Forget everything we’ve heard up until now. On Tuesday night (March 16), the top 12 finalists will step out onto the new and improved “American Idol” thunder dome stage to try to make us fall in love all over again. Some will try to make us forget about last week’s surprise eliminations , while others will dig deep to cement their status as the ones to beat this year.
And they’ll do it all while singing the songs of the Rolling Stones. It’s a tall order and a few singers, such as teens Katie Stevens and Aaron Kelly, not to mention the seemingly on-the-bubble Paige Miles and Tim Urban, who will seriously have to step up their game.
So what do the top 12 need to do to win the hearts — and ears — of the nation? How can they get enough votes to avoid landing in the bottom three? Here’s what we want to see from these “Idol” hopefuls:
Paige Miles: After managing to stick around despite her worst performance to date, Miles has to knock it out of the park this week to remind America why they chose her over Lilly Scott and Katelyn Epperly. Her schmaltzy “Smile” was weak, so Miles should go back to her strength: uptempo soul rock. A Tina Turner-ish ramble through “Brown Sugar” might do the trick.
Katie Stevens: Like Miles, this teen caught a serious break last week. After several performances the judges deemed lacking in emotion and maturity, she needs to prove that she belongs. Singing tunes by a nearly 50-year old British rock band is probably not the best recipe for proving her musical relevance, but maybe a teen-pop take on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” could kick-start her youth movement.
Lacey Brown: Brown got back into her groove with a solid cover of Brandi Carlile’s “The Story,” which allowed her to show off her breathy, country-ish pipes. The judges said she hasn’t had her “It” performance yet, but if she nails a smoldering, Nashville-bound cover of “Play With Fire” she might be back in the thick of it.
Didi Benami: Last week was solid for Benami , who got near-raves for her folky ramble through Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon.” It showed off the subtle shading in her voice, and she came across as earnest and focused. This is a week to build on that momentum, so she should go with another ballad, like a Mazzy Star-esque “Wild Horses.”
Siobhan Magnus: The girl with the big note may have pulled an Andrew Garcia and peaked early with her screen-shattering soul wail on Aretha’s “Think” two weeks ago, but with the Stones’ catalog, Magnus has plenty of chances to prove she’s no one-trick diva. We know she can sing, so Siobhan should show off her stage presence with a bluegrassy “Honky Tonk Women.”
Crystal Bowersox: This is practically a lay-up for the Ohio busker. Bo-Sox has already proven she’s a classic-rock queen, so she has her pick of the litter. From here on in, Crystal just needs to go slow and steady and make sure she doesn’t get predictable, while highlighting her formidable gritty vocal and guitar skills. A Delta blues take on “Sympathy for the Devil” would practically seal the deal.
Aaron Kelly: The gawky high-schooler nearly blew it with a snoozy take on Lonestar’s “I’m Already There” last week, but was a shock holdover. Like Stevens and Miles, he needs to step it up and prove he has the maturity and confidence to earn a spot in the top 10. It would help if he could show some range, maybe breaking out a bit of soulful falsetto for “Beast of Burden.”
Andrew Garcia: He tried to capture lighting in a bottle again with a Santana-like trip through Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle,” yet another reworking of a female singer’s song that fell relatively flat. He shouldn’t give up his makeover shtick, but has to wow the judges to overcome the “Straight Up” factor. A Sublime-y acoustic reggae version of “Paint It Black” might do it.
Tim Urban: Once again, the floppy haired singer, who got in thanks to the DQ of Chris Golightly, managed to avoid the ax last week. In fact, he may have gotten one of his nine lives back with a serviceable cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” We get it; America likes you for some reason, now you just need to get the judges onboard if you want to survive. The ballad route seems to be working, so a sad-eyed “Angie” is our call.
Casey James: He seems to have nearly stepped out of the shadow of the whole cougar-bait meme that tagged him at the start of the live rounds, so now the handsome cowboy can get down to business. His Keith Urban cover last week was just fine, and unless he totally blows it, he’s not likely to go home. That means it’s time to stretch his wings and display another side of his talent. A funky “Start Me Up” would do that nicely.
Lee Dewyze: LD is in the driver’s seat for now as a judges’ favorite, and his “Fireflies” cover last week did the job. He’s also got a chance to push the envelope, perhaps with a soulful cover of “Waiting on a Friend.”
Michael Lynche: Big Mike killed it with his Kate Bush cover last week, catapulting him into the top spot. He can cruise a bit this week, but it’s also a chance to ramp up his rock bona fides, which a gritty “Get Off of My Cloud” would do very nicely.
What do you want to see from the top 12 on Tuesday night? Who do you hope steps up their game this week? Let us know below!