The Dude Abides: With the American Idol Top 7 Singing American Classics, Here’s What Clark, Nick, Quentin and Rayvon Should Sing

My guess - one of these four need a huge performance this week of they're going home.

My guess – one of these four need a huge performance this week of they’re going home.

(Same intro as the girls; if you’ve already read it, feel free to skip ahead)

For the second week in a row, American Idol teases an incredibly vague theme.

Wonder if the Idols had any trouble picking out an “American Classic?”

American Classic could mean anything and with fan tweets involved – but let’s be honest; they’re letting the Idols pick whatever they want and will make up the Tweet if need be, a la Kimmel and his “Stars Read Meant Tweets” bit – who knows what’s getting thrown out there because most people just want the Idols to sing a song they like, regardless of how it will play on the show. Idiots.

To narrow the song selection, here were the parameters: song had to be at least 20 years old and had to be something anyone who’s ever listened to music could actually name without thinking.

For each contestant, there’s two selections. First is the Dudes Review Idol Dream Pick – which is me putting together a crazy set list that would entertain the hell out of me – and the second is songs I think fit the Top 7 and would help them move up or move on.

With seven people, this is still gonna get lengthy so again, breaking it up by guys and girls, in order of my personal rank.


Clark Beckham
DRI DREAM PICK: “The Pines,” Leadbelly

You know this song. You’ve heard it somewhere, or sampled, or used in some recording and all you know is the song is almost as old as music itself. Its origins trace back to the 1870s, but Leadbelly popularized it (thanks Wikipedia!) until this happened:

This is what I want Clark Beckham to do. It’s no biggie. He just has to try and replicate the passion and emotion that dripped from the voice of a singer nobody knew was on the brink of suicide because of how emotionally distraught he was.

Kurt Cobain’s vocals on that performance are so raw and unpolished, but that was what made Cobain Cobain. You can’t ask Clark to do that.

The bluegrass tempo and sound fits his musical styling, but I think his vocal talent can make this work. It’s on the list because I’ve been waiting for years for a male American Idol singer to give this thing a go and there hasn’t been anyone with a voice close enough. I don’t know if Clark is, but in my dreams he makes this happen.

He’s in such good standing I don’t think it would drop him too far down the list. If he nailed it? Good god.

If he could someone find the emotion Cobain had at the end of that performance, it’s an automatic Top 10 of all time. He wins the show that night because everyone would have to quit out of respect.

WHAT CLARK SHOULD SING: “Feelin’ Alright,” Joe Cocker

Originally I had “With a Little Help From My Friends” because I realized Clark could dominate doing something like Joe Cocker did.

And then I remembered “Feelin’ Alright.”

Ballads usually carry contestants to the finals, but Clark’s ability to literally sing the blues means he can sing songs with a little more pace. A good pop song doesn’t carry the weight of something with pianos and big horns.

Just listen to Cocker … and now try and tell me you can’t hear Clark singing this? The place would explode. J-Lo would dance, Urban would sing along and Harry Connick might say something positive for once.

Strategically, it makes sense. Keep going a little uptempo now and bury ballads at the end to put the show away. Clark’s the leader in the clubhouse, but Tyanna isn’t far behind if she’s behind at all. This song allows him to build a nice catalog of memories for fans and when he plays ballads the last three weeks, he gets all the votes. All of them.

I don’t hate “With a Little Help” in this spot either, but I’ll say this – both choices are better for his chances than when he tweeted his love for Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.” That’s a bad Idol song unless you’re doing the whole performance because the strong ending relies on the extremely slow build up. I’m guessing he’s doing Redding, but this should be the choice.

Oh, and this also gives me a chance to post a link to my favorite SNL performance ever.

Like I said, he’s almost definitely doing Redding, but if he reads this he’s penciling it into his Final 3 lineup because it’s almost too perfect not to perform on the way to the title.

Nick Fradiani
DRI DREAM PICK: “Gin & Juice,” Snoop Dogg

This is why I’m the best at picking songs for the Idols.

You’re probably sitting there wondering how in the hell Nick Fradiani is going to sing Snoop Dogg and make it sound good. Here’s how.

He’s going bluegrass.

First time I found this I downloaded it off Napster (Google it young ‘uns, but Fradiani knows what it is) and for years thought it was by Phish. I know, it’s amazing the illegally downloaded music wasn’t always titled properly.

I think this would be a brilliant move because drunk me would love it and because it would be a hell of a strategic play. The bluegrass arrangement is perfect because country folk will love it and young people won’t be offended by the change of genres. Because it would be the most original take in the history of the show (it’s a cover of a cover, blah, blah, blah) the judges would lose their god damn minds.

If Fradiani pulled it off, all of a sudden he draws in country folk who are still watching and people will vote for him because of Snoop. You don’t think a pretty white boy singing Snoop would resonate with a minority crowd? From everything I’ve learned from Black Twitter and Vine, black people love when white people do stuff like this.

Fradiani’s in a spot where he needs to make a ballsy play. This would be one. If he connects, all of a sudden he’s Top 4 and who knows after that.

Worst case, he goes down as the pretty white boy who sang Snoop.

WHAT NICK SHOULD SING: “I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor

Apparently my theme for Nick is “Black Artists’ Songs Covered by White Bands,” because while I’d appreciate Fradiani trying to get soulful and knocking out a disco hit, this would be a much better choice.

Would this be the first cover of a cover that ends up being a megahit? Gloria Gaynor recorded Survive in 1978 and it was a hit; 18 years later, Cake did the cover and that was a hit. So 19 years later Fradiani gets his platinum record when this leads his album?

