The “American Idol” top seven took on current hits last week, and look how well things turned out! Uh, wait, never mind .
Anyway, after Jessica Sanchez escaped elimination thanks to the judges’ save (which officially marked the first time this season they’ve actually done something right), “Idol” producers decided to up the ante for Wednesday night’s (April 18) show by letting the contestants sing both a #1 from the past decade — since it worked so well before — and a classic soul tune.
Yes, it’s “Then and Now” week on “Idol,” which, come to think of it, is a pretty apt way of viewing the show’s steady decline. It also means we’re going to see the usual front-runners strut their stuff: Sanchez will dominate a Beyoncé hit, Joshua Ledet will own a soul tune, Colton Dixon will make bedroom eyes to the camera — yep, it’s gonna be a great night!
So, in anticipation of all that, uh, excellence, MTV News’ resident “Idol” experts Gil Kaufman and James Montgomery have returned once again with their hand-selected songs for the remaining seven. And for the first time, they actually agree on a couple of things! Read on for their picks:
We get it, Colton, you’re the hand-holding, sensitive type. I’ve said it before and, given your vanilla soft-serve taste in music, I will say it again: Sing Owl City’s 2009 smash “Fireflies.” It’s a song girls love, and that seems to be all that matters on “Idol” anyway. As for your soul pocket, why not the Staples Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” since it’s kind of a holy rolling rocker? –Kaufman
We know he loves the Lord. We also know he has terrible taste in music. Is there any doubt, then, that for his “current” song, he’ll take on Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open”? (It was #1 for one week in November 2000!) As for his soul selection, well, I could see him caterwauling his way through Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears.” Hey, it’s certainly emo enough. – Montgomery
Let’s face it: Being in the bottom three almost every week is a drag. It’s enough to shake your confidence, but the Texas automaton with the “Toddlers and Tiaras” perma-smile just keeps hanging on. Things can’t get much worse, so she might as well go for broke with Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.” That means she needs to bring a big, showy ballad for her soul song and Diana Ross’ “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” always works. Always. – Kaufman
She’s still here. Somehow. Anyway, since I was about the only person on the planet who thought she did a good job with Pink’s “Perfect” (except for barely enough of the “Idol” voters, that is), there’s no way she’ll go down that route again. So for her contemporary song, I say she goes ballad and does Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together.” Soul-wise, shoot, your guess is as good as mine, so let’s just say she’ll do Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heat Wave,” and then get shown the door on Thursday. – Montgomery
Poor E-Test. She keeps knocking it out of the park, yet ends up in the bottom three time and time again. We know she can kill a Lady Gaga or Pink song, which is why she should wrap those gritty pipes around original “Idol” Kelly Clarkson’s booming “My Life Would Suck Without You.” As for her soul pick, Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” will totally let her shine in her own unique way. – Kaufman
She can play the piano. She has a flair for the dramatic. So she’ll do Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’.” For her other song, she should show off her fiery side, and what better tune to do that than Ike and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”? I could definitely see her dominating the latter, and if she does, she might actually have a shot at winning this thing — especially after last week. Or she could just get booted. Season 11, everybody! – Montgomery
Too bad for Philly Phil that the Dave Matthews Band hasn’t charted lately, otherwise he could just throw in the towel and cover the band he’s been covering every week anyway. With not many contemporary rock tunes to choose from, he may have to just growl his way through James Blunt’s weeper “You’re Beautiful.” Or, worst comes to worst, Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me.” And he could surely put his foot-stompin’ stank on the Motown classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” – Kaufman
Couldn’t you see him putting a sultry spin on Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson”? Hey, I could too — and it would probably rule. Of course, he’ll just end up grouting through something else, so why not Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me”? (Gil and I are on the same wavelength, apparently). For his soul number, well, he’d be a fool not to do Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” The ladies will go crazy, and he’ll move one step closer to his inevitable heartthrob-off with Dixon. – Montgomery
Mantasia’s playing with house money this week, and it feels like he should roll the dice. He killed it by going uptempo last week, so he should double down and do Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” People love that song and it would make him seem … less dated than he does now. Then he can go back into his groove for a certified standing-O run through Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” – Kaufman
We know he can’t do Bruno Mars two weeks in a row, so maybe he puts his own take on Janet Jackson’s “All for You”? (Call it a hunch: Josh is a Janet fan.) As for the soul classic, shoot, name one he can’t sing the bejesus out of: Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,” Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” any version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” No matter what he chooses, it’ll be great. – Montgomery
We’ll assume this week’s theme allows for country #1’s as well, in which case the resident boot scooter could go the soft route with Lee Ann Womack’s oft-sung “I Hope You Dance” or the burn-it-out route with Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman.” Finding a classic soul song for Skylar to pour grits and gravy on shouldn’t be that hard — and yet. She could scuff up Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold,” or just stay close to home and put some twang on Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Hell, Georgia’s right there in the title! (Even though she’s from Mississippi.) – Kaufman
Through every fault of her own, her current choices are basically limited to stuff like Carrie Underwood’s “Inside Your Heaven,” Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” or Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” I’ll say she goes with Underwood. She’s got way more leeway when it comes to classic soul, though I could see her doing a dynamite job on something like Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” or the Four Tops’ “Reach Out, I’ll Be There.” – Montgomery
BeBe Chez has proven time and again that she’s got ballad chops for days, but she’s still trying to prove she can shake it like a Polaroid picture. Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” could be the one. And what the hell? If you’re gonna play the role of baby diva, you might as well get some “Respect” from the Aretha Franklin fans in the crowd! – Gil Kaufman
Wow, Gil and I are really in tune this week. Or perhaps “Idol” really has become this predictable. Anyway, two songs for Sanchez means she’s gonna be able to show off both her true self and her nefarious alter ego, BeBe Chez. I say BeBe gets to shine on Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” and, seriously, is there any doubt she’ll go supreme Diva and do Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”? After last week’s near-elimination, you know she’ll be singing for the rafters tonight. Sometimes you’ve just got to light a fire. – Montgomery
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.