One year ago, under the tutelage of Jamie Foxx, the “American Idol” kids welcomed the gentlemen of the Rat Pack into the Nokia Theatre. Season eight’s Danny Gokey wowed the judges with a bluesy take on “Come Rain or Come Shine” and Adam Lambert donned a shiny white suit for a rendition of “Feeling Good” that Kara DioGuardi called “confusing and shocking and sleazy and superb!”
This season, the invitations for Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and all but one of the Rat Packers must have gotten lost in the mail, because only Frank Sinatra will be represented on Tuesday night’s (May 4) live show. Come rain or come shine, Crystal Bowersox, Lee Dewyze and the rest of the top five will attempt to fly “Idol” voters to the moon. For in the end, it’s all or nothing at all: One contestant will head home. Here are our picks for the Sinatra songs that best fit each singer — the tunes that might let them hang on for another week.
Even more so than during Shania Twain Week, the key to acing it this week will be all about arrangement: How do you take these classic songs and breathe some 21st-century life into them so we’re not falling asleep in front of our TV sets? There’s no easy answer to that question. The “Idol”-ers need to find a kernel of their own sound in a song and extrapolate from there. In Bowersox’s case, she has demonstrated a natural affinity for the blues. That points us right toward “Blue Moon.” We’d like to see her start off slow and stripped-down, as she did during Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” then speed up the whole thing until the entire band is involved with a ’60s rock-style jam.
In the midst of researching these song choices, we came across a silky, acoustic cover of “Fly Me to the Moon” by singer-songwriter Joshua Radin. It’s got Lee Dewyze’s name written all over it. He’d be smart to speed up the arrangement just a touch and unleash that indie-rock-lite growl of his. This one could be the real and welcome surprise on Tuesday.
After weeks of genre misfires and vocal missteps, Big Mike finally returned to his R&B wheelhouse last week on Twain’s “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing.” The results, while hardly breathtaking, were far better than anything he’d delivered in a while. Alas, he still ended up in the bottom three. Luckily for Lynche, not only can Sinatra Week be easily tailored to his strengths, but it’s a better fit for his vocal style than it is for most of the other contestants. He should look to “It Had to Be You,” giving the song an R&B makeover and highlighting the sensitive balladeer beneath his hulking exterior: more Maxwell and less of the lounge-singer wannabe Elliott Yamin busted out in season five.
James presents a tricky situation this week. His version of “Don’t” last week was one of his finest this season — no “Jealous Guy,” but excellent stuff. Nonetheless, he found himself in the dreaded bottom three. So this week, do we encourage him to do more of the same, slowed-down tuneage, knowing that material is the best fit for his talents? Or do we guide him back toward the generic rock songs he was delivering for weeks and that, for one reason or another, keep getting him voted through? Nope, we’re going to go with what we think he does best: those slow-burning ballads. Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” can actually be sped up a bit, but the lyrics are a great fit for James, and the track could make for another admirable performance.
How do you solve a problem like Aaron Kelly? You don’t — at least not at this point in the competition. You just sit back and admire the kid’s staying power. What does he need to do this week to keep hope alive? Avoid the obvious why-would-a-17-year-old-be-singing-this songs, like “Love and Marriage,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Instead, stick with the ballads that have been his strength. And guess what? The approved Sinatra song list offers the perfect tune for this high schooler: “I’ve Got a Crush on You.”
Which “Idol”-er will deliver the best rendition of Ol’ Blue Eyes on Sinatra Week? Tell us in the comments!
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