American Idol: What Songs Should Nigel Lythgoe Ban in Season 11?

Last month, while interviewing executive producer Nigel Lythgoe for a story about possible changes to American Idol for its upcoming eleventh season, I proposed the idea that the show should introduce a list of 11 songs that would be banned from the live performance rounds on the grounds that they’ve been done to death in previous seasons. Lythgoe’s response caught me off guard: “Well, Mike, if you want to write down and send me 11 songs that you don’t want to hear again, I will put them through to the committee.”

Well, sir, you don’t have to ask me twice! I’m going to get us started with eight ditties than I think should be strictly verboten to all future Idol finalists and semifinalists, and then it’s up to you to hit the comments and make a case for what three tracks should round out the list. Without further ado…

1) “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” | Like the stabbing victim at the center of Murder on the Orient Express, this Phil Collins ditty has sustained grave injuries from multiple contestants through the years: Corey Clark, George Huff, Jessica Sierra, Scott Savol, Katharine McPhee, Ramiele Malubay, and most recently (and violently) Paige Miles (pictured). Nigel, put this soundtrack ballad (and the Idol viewing audience) out of its misery!

2) “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” | Granted, this soaring Elton John number hasn’t been pilloried in the same was as “Against All Odds,” but is there anything a future contestant can do with it that hasn’t already been done by Bo Bice, David Archuleta, Justin Guarini, Pia Toscano, Jorge Nuñez, Clay Aiken or Jasmine Trias?

3) “Superstition” | Frankly, a total ban on the entire Stevie Wonder songbook wouldn’t be such a bad idea, but this particular uptempo track has reared its head for three straight Idol seasons (courtesy of Ricky Braddy, Siobhan Magnus, and Clint Jun Gamboa) — plus two previous times (via RJ Helton and Bucky Covington) — and none of them have completely broken out of karaoke-arrangement territory. To quote Mr. Wonder himself, “Superstition ain’t the way.”

4) “Alone” | This booming Heart track from 1987 is a good example of why a song shouldn’t necessarily be retired from the Idol stage just because a prior contestant sang the bejeezus out of it. After all, Carrie Underwood slayed the octave-scaling beast in Season 4, then Allison Iraheta gave it her own memorable treatment in Season 8. Heck, even Gina Glocksen’s Season 6 rendition wasn’t too shabby. But when you add Ramiele Malubay’s wretched Season 7 rendition, and then Jacob Lusk’s excrementalordinary Season 10 disaster, it’s clear that the time has come for Idol to leave “Alone” alone. Maybe the show’s second decade can beat a different Heart track — “What About Love” or “These Dreams” or “Nothin’ at All” — into submission instead?

5) “(Love Is Like a) Heatwave” | If the definition of insanity is repeating the same exhausting Idol song over and over again and expecting a more pleasing result, then let’s review prior/winded renditions by Season 2’s Kimberley Locke, Season 3’s Jennifer Hudson, Season 4’s Vonzell Solomon, Season 8’s Lil Rounds, and Season 10’s Thia Megia, and then call a moratorium on the madness.

6) “Hallelujah” | When Jason Castro tackled this Leonard Cohen number in Season 7, the results were unexpected, touching, and quite beautiful. But after a pair of Season 9 covers (Tim Urban and Lee DeWyze) and countless other renditions on both reality competitions (notably, The X Factor U.K.’s Alexandra Burke) and scripted shows, too, “Hallelujah” has become a kind of lazy shorthand to tell viewers that it’s time to feel something. Which is reason enough to put the song on the injured list.

7) “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” | Even before Idol added Steven Tyler to its cast, this Armageddon soundtrack cut had been performed by Aaron Kelly, David Cook, Allison Iraheta, Josh Gracin, Lindsey Cardinale, and Antonella Barba. But as Lauren Alaina showed during her Season 10 audition, the overwrought ballad can now be used to butter up a third of the judging panel. And that’s valid cause to declare “J’enough!”

8) “I’ll Be”/”I Don’t Want to Be” | Okay, so maybe it’s cheating to combine two songs in one swoop, but time and again, these midtempo rockers by Edwin McCain and Gavin DeGraw have been trotted out by male contestants to milquetoast, middle-of-the-road effect. The former has been done with dreary results by Jovany Barreto, Bo Bice, Josh Gracin, EJay Day, and (because the Internet told me so) Adriel Herrera; the latter by Bo Bice, Elliott Yamin, Chris Richardson, Michael Sarver, and Casey James. And, holy crap, I almost fell asleep just writing this paragraph.

Okay, Idoloonies, now it’s your turn. What should complete my list of 11 Songs That Should Be Banned from Season 11 of American Idol? And are you okay with my first eight picks? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV recaps, news, and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Bryant says:

    Heatwave! It’s always the kiss of death (and I hate that song).

