Tuesday night’s (March 2) episode of “American Idol” provided a handful of highlights, including the great video package promoting Alex Lambert and the suddenly improving Tim Urban. The show also featured a segment that felt a lot like deja vu: A contestant (in this case guitar picking Casey James) wailing his way through Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be.”
Here’s the thing: There’s nothing particularly wrong about DeGraw’s breakout 2004 single. It’s a not unreasonable song with a too-catchy chorus and just the right amount of anthemic crunch. But as an “American Idol” song, it has to go. As James even admitted last night, “I Don’t Want to Be” has shown up on “Idol” an inordinate number of times over nine seasons, spilling from the throats of the likes of Bo Bice, Elliott Yamin and Michael Sarver (all of whom, by the way, topped James by leaps and bounds). It too often gives singers a license to shout, and the melody is not dynamic enough to really show off males voices (especially rock voices).
So let’s all agree to give DeGraw his tune back. With that in mind, here are five more tunes that seriously need to be locked away where no “Idol” contestant can ever touch them.
It’s the best song Heart ever put out (yes, even better than “Barracuda”) and is ruined by a shouty female rock singer just about every time it comes out (which has been four times over eight seasons). Consider this the girl version of “I Don’t Want to Be.”
Anything by Whitney Houston
“Idol” contestants have to allow that not even Whitney Houston can hit those Whitney Houston notes any more. So let’s leave “I Have Nothing” and “Saving All My Love For You” at the door and keep the memories of Houston’s greatness sacred. Note: This could also apply to all songs by Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield. These women have some of the most distinct voices in music history, and no contestant will ever deliver a superior original.
“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”
Just because a former “American Idol” contestant performed this tune as part of a film performance that won her an Academy Award doesn’t mean it can win you one as well.
Anything by Sam Cooke
Just as the ladies should stay away from Whitney, Mariah and Aretha, the dudes should let Sam Cooke rest in peace. His dynamic, soul-kissed voice is sweet and distinct and can’t be replicated. So even though “A Change Is Gonna Come” is a remarkable song, it should be left only to Sam. Men of “Idol” should treat Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Al Green with the same sort of reverence (this means you, Jermaine Sellers).
OK, so it hasn’t showed up on the show yet, but it was the most popular audition song during last summer’s open calls. But it’s only a matter of time, and though Miley Cyrus’ original is hardly a definitive entry in the pop pantheon, let’s just assume it shouldn’t be trotted out.
What song would you place on the permanent “American Idol” banned list? Leave your ideas in the comments!