American Idol: Advice (and Fantasy Set Lists!) for the Season 11 Top 9

We’re five weeks in to American Idol‘s 11th season, and unlike in previous years, it’s not so easy to predict which three or four vocalists will still be standing come mid-May. With that in mind, we’ve whipped up some advice for the remaining contestants — assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and suggesting some unexpected song choices that could help them in their quest to inherit Scotty McCreery’s crown and sash. Ch-ch-check out our gallery, then hit the comments with your own suggestions. And for all my Idol commentary, news, and recaps, 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. Nicole says:

    Holly Cavanagh suggestion: Justin Timberlake’s “What Comes Around Goes Around”

    Are you freaking serious? Do you work for VFTW?

    • karenb says:

      Geez! I thought that was a great idea!

    • Ken says:

      I’m a huge fan of Slezak, but I’ve always thought his song recommendations have been wacky (and not in a good way).

    • Snsetblaze says:

      I thought Holly sounded great on the Madonna song last night (better than the other two women and better than her solo song) so what about an uptempo Madonna number to show she’s not all just about treacly ballads and big notes. And I’m not particularly a Holly fan mainly because so far that has all she has been about.

      That trio of Madonna songs led me to wonder why there have not been more singers that have done her songs on idol (or that there hasn’t been a Madonna night but there have been several Stevie Wonder and Elton nights, etc.)

      I also wondered why all of the idols didn’t sing Stevie/Fleetwood Mac songs in trios since she was the guest host (why did we need ANOTHER Michael Jackson medley).

  2. Tusk says:

    Michael, you advise DeAndre to “steer away from material that demands an emotional depth beyond his teenage years”.

    But a song you suggest is Supertramp’s “Logical Song”?

    Have you listened to the lyrics of that song?…lyrics that long for the simplicity of youth compared to the complexity and challenges of navigating life as an adult…DeAndre would make a train wreck out of the introspection required to perform that song convincingly.

  3. Lauren says:

    Oh my gosh I would love to hear Elise sing “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Paparazzi” Genius!

    • Lauren says:

      Also, I love Phillip but I just don’t think he has the pipes to tackle Karen O’s vocals on “Maps.” Although, I guess I would be interested in seeing him try.

      • Tarc says:

        But there are several George Michael selections that he could turn blue (from jazz) that would be *phenomenal*.

      • Snsetblaze says:

        I’d steer Philip towards Grace Potter’s “Ah Mary” from the first album (not sure if I have the title 100% right) instead of “Paris, Ooh La Law (or perhaps Elise would be good at that). Or something from Evanescence (ditto for Elise).

        Or perhaps Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (or “Digging in the Dirt”, “Big Town”, “Sledgehammer”, etc.)

  4. John says:

    Send Heejun home this week!

    Please put America out of its misery.

  5. TwistAndShout says:

    Phillip Phillips should take a Kris Allen song and make it his own!

    • I sure wouldn’t want to hear a Kris Allen song bulldozed like that, not that I even listened to his post-Idol material.

      • KrisFan says:

        You don’t know what you’re missing! He has a new song out this week, too. Love it.

      • Tarc says:

        And I’m sure I don’t want to hear a Kris Allen song at all. Phillip’s got tons of great material to use, why bother what songs no one has heard?

    • Snsetblaze says:

      No, the idol contestants should stay away from ANY song done on a previous idol contestant’s albums even if the song is not yet well-known. Especially anything by Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood.

  6. Linderella says:

    Michael, Michael, Michael…please don’t tell me you think (This is) Dedicated to the One I Love is a Mamas & Papas original. The Shirelles deserve a great big 1960’s shout-out for girl group glory!

  7. Lauren says:

    I love that you put a Robyn song for Hollie. I was thinking she would be great on the acoustic version of With Every Heartbeat or Hang With Me.

  8. FreeHaley says:

    Poor Randy and the air quotes. Haha, after getting booed he was like “come on, come on this is ‘constructive’ criticism I’m trying to give” hah giving air quotes when he said “constructive” hah. Not that he really said anything wrong this time, but yeah, still trouble with those air quotes.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      I had the same thought when he was doing it. He has no idea what air quotes mean. When he used them (incorrectly), it gave off the impression that he was being sarcastic and that his criticism really was not constructive. And most of the time, it is not but in this case, it was.

  9. FreeHaley says:

    his air quotes sure could applied when he gave ‘constructive’ criticism to Haley last season though….