    • Just Jules says:

      Falling Slowly – immaculately done by Kris Allen and copies by Crystal and Lee during their duet and many others on the various rounds last season.

      Also ANY Celine Dion or Mariah Carey songs..

      • mimi says:

        THANK YOU! Kris Allen did “Falling Slowly” beautifully, so they resurrected it for a weaksauce Crystal/Lee duet. Let. It. Be.

      • Saracen Riggins says:

        I agree that “Falling Slowly” should be retired but not because anyone on Idol has done it “immaculately”. I loved Kris Allen (still do), but no one should even attempt to touch what Glen & Marketa have done.

        • Jonathan says:

          Another vote for “Falling Slowly” for the same reasons. And I’d add Kanye’s “Heartless,” which hasn’t been done to death on Idol but was unceremoniously ripped off (with no acknowledgement) by Dia Frampton on The Voice. There’s no excuse for trying to replicate something that was so unique and perfect at the time.

      • jj says:

        add whitney houston to the list. if it could have bee sung at a pageant in the 80s/90s- STAY AWAY!!!

  2. Katie says:

    I would ban Man in The Mirror by Michael Jackson.

  3. Sam says:

    Get rid of “I Believe.” What a terrible song to begin with. I don’t even like Fantasia’s version.

  4. TV Addict says:

    Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch!

  5. Jennifer says:

    House of the rising sun I still thing Siobhan sang it a lot better than Haley they should have stopped before Haley sang it

    • tamarat says:

      WOW!! don’t even…


      That song made Haley get as far as she did, no doubt. &I’m so glad for that. She made a lot of new fans because of her version of that song.
      Siobhan was great, but Haley did her own thing with it. &I loved it.

      Anyway…I don’t care if it’s banned or not. It’s not been done a lot, so if somebody has the balls to try it after Haley’s marvelous version, go ahead.

    • Aimzee says:

      “House of the Rising Sun” should be banned. Siobhan’s version was the BEST presented. You can’t top it. I think Haley did a nice job but the quality in Siobhan’s voice was better. Either way, this song sang by a female should be banned. I don’t know where a male singer could go with it.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Haley copied Siobhan!!!

    • justafan says:

      might want to listen to both again jennifer…back to back if need be to see that your perception is off by quite a bit

      same goes for jordin and haley’s “i , who have nothing” … both were exceptional renditions…yet very different

  7. Idol Lover says:

    House of the Rising Sun. After last few seasons, it’s been overdone and you can’t top Haley’s version anymore.

    • dontblameme says:

      Haley, smhaley.

      There is ALWAYS someone better who has the ability to “top” any version of any song – be it on AI or otherwise.

      You are just too enamored with her.

      • tamara says:

        I am actually gonna agree with you.
        And as an example I would mention “I Who Have Nothing”, which was equally brilliantly done by Haley, even though we all thought it could not be topped after Jordin did it.


    • Jess says:

      You guys saying “House of the Rising Sun” are seemingly missing the point. I don’t think it’s about if a song can be “topped”–because there’s always that potential–I think it’s more or less strictly about songs that have been overdone.

      I think I’d say “& I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” because that’s been done more than I really needed to hear–would they actually ban that, though, as it’s by Jennifer Hudson?

  8. quin says:

    feeling good.

  9. Yaminac says:

    I really could do without another Somewhere Over the Rainbow . Unless someone wants to attempt a heavy metal version.

  10. Ringo says:

    Goofball! You are not “thinging” very well this mornng. HORS by Haley was the performance of the season and no one, even Haley, remembered than Showbon even performed it the year before!! LOL. Ban Rolling in the Deep, Bennie and the Jets, You and I but only because after Haley performed them, it can only be downhill for future idols. And while you are at it, ban Gone and Your Man (and any other country song/singer) because Scooter ruined last year.

  11. mzmaggiemae says:

    What Becomes of the Brokenhearted. It must die. Also, all Celine, Whitney, and Mariah songs. Anyone who has the chops to belt out a song like that is still going to be only a copy cat. And Mariah’s more recent songs are crap anyway so no one should be singing them ever.

    • rascalete says:

      I will agree that David Cook took “Always Be My Baby” from Mariah and made it the best it will ever be. so with that I agree.Of course David Cook had a special talent with doing covers on AI. Now he just makes awesome albums.

  12. Broadway Baby says:

    Son of a Preacher Man
    I Have Nothing (not I Who Have Nothing – though I think you’d be a wise contestant to avoid that too)
    Endless Love (it hasn’t been done a lot but I think we can all agree, it’s been done enough)
    Let it Be (admittedly, Brook White’s was beautiful – but I can’t sit through another 17 year old trying it)

  13. dont blameme says:

    I certainly would LOVE to see a listing of all the songs that have been sung more than once on any AI season. Then I can pick my favorite to be banned.

