‘American Idol’ Loves The ’80s: What Should They Sing?

MTV News' Gil Kaufman and James Montgomery face off over song selections for the 'Idol' top eight.

Last week, we tried to give the “American Idol” top nine some helpful advice with a selection of songs they should sing during Idols week. Of course, they mostly ignored us — except for our girl J.Sanch, who totally did Beyoncé and advanced — but we remain undeterred, which is why we’re back this week with even more picks.

This time out, “Idol” is taking us back to the 1980s, which is great news for both Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, but totally makes us wish Heejun Han was still around — we’d pay good money to see him do “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Living With a Hernia.” But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of great opportunities for the remaining eight. After all, this was the decade that gave us both the Rubik’s Cube and A Flock of Seagulls, two things that remind us, respectively, of Hollie Cavanagh (plastic, square) and Colton Dixon (terrible hair). Also, 1988 was the year Seacrest stopped growing. Everyone should feel right at home this week — even if they weren’t alive during the actual 1980s.

So without further ado, here are our picks. We may rarely agree, but we know music and we know reality singing shows, and these are the songs the “Idol” finalists must pick in order to make it to the next round:

Jessica Sanchez
J.Sanch is in the driver’s seat, which means she can pretty much do what she wants. Ballads are her go-to, and while she could really show her full range with a good uptempo song, Cyndi Lauper’s classic weeper “Time After Time” is a bull’s-eye for her. — Gil Kaufman

She already did Whitney (to max effect), which is a shame because “Greatest Love of All” or “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” would’ve been prime picks for her this week. So where does she turn instead? How about Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings”? It’s the kind of inspirational, big-boned ballad Sanchez has killed in previous weeks, and the resident “Idol” diva-in-training could certainly learn a few things from the Divine Miss M. — James Montgomery

Hollie Cavanagh
We’ll dispense with the pixie allusions and get to the meat: Hollie needs to smash it this week or else it could mean a trip back to the suburban mini-mansion. Jimmy said last week that she’s got the chops but isn’t connecting with the songs, so she needs a tune that will let her do both. Cue “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. The emotion is built in, and it’s impossible to sing it without sounding forlorn. — Kaufman

She’s on thin ice with viewers, who are growing tired of her by-the-numbers balladry, and she needs a powerhouse performance this week to stay in the competition. So what better time for a complete makeover? (Hey, it worked for Elise Testone … ) I’m thinking she should do something from Madonna’s early ’80s catalog, like “Borderline” or “Material Girl.” Shoot, if she really wants to swing for the fences, why not “Like a Virgin”? Folks would certainly be talking after that one … — Montgomery

Joshua Ledet
He’s back! After a shaky stretch, the gospel-dipped power vocalist stormed back last week and almost nailed it (if he hadn’t cried, St. Jimmy said Ledet would have been on top of the leaderboard). The ’80s are lousy with options for Mantasia, from Chaka Khan and Rufus’ “Ain’t Nobody” to Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love.” Ledet should be in heaven. — Kaufman

Down one week, up the next, Josh scored with Mariah last week, and he could do the same this week by taking on anything from ’80s-era Lionel Richie. “Hello,” “Truly,” “All Night Long” — take your pick. He’d sing the crap out of any of ‘em. — Montgomery

DeAndre Brackensick
D.Brack does one thing well: bust out that feathery falsetto. (OK, two things: He’s also a helluva hair flipper.) I’m the only person on the planet who would say this, but those two talents can only mean one thing: Terence Trent D’Arby. As TTD’s #1 (and maybe only remaining) fan, I can honestly say that ‘Dre can smash it with either “If You Let Me Stay” or “Wishing Well.” Both have ample falsetto-tunities and, well, they’re just awesome. — Kaufman

After proving last week that he’s apparently impervious to elimination, DeAndre is clearly playing with house money at this point, so why not just go for it and sing Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie”? Just remember to pass it from the left-hand side, D! — Montgomery

Skylar Laine
I give up on trying to convince Laine that she should step out of the country corral and show off some Carrie Underwood-style crossover potential. We get it: Your boots only scoot one way. The ’80s were chock-full of big, cheesy country ballads, but Restless Heart’s “I’ll Still Be Loving You” is the biggest and cheesiest, making it as crucial a staple at big hair weddings as a gingham dress, camouflage overalls and a Twinkie-topped wedding cake. — Kaufman

Is this the week she steps outside the country bubble? Hell no. And since she used to get compared to Reba McEntire all the time, what better week to tackle one of her tunes? I could see her doing “How Blue” or “Someone Should Leave.” Or maybe she’ll shock us all and do some Crüe? Oh, who am I kidding? — Montgomery

Colton Dixon
By now you’ve probably noticed that my esteemed colleague James is a serious Dixon Denier . He just doesn’t get it, and while I don’t love C.Dix, I get why the girls do. He’s proven to have Velveeta-level song-choice skills so far, but maybe the worship side of him can come around to something from U2 that would show his arena-rocking potential, such as the vaguely spiritual “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” or “With or Without You.” — Kaufman

So many options for him this week. I could see him building on last week’s worship-tastic Lifehouse performance by taking on some Stryper or embracing his inner cheese-monger by doing something like Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” In a pinch, I’ll take the latter, since I suspect he fancies himself a bit of a cowboy anyway. Though he’d probably need to change his haircut if he wants to get served in any saloon. — Montgomery

Phillip Phillips
I’m not ashamed to admit I just don’t get this dude. Phil-Squared just seems like no fun to me, and his “talent” is basically making every song sound like a jittery attempt to clear his throat. Like Dixon, he’s got the musical taste of a Southern frat boy who was banned from the “devil’s music” as a kid. What the hell, let’s see how badly he can mangle the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” or Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now).” — Kaufman

He’s gonna growl. He’s gonna shout. Shoot, he’ll probably grout. And is there a better song to do it to than Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane”? Probably not. In all seriousness, I could actually see him slowing this one down and putting his own unique spin on it, which could make for the first time I actually enjoyed a Phillip Phillips performance. — Montgomery

Elise Testone
Elise appears to have fully embraced her inner-rock queen, so she should stick to that. Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” or Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” are the only way to go. But she’ll probably stick to the script and do Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” — Kaufman

She’s found her footing over the past two weeks and now appears capable of singing just about anything. I could see her going Sunset Strip skuzzy this week, though I’m hoping she does Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which has both the smoke and the soul. As an added bonus, “Idol” producers could just cut to black right before she hits the triumphant chorus, leaving us all to wonder whether she’s just been whacked. — Montgomery

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