwood sang a song. I think. I got distracted by the way she pumped microphone curls.
On the other hand, the Black-Eyed Peas. I’ve never quite figured out the attraction, despite the undeniable pipes of Fergie. It’s mostly toneless meter-shouts, like cheerleader yells, and the entertainment quality of the Black-Eyed Peas rides solely on how hot a groove the backing band is feeling.
And Alicia Keys. The woman needs to go back to the piano bar on the Love Boat. Is there a duller singer in the entire world? Keys, naturally, played Mentor this week for the theme, which was “inspirational” songs, surely the most ill-conceived musical theme, like, ever.
Mainly because these kids haven’t a clue about the nature of inspiration. Except for Crystal Bowersox — who has emerged as the adult of the pack — their concept of inspirational is “I can be special.” Not. The song choices were so safe and meh. Man, someone should have tried something like Mike Ness’ “Ball and Chain” and swept us into the drama of redemption.
You’re in the spotlight, kids, but that doesn’t make you someone to look up to. You have to include the audience. Only Crystal, whose choice was a gospel-tinged “People Get Ready,” the Curtis Mayfield song, included the whole of the world into her range. You could feel people hanging on to her hemline. She overwhelmed even herself, and broke down in a crumply surprise sob at the end, as the song’s lyrics thanked the Lord, and probably won the whole shootin’ match right there.
Hey, Tim Urban, dude, seriously — time to go. Like, now. Just back away from the microphone, easy now.