After a one-year break, "Idol Gives Back" is set to return to the small screen with an assist from co-host Queen Latifah and performances by Justin Bieber, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood, the Black Eyed Peas and others. Most performances will be staged live, but Bieber recorded his last month, a decision "American Idol" producers made because they felt his connection to youth culture could spur giving.
"I looked at that night as a good night for him to be on, because he's absolutely phenomenal, and he's young and he's a real inspiration for [the] young generation, so it was a really good fit for him to be in that special episode," explained exec producer Cécile Frot-Coutaz in a conference call of the decision to pre-tape his performance rather than air it during an earlier live show.
"Idol Gives Back" will air as part of Wednesday's elimination show. The charity effort has raised $140 million in the two seasons that "Idol" producers have staged the event. "Idol Gives Back" took a year off in 2009, following the widespread fiscal crisis gripping the nation. With the country still dealing with a struggling economy, producers are gearing up for what Frot-Coutaz termed a "low-key" fundraiser, one that welcomes donations of any dollar amount but which also has some big-ticket items. Fans can bid online for the opportunity to meet Simon Cowell, win a pair of autographed sneakers from Ellen DeGeneres and receive a private voice lesson with judges Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi. Proceeds will do to charities like Children's Health Fund, Feeding America, Malaria No More, Save the Children's U.S. Programs and the United Nations Foundation.
Bieber, John, Underwood and the rest of the guests — most of whom will perform live — will sing inspirational songs from their own catalogs, as well as covers from other artists. Frot-Coutaz also promised one surprise appearance from a yet unannounced artists. Though producers recognize that the economy is still in a difficult situation, they hope the combination of high-profile performers and an elimination show will raise viewership and stimulate donations.
"We're going into this third 'Idol Gives Back' with a slightly different approach," she said. "We did incredibly well both times, we raised a lot of money, and we're hoping, obviously, that we do incredibly well this time as well. But we're very aware that the circumstances are very different than when we first started doing it. ... Whatever people will donate will be great."
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