The Playlist: What the Top 11 American Idols should sing for ‘Songs of the Cinema’

Get your popcorn ready for Wednesday!

Get your popcorn ready for Wednesday!

People suck at picking songs.

I’m not just talking American Idol contestants. I’m talking people in general. How many times have you been to a karaoke bar where some boozebag is slamming down Long Island Iced Teas and is belting out ballads? (NOTE: If you sing a ballad at karaoke, it’d better be ironic; like you’re doing it because you actually suck at singing). Nobody goes to karaoke to hear you try to sing. They want to be entertained.

I can’t sing a lick. I know this. But I dominate karaoke. You know why? Because I do songs that don’t involve a lot of “singing.” My song of choice is a little jam called “Strokin’” by Clarence Carter and I don’t want to say I’m the best at it, but I get standing ovations.

Point of my humblebrag is the Idols this week have to pick songs that fit their voice and are going to entertain. With the theme of “Songs of the Cinema” I’d imagine we’re going to hear a lot of songs we normally hear on Idol; there will probably be something from Dreamgirls, some boring stuff from the 80s glam-pop era and a lot of other recycled garbage that won’t really help the contestants put themselves in front of the pack.

So in steps this guy. I’m not saying I’m the best at this, but here’s a lineup of songs the contestants should perform. Some are picked because it fits them, some are risks and some are just songs to do that will help them get to next week.

But all in all, it would make a hell of a show.


1) Geena Gina Jena Irene
SONG: “Pure Imagination” by Gene Wilder from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
WHY IT’S RIGHT: This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve heard this song this season, but the version Aranesa Turner sang at the original auditions (which made me think she was a Top 13 lock) isn’t what I’m thinking for Jena. She needs to sit down in front of her piano and do a slower take of Fiona Apple’s cover that she did for Chipotle. And if you can’t trust a burrito company, who can you trust?
WHY IT’S WRONG: This wouldn’t be a happy happy song or a beautiful ballad. It’s a dark song and might scare the crap out of viewers on tone alone.
MY VISION: She slows the pace, sounds hauntingly beautiful and Connick just breaks down and cries.

2) Malaya Watson
SONG: “Somewhere Out There” by Linda Ronstadt and Peabo Bryson, from “An American Tail”
WHY IT’S RIGHT: I had the toughest time picking a Malaya song because of her position on the show. If she does something risky – like Prince’s “Purple Rain” – it could send her home. I feel like she’ll end up doing Jennifer Hudson or Whitney and boring. This (or any other 80s Disney R&B ballad) is the song. It’s a guaranteed vote getting because it’s a song everyone from 25-45 knows and that’s a lot of votes.
WHY IT’S WRONG: It’s a guy-centric song. Season 11’s Jermaine Jones covered it so brilliantly the week he was kicked off for being a criminal that I bought it on iTunes. She’ll have to nail the arrangement and through two weeks, she still hasn’t shown she can do that.
MY VISION: She sings it with a certain softness and tenderness, building to the crescendo that gets everyone on their feet applauding.

3) MK Nobilette
SONG: “Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, from “The Graduate”
WHY IT’S RIGHT: MK is in deep trouble right now and needs the type of performance that people will remember. I’m talking her on a stool, playing her guitar – or next to someone playing if she can’t handle it – with no other band. Stage backdrop is dark and there are candles everywhere. It’s her voice, a soft guitar and a chance to get out of the bottom three.
WHY IT’S WRONG: It’s really tough to say what’s going to get her out of the bottom three. She hasn’t had a good performance and maybe picking a song that would require her to sing and play isn’t a great idea, especially with the nerves she shown.
MY VISION: It ends up being compared to Adam Lambert’s cover of “Tracks of My Tears” for its intimacy and performance and propels her from bottom-dweller to America’s favorite.

4) Jessica Meuse
SONG: “Gold Dust Woman” by Hole from “The Crow”
WHY IT’S RIGHT: Wait, isn’t that a Fleetwood Mac song? Yup. Was it ever in a movie? Not as a featured song. But Hole’s cover – which is awesome and really showed how underrated Courtney Love was – is and that means, by Idol rules, it’s in play (it should be noted I am against the loophole in the rule, but I guess it’s OK because Jess would be doing her interpretation of Hole’s version which would end up sounding like the original?). She needs to be somewhere between the two – faster than Fleetwood, slower than Hole – to really connect with the audience.
WHY IT’S WRONG: The Hole version isn’t the most well-known song and it could lead to disaster if she tried to sing like Courtney instead of Stevie. But that’s about it.
MY VISION: She performs the shit out of it leading J-Lo to say “I’ve never heard that song before, but it should be your first single.”

