American Idol: 10 Dream Theme Nights!

Nigel Lythgoe needs our help! The American Idol executive producer took to Twitter late last month asking his followers for theme-night suggestions, but the brainstorm session hasn’t exactly yielded the most creative results thus far. To that end, I’ve whipped up a gallery of 10 Dream Theme Nights — a few of which I’ve been advocating for seven or eight seasons now — for your perusal. Check ’em out, then second my nominations in the comments, or share your own fresh ideas! And for all my Idol news, interviews, 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. Joe Strummer says:

    Punk Rock Night!!!

  2. Joe Strummer says:

    Maybe a no ballads night?

  3. Jenny says:

    Would love an 80’s Rock night! It would be something different. And there are enough power ballads that I am sure most Idols could find a good song to sing.

  4. Joe Strummer says:

    Bob Dylan – He wrote great songs but no one likes his voice. You can really arrange these songs and make them your own.

  5. A. says:

    Fleetwood Mac Night!

  6. Sandi says:

    Indie Artist night. Contestants perform songs by independent artists.

  7. rachel says:

    I’d like to see the following theme nights: songs written by folks in other parts of the world (other than north america), a non-love song night, songs with a chorus folks often sing along too (sweet caroline, born in the usa, my sharona, etc.), country songs from the 50s and 60s, upbeat R&B songs (the kind that gets you out of your seat), and songs that you listen to when exercising,

  8. Ringo says:

    Unplugged Night: a night where AI’s Bandzilla takes off and we get songs stripped down, no bells, no whistles.
    Summer Songs Night: Picked from a list of the best Summer Songs.
    Canda Night: Songs from the artists of Canada (there’s tons of them)
    Idol Reprise Night: Songs introduced post-Idol by Idol contestants.

    • Bobbi says:

      “Unplugged Night” – beat me to it :)

    • Christina says:

      I doubt American Idol would ever do a Canada night but I would love that theme.

    • I’ve been asking for Unplugged night for years. Canadian Idol did it and it was fabulous. Guest mentor should definitely be Kris Allen for this.

    • simlab says:

      Canada night would definitely be awesome…and it wouldn’t be too harsh on the contestant since they can choose songs from Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, Michael Buble, Avril Lavigne, Nelly Furtado and Alanis Morisette,,,
      At least it would show a bit of creativity and openness from the producers…

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Don’t forget Neil Young. I don’t want the Canucks to forget he’s theirs, not ours, LOL.

      • val says:

        don’t forget Justin Beiber, Shania Twain, Gordon Lightfoot, Bachman Turner Overdrive, K.D. Lang, Susan Jacks, Rush.

      • Eolra says:

        Oooh, and some lesser known (in the US) acts would be awesome like 54-40, The Northern Pikes, The Tragically Hip, Feist, Big Sugar, and The Sam Roberts Band! I would worry we’d just get an hour of Celine Dion covers and Hallelujah covers (Rufus Wrainwright is from Montreal, yo – yes, I know he didn’t write it) lol. I’d love to see a Canadian night with some creative song choices!

        • Tuzo says:

          > Hallelujah covers (Rufus Wrainwright is from Montreal, yo – yes, I know he didn’t write it)
          Well, then they could do Leonard Cohen covers. :)

  9. Zoey says:

    Here’s an alternate theme: “Let Michael Slezak be the Idol Mentor and pick out songs for the contestans”! I’d get behind that!

  10. Joan says:

    Songs from idol alumni! There is a big catalog to choose from….it could help the more obscure ones get noticed. Imagine Elise covering a Crystal Bowersox song.

    • Princess Adora says:

      i like this one! Plus the show would be pimping themselves, and they LOVE that! It’s a win-win ^_^

      • Miscellaneopolan says:

        I love this idea too! It’s something that only could happen now, after the show has produced a number of viable musicians. And it happens anyway; we’re already gotten songs from Kelly Clarkson, J-Hud, and Carrie Underwood this year. Just collect ’em all in one night.
        I think Elise would do a good job with Haley Reinhart’s “Free”.

    • IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

      Here, here! This theme would only go to prove why American Idol is still #1 after 11 years.

  11. zaza says:

    I like the “off my Ipod” theme and the “lyrics that changed my life” theme. I think those two are the most likely to give us songs that the contestants connect to and have practiced (hopefully) to perfection. Instead of the songwriters picking or writing songs for the contestants, I’d rather hear the contestants own original music. Then we would really know what kind of CD they’d put out afterward.

