American Idols Sing Their Idols: Our Song Picks

MTV's Gil Kaufman and James Montgomery hope the top nine will buck convention and show their age — in a good way.

So far this season, the finalists on “American Idol” haven’t done a great job when it comes to song selection. Whether it’s rescuing an obscure hair-metal tune by White Lion from history’s trash heap or stupidly picking the same Adele song in the same week, these kids don’t seem to have the magic touch.

That’s why this week’s theme — songs from their idols — is so pregnant with promise. Finally, an opportunity for Heejun , Colton, Jessica, Hollie and the gang to break out of their predictable been-there-done-that-downloaded the-iTunes-single-and-already-deleted-it ballad ghetto. Show producer Nigel Lythgoe has already let slip on Twitter that we can expect to hear “Beyonce, Mariah, Miranda, Lifehouse, Daughtry, Led Zeppelin.” Zzzzzzzzzzz.

So we know it’s already set in stone and nobody listens to us anyway (though they totally should), but here is what we would like to hear the top nine sing this week:

Colton Dixon
The Warped Tour wannabe has already proven his terrible taste in tunes (White Lion, Switchfoot), and we can only assume he’s going to move into the Lifehouse this week. We get the piano thing, but Colton needs to prove his rock bona fides with something uptempo and (relatively) contemporary, since he’s the only guy who has a “look” to speak of. How about the White Stripes’ “Fell in Love With a Girl”? Or Radiohead’s “Creep”? — Gil Kaufman

Word on the street — or the Internet — is that he’s going to do a Lifehouse song, which, OK, seems perfectly fitting (anyone who’s read my “Idol” report cards knows how I feel about this guy). But since we’re swinging for the fences here, I’m going to suggest C.Dix go outside his comfort zone and take on Death Cab for Cutie’s “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark.” It’s plenty somber, and it plays directly to his strengths: namely, being kinda wussy and connecting on a deeply soulful plane with his female fans. Imagine the squeals when he keens “Love of mine … ” Or, shoot, maybe he goes super current and does Fun.’s “We Are Young”? — James Montgomery

Hollie Cavanagh
We get it, Hollie, you are the tiny queen of the gigantic ballad. But what you haven’t done yet is show us some personality. Here’s your chance. Go with an uptempo song that’s fun but isn’t by a singer known just for their soaring vocals. Perhaps Katy Perry’s “Firework”? — Kaufman

We know she can sing. We also know that she relies w-a-a-y too heavily on torchy, big-time ballads as a result. So this week, I’m hoping she changes things up a bit, shows some personality and covers a super-pop tune like Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” or “Part of Me.” Or maybe she splits the difference and does Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”? She needs to have fun up there, because I get the creeping suspicion that voters might be getting bored with her, which could mean she’s getting dangerously close to elimination. And that would be a shame. — Montgomery

DeAndre Brackensick
What do you do with this guy? He’s got the falsetto and, apparently, a look that the ladies love, but he’s low on stagecraft and just never seems comfortable in his own skin. There may be no better song for him to tackle than Maxwell’s cloud-chasing falsetto ballad “Prettywings.” It makes him sound now and it’s so in his ballpark, it’s sick. — Kaufman

Still waiting on him to have his breakthrough moment (though his hair remains a constant highlight each and every week), and since this week’s theme is apparently “Idols” — and since J.Lo keeps dropping references to it — I’m just going to assume the inevitable: He’s doing a Bob Marley song. But which should he choose? “Three Little Birds” would showcase both his voice and his impressive bobbing skills, though how amazing would it be if he switched things up and did Pete Tosh’s “Legalize It”? Steven Tyler would probably leap onstage and sing it with him. — Montgomery

Phillip Phillips
Phil’s problem is he’s kind of no fun. He won’t listen to Tommy or Jimmy about clothes or music, and he kind of just turns every song into a Dave Matthews grumble. I could go one of two ways with this guy: either a hushed, not growly ballad by Bon Iver like the Grammy bait “Holocene,” or something fun and light like Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” which everyone loves! — Kaufman