5) Majesty Rose
SONG: “Cups (When I’m Gone)” by Anna Kendrick from “Pitch Perfect”
WHY IT’S RIGHT: It’s an innocent song and fits Majesty’s voice so perfect. Plus, it’s insanely popular – and that always plays well. My original choice for Majesty was “Anyone Else But You” from the Juno soundtrack which would be an A-plus selection provided people recognize the song from the movie.
WHY IT’S WRONG: It’s too bubblegum pop for her. She tries to sing it doing the cups thing and it all goes bad.
MY VISION: She strips it down, plays the acoustic guitar with the band backing and everyone agrees it was the most fun performance of the night.


1) Caleb Johnson
SONG: “Cochise” by Audioslave from “Iron Man”
WHY IT’S RIGHT: I think Caleb not rocking everyone’s face off is a bad, bad move. His voice is eerily similar to Chris Cornell’s and this song lets him get loud but show the control. It sounds like a screaming song, but it ain’t and if he does this, I pity whoever follows him.
WHY IT’S WRONG: He continues to get called to the carpet for doing the “rock thing” and people are mad their faces are melting off every Wednesday night.
MY VISION: He comes out wearing a T-shirt with Robert Downey Jr. smoking a cigarette on it, belts the hell out of the song and there is just an unsafe amount of pyro.

2) CJ Harris
SONG: “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel from “Say Anything”
WHY IT’S RIGHT: Screw the Peter Gabriel version. He’s singing it like Jeffrey Gaines, whose acoustic rendition is a song I’ve loved since I heard it in college (and for the record, this has nothing to do with Gaines and Harris both being black; even after downloading his version on iTunes, I was wondering why there was a random black dude on his album art). It fits his voice, allows him to play guitar and probably get a tear or two from the crowd.
WHY IT’S WRONG: This is another choice I can’t see anything going wrong with. It’s too good of a version to avoid.
MY VISION: CJ dresses up – no plaid, no hat – and loses the country-boy image for one night and as he cries during the last note, all three judges look at him red-eyes and applaud.

3) Ben Briley
SONG: “Man of Constant Sorrow” by The Soggy Bottom Boys from “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”
WHY IT’S RIGHT: I don’t want Ben singing anything slow. With his Week 1 performance of “Folsom Prison” he showed he’s a faster-paced artist and I think slowing it down would be a mistake. This is a fun song; it’s country, it’s rock, it’s whatever you want it to be.
WHY IT’S WRONG: If he comes out and does the same version from the movie it’s going to look bad. He needs to put a twist on it but still keep it in that rockabilly style that will make non-country fans love it; if not, disaster.
MY VISION: Always willing to play the part, he comes out in overalls and a straw hat, plays a guitar or banjo and just crushes the performance, making Randy stand up from his seat in the audience and scream over everyone “HE’S IN IT TO WIN IT.”

4) Dexter Roberts
SONG: “Rise” by Eddie Vedder from “Into the Wild”
WHY IT’S RIGHT: Dexter needs to stay away from a pure country song. “Rise” is perfect because it allows Dexter to use his country twang to make it sound like his own without ruining the beauty of the song itself.
WHY IT’S WRONG: Country fans will get pissed because they think he’s selling out or Pearl Jam freaks lose their shit because he’s not singing it like Eddie.
MY VISION: His twang sells the song and Urban immediately says “now THAT wasn’t something you’d hear at any Nashville honkytonk!”

5) Sam Woolf
SONG: “King of Wishful Thinking” by Go West from Pretty Woman
WHY IT’S RIGHT: Because a kid doing a pop song from before he was born is awesome. Sam needs a performance to get him noticed; I was torn between this and a cover of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” (got the idea for that HERE) as a song that’s not his genre that he makes his genre.
WHY IT’S WRONG: While it’s cheesy 80s pop, you need a voice to make some of the transitions in the song. If he doesn’t arrange it properly, it will send him home.
MY VISION: He slows it down enough – I don’t think he can handle the vocal transitions – that it’s not a ballad but not the fast-paced synth-pop song it is. Judges start comparing his originality to David Cook as girls frantically search iTunes for his version and Go West’s.

6) Alex Preston
SONG: “Where is My Mind,” by The Pixies from “Fight Club
WHY IT’S RIGHT: If it’s up to me, he closes the night. I was searching for the right blend of music and voice and this song popped up. I don’t like the rock version for him and think it would be bad to try, but I found the Pixies doing an acoustic version and thinking about Alex doing this gave me goosies. A lot of goosies.
WHY IT’S WRONG: It’s not a popular, Top 40-type song. J-Lo doesn’t know it and there are probably a ton of younger viewers who don’t either. That won’t help him get votes, but he’s in such good standing it probably won’t matter.
MY VISION: He closes the night with the performance and it immediately gets hailed as one of the best performances in Idol history. And that’s not even my best-case scenario.