Welcome, y’all, step right this way! Take your seats for Songs of the Cinema Night on “American Idol,” where every track on the approved list seems to have been selected by a 13-year-old boy circa 1987 or a middle school girl with a huge Disney crush. How else can we explain the presence of tunes from “Ghostbusters,” “Caddyshack,” “Top Gun,” “Rocky” and “Rocky III”? And cuts off “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Tarzan”?
It certainly can’t be because those songs are good fits for the talents of Crystal Bowersox, Lee Dewyze and the rest of the “Idol” top four. Suitable tunes are few and far between for the contestants this Tuesday night (May 11), and mentor Jamie Foxx will have a tall task in front of him. Luckily he’s had some practice shaping these reality-show hopefuls, having guided the singers last year during Rat Pack Week. With just one show to go until we hit the top three and begin the ever important home visits, the stakes are high going into the show. Here are our picks for the songs that best fit each singer — the songs that might have them hanging on for another week.
Crystal Bowersox: Last week, MamaSox made the very convincing argument that she needn’t always chose a big, high-impact song simply because she’s on “American Idol.” Alas, that’s wishful thinking on the part of this season’s most talented contestant, one who’s never seemed entirely comfortable in front of the spotlight. After two lovely, if ordinary performances, it’s time for Crystal to go big again. That’s why we have our eye on “I Will Always Love You,” the song Whitney Houston reintroduced to the public in “The Bodyguard.” But before Houston came Dolly Parton, whose country version became a hit in the ’70s and which she recorded for the 1982 film, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” MamaSox should take her inspiration from Parton’s version, infusing it with some Joplin-style blues. If she goes in this direction, it could be a big night for the dreadlocked 24-year-old.
Lee Dewyze: Well after the original song list was released, an updated version hit the Web. The biggest surprise? Prince’s “Purple Rain.” There’s simply no way “Idol” producers went to the trouble of clearing this song if someone’s not going to sing it. And we’d like that lucky crooner to be Dewyze. The 24-year-old has had his biggest successes with slow, expressive rock tunes. “Purple Rain” is just funky enough that it would still mesh well with the contestant we’ve come to know while at the same time showing us some welcome range.
Michael Lynche: Here comes our most predictable song choice: Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.” The simple fact of that matter is that we think Big Mike should play it safe this week and stay well within his comfort zone. He’s coming off an admirable take on Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” In the past, we’ve seen him veer away from a jazzy, R&B vibe after a successful performance and indulge light indie-rock tuneage. That’s not what works best for the contestant who most clearly wants to — needs to — win this show. He can knock “Kiss From a Rose” out of the park, and that’s exactly what he should do. It’s his best bet to make it into the top three.
Casey James: We had our eye on Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s “Falling Slowly,” but Kris Allen commandeered that tune last season on his way toward victory. Any comparison to the season-eight champ will not reflect well on James. The other logical choice would be the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” but we fear this will bring out Casey’s worst, wannabe-rocker self in a burst of late-’90s radio cheesiness. For these reasons — and many more that center around his limited repertoire — we’d like to see Casey hop back on his stool with his acoustic guitar and do a slow, stripped-down version of “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, that iconic tune from “The Breakfast Club.” Just remember to lose that ’80s synth keyboard.
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