‘American Idol’ R&B Week Preview: What Should They Sing?

We recommend some Al Green, Sam Cooke and Alicia Keys tracks for the top 10 tonight.

[url id="http://www.mtv.com/news/topic/american_idol/"]“American Idol”[/url] on Tuesday night (March 30) could well feature the sounds of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Chris Brown, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, Rihanna and Boyz II Men. Not because any of these artists have been selected as this week’s mentor — that job has gone to Usher — but because a few of their hit singles are among the ones approved for R&B week.

Which of these crooners’ tracks are the best fit for Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus and the rest of the “Idol” hopefuls? Let’s run down what we’d like to hear on tonight’s show.

Crystal Bowersox: Like no one else this season, ‘Sox has the ability to communicate raw emotion when she sings. If she does indeed ditch her guitar this week, she could easily slip into the soul-flecked comfort of Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone.” With horns filling the void of her acoustic guitar, Bowersox would be free to show off both her vocal and emotive flexibility.

Siobhan Magnus: While no one would argue that Magnus is presenting herself as an R&B artist, she’s actually had success flirting with the genre, from Aretha Franklin’s “Think” to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” What we haven’t seen from the 20-year-old oddball is a take on a contemporary tune. Now’s her chance. We suggest a slow, stripped-down version of Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” It’s unexpected, it’s relevant and with it we think Magnus has the potential to attract a whole new fanbase.

Lee Dewyze: One of these days, Lee Dewyze is going to wake up and realize that the only record he can ever make is a rock one in the vein of Chris Daughtry or David Cook. Until then, we’ll keep suggesting tunes that thrust him in that direction. Case in point: “In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett. Dewyze should speed up the song, get rid of the horns and add in a whole lot of electric guitar.

Michael Lynche: Big Mike has power like none other. He’s also got soul. That combo steers us directly toward the blues-infused classic “Bring It on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke. He should rework the song so it burns slowly and builds toward a conclusion that has Lynche unleashing soaring vocal runs.

Didi Benami: This 23-year-old might well have the most interesting tone to her voice of any “Idol” singer this season. She was at her best with Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” and we’d like to see more of the same. Didi should strum the acoustic guitar again during an easy-breezy, snail-paced take on “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by the Supremes and let her jazzy notes fly.

Casey James: R&B week offers this Southern rocker the chance to bust out some powerful, funky blues — and have a damn good time doing it. That’s his thing, right? How else to explain his fun yet puzzling rendition of “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News? Yup, it’s his thing. And his ideal tune this week? The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.”

Tim Urban: Urban’s first directive should be to thank heaven he’s still in the competition. His second should be to keep it simple. Seriously simple. Tim, haul out that guitar again, deliver the finest version of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” you can manage without breaking a sweat, and show us why the judges ever believed it was a good idea to add you to the top 24. This may be your last week to make the case.

Aaron Kelly: We’re tempted to suggest that Kelly, who’s in bad need of some swagger, go with Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You.” But the judges would be sure to rip the 16-year-old for a failure to connect with the material. Instead, we urge him to go in for another of the ’90s boy band’s tunes: “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” The judges and the voters adore how he wheezes through ballads, so he should stick to that recipe.

Katie Stevens: We applaud Stevens for going contemporary last week with Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” even though it landed her in the bottom three. Now we want her to double down and climb her way out of that lowly tier. Alicia Keys’ “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart” is the one of the most beautiful songs of 2009, and ballad seem to be the best match for Stevens’ style.

Andrew Garcia: The season’s most perplexed (and perplexing) contestant loves to bring a funky guitar rhythm to his performances. The judges, conversely, haven’t exactly loved anything he’s been bringing to the stage for weeks. This is going to be a make or break week for Garcia. He’s got to revert to his comfort zone of fun pop tunes. Michael Jackson’s rhythm-heavy “Rock With You” would be a fine fit.

Which R&B classics would you like to hear the Idols sing tonight? Let us know in the comments below!

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