"American Idol" introduced its first-ever Beatles theme week in March 2008. Armed with access to the finest songs in the Lennon/McCartney catalog, the show gave us melodious highs (Brooke White's stripped-down, barefoot-at-the-piano "Let It Be") and wince-inducing lows (David Archuleta's nearly lyric-free "We Can Work It Out").
Two seasons later, the Lennon/McCartney songbook is back in the "Idol" fold. Should Crystal Bowersox stroll down Abbey Road? Might Michael Lynche take us on a Magical Mystery Tour? Will "Teflon" Tim Urban have us screaming Help!? Let's take a look at which tunes the "Idol" hopefuls should select for Tuesday's (April 6) show.
Though we loved seeing her dolled-up and sitting at the piano, she should now return to her guitar-strumming ways. While the authorship of "In My Life" is controversial, the ballad is considered part of the Lennon/McCartney oeuvre. That's good, because it's a perfect fit for Crystal: the acoustic guitar, the tambourine, the wistful vocals — it all screams 'Sox.
From renditions of James Brown to India.Arie, we've been digging Big Mike's variations on R&B numbers. And we especially liked what happened last week when he slowed down the tempo of "Ready for Love" and gave his rich vocal cords room to stretch. All of which points us to "Oh! Darling," the Beatles' old-school R&B tune from Abbey Road. He shouldn't worry that Katelyn Epperly sang the same tune during the semifinals. She's long gone by now, and Lynche has established a distinct "Idol" identity.
The 20-year-old needs to do two things on Tuesday: A) ditch her climatic, by-now-familiar squeal, and B) return to the dark, theatrical material ("House of the Rising Sun," "Wicked Game") that first won over her fans. Magnus should stand alone on the stage and deliver a creepy-cool take on "Blackbird." Simon Cowell may have blasted Carly Smithson for this cover in '08 — for some reason, the judge hates when people sing about birds — but Magnus should not be dissuaded.
Since we really do see Dewyze as David Cook 2.0, we're tempted to encourage him to bust out "Eleanor Rigby," as his predecessor did in '08. Instead, we want Dewyze to go with an upbeat rock tune and recapture the fun and freedom of last week's take on "Treat Her Like a Lady" by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. "Help!" it is.
For James, we could make an argument for almost any hard-rocking tune in the Lennon/McCartney songbook. But there's a certain rawness to "Get Back" (off 1970's Let It Be) that would give the 27-year-old a chance to show off his shaggy side. Additionally, the vocals won't ask too much of the guy.
We'll resist the urge to suggest Urban should select "Flying," the only instrumental track Lennon and McCartney wrote, but there's no need to be mean. We'll leave that to the judges. Urban seems to get his kicks having laughs and not taking anything too seriously. He should embrace his happy-go-lucky side with an upbeat take on "All You Need Is Love." After all, it's the love of voters, rather than the pleasures of his singing voice, that has kept him in the game this long.
Two straight weeks in the bottom three should have Stevens seriously re-evaluating her song choices. Her pick of "Wild Horses" (perhaps better known because of Susan Boyle instead of the Rolling Stones) seemed to win over voters. Stevens should go with one of the Beatles most famous tunes, something cheery, a track that is finger-snappingly enjoyable enough to make us stop caring about her complete lack of contemporary relevance as an artist. How about "Penny Lane"?
The pressure is on Garcia to sustain the progress he showed with last week's stripped-down take on "Forever" by Chris Brown. Garcia should resist the urge to get too quirky — i.e., something like "Mean Mr. Mustard" — and present a simple, acoustic rendition of "Lovely Rita." Indeed, it's a lovely, exuberant tune that would allow a newly smiling Garcia to make one thing clear: He's having fun again.
You know someone's going to win the right to sing "Let It Be." Kelly seems to be most comfortable singing ballads, and the title track from the Beatles' final studio album is one of the greatest ever written. Honestly, though, Kelly can do no wrong at this point and could get away crooning "Paul is dead" backward.
Do you have any great song ideas for the "Idol" top nine? Let us know in the comments below!
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