  10. scrutinizer says:

    YES MICHAEL!!!….joshua doing ”stranger in my house” ….brilliant song choice. i’ve never heard a man sing it. but i have tamia’s you tube live version performed at the apollo theater in my favorites list. LOVE that song and her performance. i could also hear jessica singing it :)

  11. Lo says:

    Great song choices Michael! Here’s my dream set list:

    Colton- How To Save a Life (The Fray), 100 Years (Five for Fighting), Here Without You (3 Doors Down)
    DeAndre- Turn Your Lights Down Low (Bob Marley)
    Elise- Fire and Rain (James Taylor), Fast Car (Tracy Chapman), You Know I’m No Good (Amy Winehouse)
    Heejun- Dancing Shoes (Gavin Degraw), I’ll Be (Edwin McCain)
    Hollie- Fighter (Christina Aguilera), My Immortal (Evanescence), Too Little Too Late (JoJo)
    Jessica- Heartbreaker (Mariah Carey), It’s Raining Men (The Weather Girls)
    Joshua- You (Marvin Gaye)
    Phillip- Best of You (Foo Fighters), Roxanne (The Police), Push (Matchbox 20)
    Skylar- Dani California (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Cry (Faith Hill), Travelin Soldier (Dixie Chicks

    • My Alter Ego says:

      Not sure about this song, but the idea of Joshua doing Marvin Gaye – YES, please someone make this happen!

    • Tarc says:

      I’m all for Elise doing Winehouse. Your Colton picks are great. I’d like to hear Joshua do some Al Green – Let’s Stay Together, for example. I’d love to hear Phil do DMB Don’t Drink The Water, Roxanne by The Police (great suggestion!), or maybe some Fiona Apple (maybe Criminal). I like the Dixie Chicks idea for Skylar.

    • Tarc says:

      Oooh! I’d like to hear Hollie do Eva Cassidy’s verison of Fields Of Gold.

    • Sue says:

      Based on your list, I’d add Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol) to Colton’s list and Foo Fighter’s “Rope” to Phllip’s.

      Skyler or Elise – Melissa Etheridge’ “Like the Way I Do”.

      Elise – Heart’s version of “I’ve Got the Music in Me” – especially since the song needs redeeming after J-Lo ruined it in that commercial.

  12. Templar says:

    My wish list [and some are really far out and old]:
    Colton – Please Come To Boston by Dave Loggins
    Hollie – It’s Magic by Doris Day
    Joshua – Find 100 Ways by James Ingram
    Deandre – Blue Hawaii by Elvis
    P2 – Desperado by The Eagles
    Skylar – The Dance by Garth
    Heejun – And i love Her by The Beatles
    Elise – I’ve Never Been To Me by Charlene
    I know this list is bizarre but showcasing the voice is important to me and these would accomplish it.

  13. My Alter Ego says:

    Templar, you post an interesting list.

    Prithee, why the Doris Day pick for Hollie?

    • Templar says:

      It’s obscure i know, but it’s a gorgeous song, tender and melodic. My grandmother loved Doris Day, and Romance On The High Seas was one of her favorite films. I have her old VHS tape of that film and if you go to YouTube you can see Doris sing it in the movie. Hollie has the purity of tone and the delicate beauty to do it justice.

  14. FreeHaley says:

    Wow, Elise rocked it out of the house to end the night with some Zeppelin!

    Hah, they so seem to be wanting a redo of last season only this time treating the ‘Haley’ correctly (ever since their 180 on Elise after their initial getting on her the most thing at the very beginning). The Zeppelin is the final proof hah.

    Not sure why JLo kept saying she just didn’t want to stand up for Elise, she just so did not want to, but simply had to though, hah, a little odd, but whatever, she was forced to give her her props.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      You don’t think she was signalled to stand by Uncle Nigel?

      Especially after the singer before her got one too and a few singers that did not do as well got one.

      Not to say she did not deserve it … but, in general, the standing O is almost meaningless in the context of idol (especially since the audience seems to be on their feet after every song).

  15. Faz says:

    Colton hasn’t missed a note? Has he hit any correctly?

    • FreeHaley says:

      good point, i coulda sworn he was well off pitch the big notes there but Randy said he never misses a note and has perfect pitch, he seemed on pitch in the part of the medley of three that I heard though and really good there

    • brandon69 says:

      the annoying hype they give colton is really getting to me. It’s obvious he represents a viewing demographic they want to desperately protect!

      • shelbybb says:

        The guy is really working the social media thing hard! Dang, he tweeted me and I don’t even like the guy! Guess that’s what its going to take when you don’t really have any talent to fall back on. Ouch! Did I say that?

    • Tarc says:

      Yeah, nearly all of them. Why?

    • Snsetblaze says:

      I thought he was pretty off several times.

