a Keys, Carrie Underwood, the Black Eyed Peas and other music stars took the stage for Wednesday night's "Idol Gives Back" (Apr. 21), a fund-raising special benefiting children's, hunger and health charities.
The more-than two hour special edition of "American Idol" featured a roster of A-listers, opening with a taped appearance by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, and wrapping up with Elton John singing one of his signature hits, "Your Song.
Video: Elton John performs "Your Song" on "Idol Gives Back"
In between were live or taped appearances by celebrities including Jennifer Garner, Victoria Beckham, Morgan Freeman, Ben Affleck and Sully Sullenberger, the hero pilot who brought his passenger plane to a safe emergency landing in the Hudson River off Manhattan last year.
The first lady ended the Obama's appearance by exhorting famously prickly judge Simon Cowell to "be nice." Comedian George Lopez also took aim in a "judge the judges" routine in which Cowell was told:
"America has voted, and you have to go back to England," although he added that he could stay due to the volcano ash cloud.
Annie Lennox was not so lucky, and apologized that the forces of nature had prevented her from leaving England to appear on stage in Los Angeles as planned.
The event, which over the years has raised more than $140 million from audience and corporate donations, was big enough to warrant a second stage commandeered by Queen Latifah outside Los Angeles.
Cowell announced about two hours into the show that it had already raised more than $15 million for the Children's Health Fund, Feeding America, Malaria No More, Save the Children and the United Nations Foundation. The money will benefit their work in the United States and in Africa.
Video: Black Eyed Peas perform "Rock That Body" on "Idol Gives Back"
Underwood, among the biggest stars "Idol" has ever produced, sang "Change," while Keys did a medley of "Unthinkable" and "Empire State of Mind (Part II)."
But after all the singing, jokes and pleas for donations from the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it came down to sending Tim Urban home. Urban's elimination came at the very end of the TV singing contest's "Idol Gives Back" show and followed his uninspired performance of "Better Days" during the show's inspirational song-themed week mentored by Keys.
Dubbed "Teflon Tim" because viewers had kept him safe despite shaky performances that drew often sharp words from the judges, Urban joined Casey James and Aaron Kelly in one of this season's few all-male bottom three.
Next week's "American Idol" will be mentored by Shania Twain with the remaining contestants performing her music.
Other finalists still in the running include Lee DeWyze, Siobhan Magnus, Crystal Bowersox and Michael Lynche.
The finale airs in May, when the next "Idol" winner lands a recording contract. Past champions include Kelly Clarkson while even "losers" such as Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson have gone on to great success. Last year's winner, Kris Allen, has already found himself overshadowed by glam-pop singer Adam Lambert.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant, Reuters; additional editing by Monica Herrera, Billboard)
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