    Nigel – get some new music rights so the contestants have better choices, PLEASE.

    PS – She Bangs is definitely on my list even if it was only sung once.

    • Ken says:

      Check Click “database” then “songs” near the top of the page. Then on the chart that shows up below all the text, click “#Pf”. You’ll see all the songs that have been performed the most on AI.

  14. Matt says:

    And I Am Telling You. Just let that song be!

  15. Kim says:

    I Have Nothing. Well, actually, anything Whitney. But REALLY I Have Nothing. I’m surprised that wasn’t in your top 8, Slezak!

  16. TC says:

    Canceling this piece of crap wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

  17. Mic says:

    What about “I Have Nothing”? Then again, it’s fun to watch Idols fail miserably sometimes…

    Ban “Hello”. I hated Stefano doing it this year. I guess this list is more of songs that have been done too much, but there are also performances too good for the song to ever be re-done.

    Oh, I also didn’t like Lauren doing “Natural Woman” this year. Kelly’s is the best cover of that song I’ve heard.

  18. me and i are cool with each other says:

    Summertime, anything by Whitney Houston, Dream On, Let it Be, Anything by Kelly Clarkson

  19. Annie says:

    Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman needs to go. But, I can live with it, if like Michael says, people are banned from ever trying to sing a Stevie Wonder song.

  20. Gina says:

    Everything from the Beatles…

    • Lauren says:

      I SECOND THAT! We especially don’t need episode after episode after episode of Beatles songbook performances. Enough already!

  21. Emma says:

    House of the Rising Sun, Summertime, and The Change’s Gonna Come should not be sung again in AI. Also, I’m ours, Hey Soul Sister and any Adele Song ever should enroll on the witness protection program STAT.

    (X Factor starts in lees than three weeks. How many weeks until Idol starts?)

  22. jason says:

    black horse and a cherry tree – hate it every time i hear it

  23. Jose P says:

    R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly needs to be retired as well.

  24. Zola says:

    Lets make this simple, ban all:

    Whitney Houston songs—no one ever does them justice anyways.
    Mariah Carey songs—just stop.
    Michael Jackson songs—do I really even need to explain this one?

  25. Nicole says:

    Probably all Whitney Houston songs and all Celine Dion songs!

    • Kate says:

      anything by superb singers along the lines of Whitney, Celine, Mariah, etc…the Idols may be good, but hardly anyone can pull off songs from these ladies.

  26. Nan S says:

    ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ – please put this song back in the vault and leave it there.

    • Cup of Joe says:

      I agree! That overplayed and colorless Journey ditty should be taken out of the selection. Interesting though how Chris Jericho had that for his dance routine and subsequently got eliminated… same when James Durbin sang it. Hmmm…

    • jewelry says:

      OMG YES!!!!!

  27. Christina says:

    I agree with every song on that list. I would also add “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” I just don’t want to hear that song ever again. If Nigel’s ear is open I would suggest a banned artist list: Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and yes The Beatles.

  28. BJ says:

    VERY much agreed on “Alone” by Heart. If Nigel Lythgoe doesn’t ban that song, I’m going to have to vote with my TV ratings and not watch that piece of crap so long as that song is still in play.

    If that song is banned from any and all Idol competitions from here on out, I might watch again.

    Can’t wait for X-Factor! Hopefully I don’t have to hear Alone at least once or twice every season.

  29. Holly says:

    For the love of all that is good, PLEASE ban “I’m every woman!”

  30. Jake says:

    I feel the same, great song, but i’ve heard it enough…

  31. Christina says:

    This is the list of songs from the past couple of seasons I could have lived without:

    A House is Not a Home
    All By Myself
    I Believe I Can Fly
    Piece of My Heart
    Without You
    My Girl

  32. Trish says:

    I’m on board for banning everything Whitney Houston but if I had to pick one – I want to Dance With Somebody – it never goes well for anyone.
    And Benny and the Jets should be retired and Haley’s jersey hung from the rafters.

  33. Justin says:

    What About Love, anything by Stevie Wonder or The Beatles.

  34. Maggie says:

    God Bless The Child. I’m done with it!

  35. Kiki says:

    I think they all should be forced to sing Kathy Mattea’s heart-wrenching Where’ve You Been and if they don’t make at least one judge cry, they have to go. And then those who stay should be make to sing Garth Brooks’ Ain’t Going Down Til The Sun Comes Up, without the aid of extra oxygen and if they make it through that without passing out, then they can really stay.

  36. Don J says:

    Fallin’ by Alicia Keys

    Please keep it out of the audition rounds too. I am soooo sick of that song. It’s one of the most overplayed songs of the last decade.