I’m getting ahead of myself. The song plays perfectly because it’s a disco hit done in a non-disco way. While Fradiani should give credit to Cake, if he didn’t I doubt anyone would notice because I don’t think alt-rock was big for J-Lo (too busy banging rappers), Urban (too busy being Australian) or Connick (too busy trying to kill aliens) in the mid-90s.

No way he does this and it doesn’t work. That’s how much confidence I have. The Cake vocal isn’t amazing, but it requires good singing and a good performance and thanks to his punchable good looks. Fradiani’s got that down.

Quentin Alexander
DRI DREAM PICK: “Fortunate Son,” Creedance Clearwater Revival

I was perusing the Rolling Stone 500 Best Songs Ever list and saw this, stopped, pretended I was Quentin and realized how good this could be.

For whatever reason, I hear Quentin slowly singing the opening stanza. I hear him turning “It ain’t me/it ain’t me/I ain’t no fortunate one” into a haunting take on America’s treatment of the inner city in 2015.

The lyrics of this song are so strong, so meaningful, they really play to the style Quentin sings. You can’t listen to CCR and expect Quentin to sing like that. It would sound ridiculous.

But slow it down in your mind. Imagine Quentin holding notes on “It ain’t me.”

It’d be the kind of performance everyone would poo-poo when the song was announced and once he started singing, people wouldn’t be able to get to iTunes fast enough to download the performance.

(This is a short explanation per my prediction rules: I can only write while the song is on. “Fortunate One” clocks in at 2:19).


The style is perfect for Quentin and people won’t be terrified a murderer is chasing them when he sings.

Obviously Quentin isn’t as Irish as Bono, but the tone of their voices aren’t as far off as you’d think. I love this song for him because Quentin could drop the tempo enough to fit his vibe, but not so much that it totally alienates people who love U2.

Songs like this end up doing better because there’s so much meaning behind them. Harry is a total hardo about the meaning behind songs, but 99 percent of the time he’s talking about crappy pop songs that are supposed to have some deeper message provided you ignore the reality that they were only written so people could make dollar, dollar, bills.
The middle and end of “One” have me excited because I really think that’s where Quentin would shine.

However, I don’t know how much it’s going to help. Regardless of how well he performs, Quentin is a marked man.

Once the Top 12 were announced, a pattern developed – if an Idol didn’t follow me on Twitter, they got canned. First Sarina-Joi, then Qaasim, then Adanna, then Daniel Seavey, then Qaasim. The only Idol left who doesn’t follow me is Quentin.

Not saying his time is up, but, well, if he doesn’t do “One” he’s as good as gone.

Rayvon Owen
DRI DREAM PICK: “Sexual Healing,” Marvin Gaye

So Rayvon will be Bottom 2 this week – not a condemnation of his last performance; he’s just in a spot where he’ll be there every week unless two people fall completely flat – which means he’s going to have to sing off again.

That means another week of going big or going home and if he’s going to go big, he might as well make J-Lo faint mid-performance.

Rayvon’s picked his game up the last couple weeks, but I don’t know if he’s got the chops to pull off Marvin. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to see.

If he can nail the false during this song there are going to be naked chicks everywhere. If he shows up like Marvin in the video – black tux and a bow tie, plus red pocket square with a white scarf and no Heisenberg hat – Fox is going to have to pixelate the entire screen because that will be MA-17 stuff once he starts crushing notes.

This song is such fire and, despite being old, could be played on the radio now and it would be played at middle school dances across the country (PS can’t wait for my kids to be in middle school; mad face emoji, gun emoji). But if Rayvon doesn’t like the old school version, he can sing it with the Shaggy remix version’s beat:

Seriously though, there’s no way Idol would EVER let him sing this. Can’t be responsible for teenagers getting pregnant. This isn’t MTV, after all.

WHAT RAYVON SHOULD SING: “Tears in Heaven,” Eric Clapton

Call me crazy, but I think Rayvon can pull this off.

There is a HUGE downside to this song and that’s the emotion involved. This song is sung by Clapton to his dead infant son. Rayvon ain’t touching that (as far as I know; if he’s got a kid or relative who’s dead, I’m sorry for being an ignorant dick).

But vocally? I think he can pull this off.

Clapton sings this so beautifully (again, emotion of the song) bit I think his tone and volume is in Rayvon’s wheelhouse. Rayvon won’t have to go crazy false and won’t have to go super deep. He can keep it steady.
What would make this a winning performance is if he did it similar to Lambert covering “Tracks of my Tears.” Sit on a stool next to one of the band guys with an acoustic guitar. Make sure you’re dressed to the motherf-cking nines. Sing.

If it works, we’re talking performance of the season, maybe Top 30 all-time type stuff. “Tears in Heaven” isn’t a song you play at a party or listen to often (unless you’ve suffered some sort of tragedy where this comforts you) but when you do, there’s usually a certain amount of emotion involved. It’s a suckers’ play, but Rayvon can tap into the emotion and in a sing-off that would be incredibly effective.

I mean, if he sings this in a sing-off and nails it, he wins. I don’t care how great I am at picking songs, nobody is beating a beautiful version of “Tears in Heaven.” Clarkson could be singing with Lambert with Phillip Phillips and Underwood backing and they ain’t beating Rayvon doing this well.

It would be one hell of a risk, but it would work and with three Twitter saves under his belt, Rayvon would be the most feared competitor on the show.

If you enjoyed this, check out the picks I had for the girls.