Season nine’s “American Idol” theme weeks have veered from the Rolling Stones to John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Elvis Presley to … [artist id="50102"]Shania Twain[/artist]?
Yes, Tuesday’s (April 27) show has poured its annual country-music week through the funnel of Twain’s songbook. Is this the weirdest theme in this history of the show? That’s a question we’re asking in a poll over on MTV’s Newsroom blog. At this point, what we can say for sure is that, for better or worse, Crystal Bowersox and her band of merry “Idol”-ers will dig into Twain’s catalog. How familiar were they with her discography? We confess we had to go back into the vaults to catch up with Twain’s career since her 1993 self-titled debut album.
What we found was a mix of familiar hits and oodles of ’90s country tracks that have not exactly stood the test of time. The task for the top six will be to contemporize these tunes and hope Simon Cowell doesn’t slap them with his dreaded “old-fashioned” or “karaoke” labels. The pitfalls are many. And we must remember that country week is typically thought of as the show’s great equalizer, with front-runners stumbling and back-of-the-packers soaring. Last year, Adam Lambert misfired during Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (“Absolute indulgent rubbish,” Cowell said), while Anoop Desai’s “Always on My Mind” had the Brit judge declaring, “Zero to hero!”
Who will be this season’s countrified hero and zero? Here are our picks to keep the “Idol” kids going strong.
MamaSox scored a live-show home run back in March with Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” a cover that began softly and built to an almost country/rock denouement. She should hearken back to that performance with a slowed-down take on “No One Needs to Know,” ditching the original’s adult-contempo rockabilly heart and concentrating on a simple, acoustic intro that gives way to a soul-infused, full-band jam. As with so many songs on Tuesday, it’s going to be all about the arrangement.
With his passionate take on “The Boxer,” the 24-year-old is coming off his strongest performance of the season. What was the key? Tempo. Dewyze would be wise to once again keep things … sloooow. Twain’s “(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!” has got some inherent swinging energy, and if the guitar-toting Dewyze opts for a stripped-down arrangement that makes ample way for his growly vocals, he could have another winner on his hands.
Out of all the “Idol” hopefuls, we fear Siobhan might have the most trouble with a country-driven theme. Because while we’ve seen her try on many different personas this season, country crooner is one that just doesn’t seem to fit. What has worked well for Siobhan in the past is keeping things slow — see the first section of her “Paint It Black” — and cascading her energy through a dark, teen-angst filter. She should take “Forever and for Always” and its vaguely ’80s-pop feel for a leisurely stroll on the “Idol” stage.
James has struggled recently when trying to go the straight-up rock route. Last week, during Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” he sounded like a poor man’s Huey Lewis. Listen to what we — and Kara DioGuardi — have been telling you for weeks and go acoustic, just like you did during John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” or Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.” And you know what? Take a risk at the same time. We suggest a super stripped-down (and smoldering!) cover of “You’re Still the One.” Seriously.
This is the week we’re hoping Big Mike decides he’s an R&B artist and not a soft indie rocker. In a weird way, we can totally see the hulking guy doing a solid R&B reworking of “From This Moment On.” Close your eyes and just listen to Twain’s version and you’ll see what we’re talking about.
Oh, the many hazards for 16-year-old Kelly on this Week o’ Shania! Our gut instinct is to enumerate all the songs the kid simply must avoid on Tuesday night. But jeez, we’re not sure it matters. As many brushes with the bottom three as he’s had this season, Kelly manages to stick around the competition. Is this the week his luck runs out? And will the song he sings have any bearing whatsoever on his fate? Somehow, we doubt it. In that case, let’s have some fun. Twain’s bizarre 2007 brush with club music would be … amazing! Everybody say it together: “Ka-Ching!”
What do you want the top six to sing for Shania Twain Week? Let us know in the comments!
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ [url id="/news/topic/american_idol/index.jhtml"]“American Idol” page[/url], where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.