  37. Karen says:

    I would love it if there was a Hall of Idol Fame, where the very best Idol performance songs go to live and not be repeated, see; Mad World, You give Love A Bad Name, Heartless, A Song For You, Hallelujah, Billie Jean, My Funny Valentine, Slow Ride… etc.

    And please, unless you have the vocal chords of a certain Steven Tyler or Adam Lambert, please DON’T sing ‘Dream On’… Yes, I’m talking to you Gokey!

  38. Karen says:

    …Also, could we please ban Randy Jackson!?

  39. Suz says:

    I think they should ban all songs performed by AI winners because it is unlikely that someone will do it better.

    Then in addition they should ban any songs performed more than 3 times and any songs peformed in the previous two years before the current season (Top 24).

    • Kate says:

      please! they really should put limits like these on song selection!

    • Kevin C. says:

      Pretty much every Idol winner’s had at least one song that they did pretty terribly on. Why should Idol contestants be forbidden from singing “Take me Home, Country Roads”, “Living On a Prayer” or “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” just because they were once sung badly by Taylor, Jordan, and Carrie?

  40. pnkl8y says:

    crazy little thing called love

  41. Amy says:

    Guys, they’re never going to ban ‘The Beatles’. Do you have any idea what they went through to get the rights to those songs? I agree, most people just butcher them. On the other hand, to keep pleading them to stop is futile. Save your energy.
    Now having said that, if I hear ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ on this show one more time, I might take an ice pick to my ear drums. Why wouldn’t contestants want to set themselves apart by singing songs no one has attempted before? I’m just saying….

  42. Octodad says:

    Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”. No good will come from doing this song again.

  43. Simon says:

    I loathe….i feel the earth move under my feet, i feel the sky come tumbling down…..ughhhh just writing that makes me cringe! sorry carole king.

  44. Pop Vulture says:

    I disagree about banning songs – I’m always ready to hear a good performance, no matter what the song. Surprise me! Make me like “Against The Odds!”

  45. Suenee says:

    everything that was sung by David Cook

  46. Darren says:

    Ban the whole program.

  47. hhu32 says:

    I don’t like David Cook and can’t stand any music by Mariah Carey, but Cook singing Always Be My Baby was the high point of an otherwise boring season. The problem isn’t the songs, it’s that the contestants all sound the same – very few of them try something new.

    • jennrae says:

      This is true. Most contestants have been complimented so much from their friends, family, and community that they think that their pretty voices and shining faces are all that’s needed to make themselves stand out because they are just that special.

    • Templar says:

      Which is what made Adam Lambert such a breath of fresh air. Always unexpected, vocally superior and exciting to watch.

    • v says:

      I thought season 7 was the best, actually.

      • hhu32 says:

        I liked season 5 more than 7, maybe if it had been a David Cook/Carly Smithson finale… (I really need to get over that). Season 5 had the best contestants and the worst finale.

        • brady says:

          Season 10 was a lot like Season 5… good diversity in the finalists – and no CLEAR favorite to win. That made Season 5 and 10 better for me than 7.

          I also think Season 10 had some of the best contestants ever – and the worst finale. I love Scotty and Lauren, but Haley really deserved to be there, and it would’ve been a better finale if she was in it!

          Great list Michael… I cringe when I hear some of those – especially Heatwave I would say. However, gotta admit that when I heard the “I Who Have Nothing” choice for Haley, I thought it would be a huge FAIL… and I was wrong.

      • sue says:

        I agree. When I go back and listen to tapes I made of every season, Season 7 just resonates. There were so many wonderful singers that year. The great thing about Idol, though, is that almost every year there is someone who really grabs us. David Cook singing Billie Jean, Adam Lambert singing Mad World, David Archeleta singing Imagine, Haley singing House of the Rising Sun. I could go on and on with favorites, but to get back to the subject of this column, the song I would tell no one to ever sing again on Idol is Unchained Melody. Clay did a good job with it, but Lauren butchered it last year. The original will NEVER be topped.

  48. Sydney says:

    “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson
    “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin
    “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys (I’m not even a big fan of Alicia singing it)

  49. Davers says:

    I vote “Fallin'” by Alicia Keys as well. I’ve always disliked it and it’s been overdone on AI.

  50. MK204 says:

    Falling Slowly. Kris Allen sang it during Season 8 and killed it. It was a first and it was amazing. The next season Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze did a duet which did not come close to topping Kris’ version. So IMO, one should never touch genius.

    Like Hallelujah that was all Jason Castro’s, so should Falling Slowly be Kris Allen’s.

    Both songs were done touchingly and beautifully by both singers. Let it be theirs, just as Solitaire belongs only to Clay Aiken.

    Yes I’m a Kris Allen looney. Deal with it. LOL