  16. Volcfom says:

    Man, that was a good show. It’s very rare that I can’t pick out the weakest link, and I honestly think it might come down to performance order. I guess I’d give Heejun the boot, but that was a good performance to go out on.
    My only problem: five standing ovations, none of which were for Jessica?! I thought that performance was sublime!

    • Amy says:

      This: “It’s very rare that I can’t pick out the weakest link, and I honestly think it might come down to performance order. I guess I’d give Heejun the boot, but that was a good performance to go out on.”

      Me too! I’ve always been good at picking who would go (and I did pick Shannon and Erika last few weeks but..) I was going over them during the show and due to popular vote with Heejun, I can’t even think who goes…except maybe Joshua doesn’t have as much following as others? I think it’s getting close for an upset and the “save” is coming….cuz I think somethin’ unexpected is gonna happen soon…

      • Snsetblaze says:

        My guess would be DeAndre, then Heejun next week. Elise is picking up steam and it would be wierd if she went home after covering Zepplin that well.

        It could be an upset – Jessica. This is the week Pia went home.

  17. Amy says:

    O M G Loving Idol this year. You may disagree…but this year has such real competition with no 1 or 2 clear front runners, that I feel even the Idol machine isn’t as manipulative (though I won’t let my guard down)…and judges are giving real feedback. I’m loving that too.

    Best Idol (since Season 7, still my all time favorite, but that’s besides the point right now!)…I can’t even say who’ll go home this week? Everyone was good (yes, even Heejun surprised me tonight , and may stay due to popular “following” votes.) But my personal, shoutin’ from my couch favorites tonight by 10 miles…Phil Phillips & E-freakin’-lise Plant!
    Phil….I have been loving him, (and I’m with Stevie he is aDorable)… I love the way he inhabits the music and tonight he was infectious and I just LOVED the song and his performance! And….loved the look and (non-gray) jacket. He’s unique too. Elise…WHAT?!…I knew she’d probably be a good fit when I heard Zep choice…but she was over the top great…the way her voice sounded like it kind of “slid off the note” on (whole lotta) “lo-ove.” And all the rest! And…she also had a great outfit and looked great!
    But Skylar, Jessica both flawless. Hollie..still a great voice even if not perfection, at least “crossed the bridge” to connection and emotion tonight. Colton, didn’t know the song, but good. Joshua, I didn’t want him to “take it to church” again, and he did…and I liked it. Deandre, in his element…I don’t personally love songs sang in all high register, but he does it sooo well. Finally.. Heejun…first time I heard some surprising vocal qualities, and he really sang…and I enjoyed it and his “unique” sound. And he does have some charisma, like it or not. Not sure it will go much farther than Idol Season 11, but who’s to say…not that I think he should go much farther, given all the really great singer/performers this year.

    May be the first Idol tour I go to since Season 7…we’ll see. Honestly…I’m with Jennifer, for the most part, from here, with a couple exceptions…hard to see anyone go.

  18. Amy says:

    I meant “I” didn’t know the song Colton sang…not that he didn’t! (I read it back & sounded that way.)

  19. Canada fan says:

    oooh…..Elise would be AWESOME singing “Joey”!!!

    and FYI to all the American Colton fans out there….Jacob Hoggard from Hedley did a very similar version of Lifehouse’s “Everything” on Canadian Idol and it was even better than Colton’s…you can watch it on youtube

    • Tuzo says:

      Yes, Elise and Concrete Blonde would be a great match!
      For DeAndre I would like to hear him do The Ventures Theme from Hawaii Five-O…Classic song great hook and no lyrics for DeAndre to “sing”*.
      * No air quotes were “harmed” in the typing of this post.

  20. PatD says:

    Wow. The “Joey” suggestion for Elise is effin’ genius.

    • Sue says:

      Or Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting.” It would be a way for her to appeal to the teens since it refers to vampires, walking dead imagery etc.

  21. katrilotta says:

    I’d love to hear Phillip sing Kings of Leon’s “Closer”. That could be his moment.

  22. soarin829 says:

    Michael – as if I couldn’t love you anymore! That Grace Potter song is amazing and it does have Philip Phillips written all over it!!!!

  23. Im just dying to here Joshua Ledet to completely slay something..anything by Otis Redding! Id also love to hear “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)- David Ruffin cover or What Becomes of the Broke Hearted – Jimmy Ruffin.. I love this guys soul old school vibe and sound. Amazing vocals every week.