  12. vicki says:

    Songs from James Bond movies.

    • Noelbelle says:

      I always thought that if I were an Idol contestant, I’d want a movie themesong night (themesong, not just rando songs from movies) so I could do “You Only Live Twice.” Coldplay did an AWESOME version of it years ago, that I would so rip off.

  13. Bobbi says:

    Some really great ideas!
    Here’s a few:
    1. Rock Anthem Songs – American Pie, Born to Be Wild, Born In The USA etc.
    2. Acoustic Night – like the old MTV days when singers would strip away the bells and whistles.
    3. Outside My Comfort Zone: Songs that they would not sing but must now tailor make into their own voice.
    4. John Lennon / Beatles (Has this been done?)
    5. My Concert Closer Song
    6. Choose a song a previous winner is known for (which they kinda do anyway)
    7. My Idol as My Mentor.
    8. Sun Records but reinterpreted. (Cash, Elvis etc)
    9. UK Hits from 2000 on
    10. BritPop
    11. Female Singer – Songwriters
    12. A song for SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE (crossover)

    • Lizabeth says:

      They have been doing The Beatles for a few seasons. I’m guessing you weren’t watching The Great Beatles Massacre of Season 7 when Kristy Lee Cook gave “Eight Days a Week” the Jason /cabin of beautiful yet dumb teens treatment. On the other end of that spectrum, you should totally youtube Paul McDonald/Kendra Chantelle’s performance of “Blackbird” from last season. It was amazing!

    • Tess says:

      They’ve done the Beatles a couple of times…but they’ve never done any of the Beatles solo stuff save for a few occasional tracks so perhaps a John Lennon night (solo stuff only) or Paul McCartney night (solo stuff and his work with Wings) or call it a ” John, Paul,George, and Ringo” night and only allow for post Beatles music. That would make for a nice twist, plus if you could manage to get Paul or Ringo or maybe even Julian, Sean, Dhani, heck even Yoko (she can’t be any worse than Diddy for Billy Joel night!) to mentor…that would be awesome.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Oh, not Paul McCartney night! The only good song “Wings” ever did was “Maybe I’m amazed”.

        • Mike says:

          Umm…”Band on the Run”?

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            Okay, Band on the Run is not bad. And that song for the James Bond movie. But by and large I just didn’t care for Wings.
            But the love I have for “Maybe I’m Amazed” makes up for everything else!

          • Mike says:

            Totally forgot about “Live and Let Die” too…good call. lol I’m not saying I am a huge Paul/Wings fan, but he did have more hits than just the one. That’s all I was saying. :) Obviously, we all have our opinions of which hits were GOOD!

    • Lillian says:

      13. How about something in the Blues genre or groups like Bread, Boston, Kansas, Journey songs?

      • Lillian says:

        I’d also love to hear Phil Phillips and some of the others do a few of Joe Cocker’s songs or Bob Segar!…WOW!…

  14. brandy says:

    I like the idea that it doesn’t have to be all about when the songs were written (or covered), but the theme of the lyrics or idea of picking a song (like which one changed their lives). Listen up, Nigel!

  15. Jean Rhyner says:

    metal mania, 70’s greatest hits, transportation songs

  16. Sandi says:

    Guns n’ Roses night! Now that’s one that would live on my DVR for several weeks at least!

    • Tansy says:

      Yeah, because Axl wouldn’t even show up for Hall of Fame induction, so I’m sure he’d be all over the idea of his songs on Idol. LOL

      • Sandi says:

        I didn’t say it COULD happen. The title was “Dream themes.” That one is mine.

        By the way, s***w Axl. I have a different verb in mind but I don’t want to be vulgar.

  17. Jean Rhyner says:

    nature songs, jazz nights, blues clues

  18. Mic says:

    I want a “Song By Former Idols” Week. I know a lot of contestants would probably pick Kelly Clarkson, Jen Hudson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood, or Adam Lambert, but there could be a couple shockers in there… and it would be so nostalgic and cool! They could get the idols to be mentors!

  19. Leticia Prado says:

    Songs about war would be awesome, but it sooo clashes with the idol spirits.

