In the strongest possible terms, the American Idol judges’ panel has insisted that “song choice, song choice, song choice” is the most critical decision a contestant can make—well, after deciding to audition for Idol in the first place. Week after week, most hopefuls seem to get it completely wrong, and it could be due to the fact that they keep picking the same old overplayed songs.
Why sing “Hallelujah,” “House of the Rising Sun,” or “I Don’t Want To Be” for the millionth time on the Idol stage when you can wow the crowds by performing something viewers have never experienced before? Check out our eclectic list of The 10 Songs That Still Need To Be Performed on American Idol, and our recommendations for which Season 9ers we think should tackle them. (That is, if they’re still around after tonight’s elimination show.) After numbing our ears year after year with the same predictable tunes, Idol contestants owe us (and the rest of America) a closer look at the modern pop songbook. Can you believe in nine seasons, no one has ever thought to perform any of the songs in this collection?
“Life on Mars” – David Bowie. After seeing Michael Lynche tear apart Maxwell’s version of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” last night, we think Big Mike has the chutzpah to take on pretty much anything—including Mr. Stardust’s space-rock classic, off 1971′s Hunky Dory. Adam Lambert covered his just-as-flamboyant version of Bowie’s hit during the Idols Live tour last year, but Lynche could easily morph this track into a soulful R&B tune.
“21 Guns” – Green Day. One of the girls could kill either the original version or the Broadway rendition of this Grammy-nominated song. This could be Siobhan Magnus’ star-making song—and since that clip revealed that she sported a mohawk in her pre-Idol days, we know she’s still got a little bit of punk in her. Tim Urban might even be able to pull this one off, if he didn’t try to imitate Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals.
“Woman Be Wise” – Sippie Wallace. We love it when contestants go back—way back—when choosing songs, but no more “Summertime” or “Over the Rainbow”, please. “Woman Be Wise” from 1966 is a sassy song about female empowerment that deserves a fresh contemporary take—or if the contestants want to be a little lazier, they could just lift the Bonnie Raitt version as their own. Lilly Scott or Didi Benami could utilize their unique voices and unconventional phrasing to make this song a hit with voters.
“Hide and Seek” – Imogen Heap. This is one of those songs that the public as a whole has heard a billion times (on TV, in SNL skits and in Jason Derulo’s smash “Whatcha Say”) but we’re not sure everyone has heard the beautiful song in full. We think Alex Lambert could jump on the recent revival of this song and put their own acoustic spin on it, or it could be great for Todrick Hall to tone down his ostentatious performances and just focus on his vocals.
“Speechless” – Lady Gaga. This ballad would be sensational for one of the girls who can play piano—Katelyn Epperly, perhaps? We don’t think anyone could come anywhere near Gaga’s version, but Katelyn could showcase some gut-wrenching emotion on it. Or Lacey Brown could ditch the piano and turn this number into a bonafide country tune. Plus it would give her image a jolt of relevance.
“The Weary Kind” – Ryan Bingham. Kris Allen previously struck gold during Idol‘s Soundtrack Week by ignoring past classics and instead tackling the recent “Falling Slowly” from Once (which won an Oscar for Best Song in 2007). It was a refreshing change of pace from contestants’ affinity for choosing songs that have been played to death, and this year’s Oscar-winning Best Song would be a fantastic country tune for Casey James or Lee Dewyze to perform accompanied by a guitar.
“Smooth Operator” – Sade. Sade is back in the public eye, and one of her biggest hits could stand to have a modern take. We’d love to see what a guy could do with the seductive slow-jam. How about it, Andrew Garcia? We know you love singing songs originally recorded by female artists.
“Girl From the Gutter” – Kina. This powerful break-up song needs someone who can belt and really feel the emotion in a song. We think Fantasia or Jennifer Hudson would have knocked this one out of the park, but in their absence, Crystal Bowersox or Siobhan Magnus could possibly nail it. Maybe Paige, too, if she practiced the hell out of it and made sure not to grin ear-to-ear like she did during her take on Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away.”
“All These Things That I’ve Done” – The Killers. Kris Allen did a pretty straightforward cover of this epic song while on tour, but can’t you just imagine Crystal Bowersox turning this rock song on its head?
“Ray Of Light” – Madonna. Katie Stevens could tackle this uptempo pop number without coming across as too old, plus she could show the world she’s got some energy. (She just needs to be careful of pacing across the stage like she doesn’t know what else to do with her legs.) She may even sing this dance-pop track better than Madonna did.