  24. Alan says:

    My Suggestions!
    Philip: Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinéad O’Connor (He needs to do something softer and more emotional so he’s not so samey-samey)
    Colton: Confide In Me – Kylie Minogue (It would be really unexpected but I’d reckon he’d slay it… Check out the Hurts version for a reference)
    Joshua: Crazy In Love – Anthony & the Johnsons (Originally by Beyonce)(It’s a slowed down emotional version which is what he does best IMO)
    DeAndre: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – Roberta Flack (Makes for a “moment” which he desperately needs and there’s ample room for falsetto without going OTT)
    Heejun: Don’t Know Why – Norah Jones (He has that smooth buttery tone that this song would showcase)
    Elise: Wade In The Water – Eva Cassidy (Elise’s soulful jazzy voice would be magic on this song)
    Skylar: Hiding My Heart – Adele (It’d bring out the blues in her voice and also is a great story which Skylar is excels at)
    Jessica: You’ve Got The Love – Candi Staton (Uptempo but still has those long power notes that the judges have a collective orgasm over)
    Hollie: Titanium – David Guetta ft. Sia (Puts her balladeering ways into a modern younger context)

    • Snsetblaze says:

      No more Adele!!!! I love Adele but other than Elise, she has not been done well on the show. And too many have tried.

  25. Red in Denver says:

    I think Phillip Phillips is highly overrated. He has appeared to me, from the very start of the season, to be nothing more than a poor man’s version of Dave Matthews. And every song he ‘sings’ sounds almost exactly the same.

  26. jw says:

    Song I want Phillip Phillips to Phillip Phillips…….”When Doves Cry”

  27. Tom says:

    Wow great suggestions for Jessica … Sade, TTD, or En Vouge.. would love to her her do at … Jessica is interesting contestent, she doesnt make too many mistakes and is always stalking around the top (Gloria Estefan aside) … it will be interesting to see if she has that moment in a few weeks that cements her as a top 3 … Its tough because she the expectations are so high for her … you saw it last night … she was better than at least 3 of the standing o’s, but didnt get one … its kind of like “you did what we expected” …

  28. Tom says:

    Memo to Holly …. Get some advise how a 16 year old should dress from Jessica … she usually kills it in the style department …

  29. Meghan says:

    Michael, your songs for Elise are dead on!! Lady Gaga – “Paparazzi” would be unbelievable. And I thought I was the only that remembered “Joey” by Concrete Blonde – an underrated, gorgeous song!

  30. LeeLives1 says:

    How cruel was that!!!.comment about deAndre singing Hawaii Five O….but it was priceless just the same……What about hearing Hejun give us a chinese version of the Japanese song Sukyaki….the only asian song I know….perhaps being of chinese descent he may not be allowed to sing a japanese song….but I reckon he would get to stay another week if he pulled it off even halfway would be the first week he wouldn’t need to worry about his accent being a problem and it is such a beautiful song when sung properly…Four Pm and A Taste Of Honey had the only two english versions I know of but the original Ryu Sakamoto japanese version is just so good even though I dont understand a word of it….I’m surprised Michael that you never put it in for his list….

  31. SteveZ says:

    Michael… please get in touch with Skylar and explain to her how she needs to sing Jason Mraz – I Won’t Give Up, It is a beautiful song and I think it would be even more powerful with her voice behind it.

    Use your power for good… stop recommending Juice Newton.

  32. Kristen says:

    Joshua Ledet NEEDS to do “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”. Would make my life if he did that song.

  33. Alexandra says:

    I love the suggestions for Elise. I would love to hear Skyler sing Shelby Lynne’s Temptation. I think it is perfect for her voice and her energy.

  34. Annie says:

    Joshua doing “Stranger in My House” would be amazing.

  35. Tim says:

    I want to see who’s going through first. Tonight is a “shock boot” according to Seacrest.

  36. Bobbi says:

    Jessica: Chaka Khan ‘Ain’t Nobody’ ( Do this one swaggy & girl will KILL!), Shannon ‘ Let The Music Play’, Young MC ‘ Busta Move’
    Deandre: Fine Young Cannibals ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ Pet Shop Boys ‘ Always On My Mind’ El DeBarge ‘Rhythm of The Night’ (Eighties made for DB))
    Joshua: Terence Trent d’Arby ‘ Wishing Well’ MJ ‘ Man in the Mirror’
    Elise: Bette Midler ‘ The Rose’ Kim Carnes ‘ Bettie Davis Eyes’
    Holly: Pointer Sisters ‘Slow Hand’ Irene Cara ‘FlashDance’
    Colton: Commodores ‘Lady’
    Philip: Neil Diamond ‘ Love on the Rocks’ Guns n Roses ‘ Sweet Child O’ Mine’
    Skylar: Taylor Dayne ‘ Tell it to My Heart’

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