Another, uh, favorite of mine (loved what he did on “Movin’ Out,” especially the part where he turned it into an ungodly growl-fest … ), and if you think he’s not doing Dave Matthews tonight, well, then you’ve never watched his feet while he plays. All kidding aside, I’m hoping he goes outside the box, maybe does Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” or Jeff Buckley’s “Grace.” Neither of those things will actually happen, of course, and according to Nigel Lythgoe’s Twitter account, someone’s doing Daughtry, so it’ll probably be him. It’s definitely in his, uh, zone. So I’ll say he does “What About Now.” — Montgomery

Heejun Han
Best-case scenario is Hee Han comes out and does a “Weird” Al Yankovic song and just gets it over with. But if the “funny” finalist insists on hanging around, he also needs to break out of ballad jail and go for something a bit faster, but not as jokey as his Billy Joel performance. My pick: Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” — Kaufman

I was going to suggest he do the “Nyan Cat” song, since it’s nearly as annoying as he is. But since that seems like a longshot at best (though, with Heejun, you never know), and given the buttery loverman shtick he keeps foisting down our throats each week, I’m thinking he goes R&B. Perhaps Usher’s “U Got It Bad”? D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”? Or maybe he goes into full-on Operation Shutdown mode and just cover’s Beck’s “Sexx Laws”? Anything to speed up his inevitable exit. — Montgomery

Skylar Laine
It’s hard being the only country girl. While the temptation is to break out of that gilded cage, one way spunky Laine can mix it up is by choosing a new classic by an old star. What about the Jack White-produced “Van Lear Rose” by Loretta Lynn done in a bluesy/jazzy style? — Kaufman

Gee, I wonder if she’ll do a country tune? Lythgoe hinted on Twitter that someone’s doing a Miranda Lambert song, so I’ll go out a limb and suggest it’ll be her. Which means get ready for a version of “The House That Built Me,” y’all! Other, less inevitable suggestions? Since she got so many Reba comparisons, perhaps “You Lie” or “What If,” or a classy, brassy take on anything from the Patsy Cline songbook (“Crazy”? “I Fall to Pieces”?). — Montgomery

Joshua Ledet
How Ledet went from being one of the front-runners to a potential also-ran is a mystery to me, but needless to say, he needs to bring it this week. We know he can do church, but can he do something a bit more pop? I say have some fun and do R. Kelly’s “Happy People.” It’s mostly midtempo, but Josh could surely throw some fire into the middle to make it ignite and prove again that he can handle modern music. — Kaufman

What to do with Josh? He can sing practically anything, though after a rough couple of weeks, perhaps he needs to get back to basics: Gospel. Maybe he does Kirk Franklin’s “Looking for You”? If he’s looking for something a little more, uh, contemporary, does he dare bring the “Mantasia” thing full-circle and do the fabulous Fantasia’s “I Believe” or “When I See U”? — Montgomery

Jessica Sanchez
We get it: The tiny girl can blow the roof off the dump. Ballads? Check. After her disastrous “Turn the Beat Around,” J.Sanch needs to show us she can do dance floor as well as prom night. It’s gotta be Rihanna, and I give her a choice: “Only Girl (In the World),” or “We Found Love.” — Kaufman

She’s doing Beyoncé. There can be no doubt about this. But does she tackle the big, ballad-y B of “If I Were a Boy” or “Halo”? Or is this the week she decides to change it up a bit and do the down-and-dirty crazy B of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” or “Love on Top”? I’m thinking she plays it safe — since, at this point, she’s so far ahead of the rest of the field she’s practically lapping them — and goes with “Halo.” And, yes, it will be fantastic. — Montgomery

Elise Testone
She’s been battered, sent to the bottom three and come back swinging. Sound like anyone we know? Pink, “Trouble.” ‘Nuff said. — Kaufman

After last-week’s Lazarus-like comeback, she’s found her comfort zone, which means we can expect something big and boozy from her this week. Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” or “Me and Bobby McGee”? Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”? Or maybe she switches it up and does the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”? If she wants to get more current, perhaps Adele, or Pink? Actually, Lady Gaga’s “Yoü and I” would work well. Either way, she’s playing with house money at this point. — Montgomery

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