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!