  20. Cory says:

    – Gender Bender: sing a song originally performed by the opposite gender
    – Grammy Nights: (i.e. either Song of the Year or Record of the Year winners)
    – Unplugged: smaller stage, instruments, etc. (stolen from Canadian Idol)
    – Colors & Numbers (songs with colors or numbers in the title)
    – Sweet 16 (songs from the year you turned 16, instead of the “Year You Were Born”)
    – Oscar-nominated Movie songs (as opposed to the generic “Movies” theme)

    I’ve got others, but that’s all I can think of right now.

  21. Brigette says:

    I love the up-tempo down-tempo idea. What if each picked a song to sing, but then found out that they couldn’t actually sing it; instead, they had to pick from the songs the other contestants picked? Hmm, that could be a disaster…but interesting!

    • Layla says:

      Good for viewers but the performers? Oh they would probably hate the producers. Reason being most if not all have their favorite songs that they have worked on and practiced for quite some time. Then to hear your competitor sing it, ouch!

  22. Tahoe Mike says:

    National Anthem night. Since, more often than not, the one place we will see these contestants most often post Idol is singing the Star Spangled Banner at a Football, Baseball, Hockey game or NASCAR race, why not try them all out and vote for who we want to see at the Super Bowl?
    I like the one hit wonder idea, and think it’s hilarious that you included the De Vinyls (I Touch Myself). That would be comedy..
    Speaking of comedy how about a “Dr. Demeto” night (is he still on?) featuring novelty records. Kinko The Clown, Dead Puppies, Fish Heads, They’re Coming To Take Me Away, all classics that deserve the Idol treatment. just imagine Colton singing “I Wish I Was A Lesbian,” and Randy having to “Judge” it.

    • Tahoe Mike says:

      Oh, and how about a Wierd Al Yankovic night?

      • My Alter Ego says:

        “When my baby, when my baby smiles at me
        I go to Fargo, North Dakota
        And do the polka….”

        Weird Al Yankovic night! What an idea!

      • Snsetblaze says:

        I was going to suggest Wierd Al night.

        Or a novelty song night.

      • Snsetblaze says:

        I was going to suggest Wierd Al night.

        Or a novelty song night.

        Blues or blues rock night
        Folk night/Americana night
        or Alternative country night
        Protest song night
        Indie artist/band night or singer-songwriter night (which may overlap with folk/blues night)
        songs your parents or grandparents pick for you to sing

        Hard rock night which they haven’t done for a while. Ditto for broadway or big band.

        I’d actually also like to see thaws sing out of their areas again. For instance, taking a country song and leaving it a country song.

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          Oh, Snsetblaze, you are making me crazy. “Folk Night/Americana Night” – oh, that sounds as inviting as a plate of limp spinach! The Kingston, Trio, Peter/Paul&Mary, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan,….AAAAAH! Put me in the category of people that just never got into folk music. And “Protest Song Night”? That would involve some of the same whiners as Folk Music Night. Hey, they could get Neil Young to be the mentor and he could whine about how America has allowed him to protest what a bad country this is – all the way to the bank, LOL.

      • Whimsical says:

        Brilliance! They should have Wierd Al night for sure.!

  23. Emily says:

    A Side/B Side night: when the contestant chooses their song for the week, they have to also sing a lesser known song off the same album.

    No Ballad

    Songs Your Parents Choose for You

    Weird Al night

    B sides from former Idols

    Boy Band night (NKOTB, BSB, NSYNC, etc etc)

    Disney songs (this includes Pixar, just so someone can cover “When She Loved Me”)

    Former Disaster night: Idols have to sing something that hasn’t gone over well before

    Debra Byrd picks the songs. (If Debra was still involved. Or Ricky Minor)

    • Elsa says:

      Ooohhh I really like “Songs Your Parents Choose for You” ! Boy Band night could be really good too.

    • emrom says:

      really like the “A side/ B side” and “songs their parents choose”. Also, how about songs they wished they had written themselves (for themselves) and obscure song night – that little song you love but wasn’t a huge hit.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Those are some good ideas. I particularly like “Former Disaster Night” – unless we get 10 different renditions of “Against All Odds” and “It’s Raining Men”.

  24. angelstorm says:

    These are all pretty good ideas – I approve ! :D

  25. Elsa says:

    I love the “Steal a song” and Breakup Anthems” ideas!!! Hope Nigel is listening to you.

  26. Christina says:

    Some of the themes I have thought up are:

    – Love & Hate: Would have to be once they’re singing two songs, but the first song would be a love song, and the second one a breakup song.
    – Fleetwood Mac or U2: Both have huge catalogs that can work for either gender
    – International Night: All songs have to be from artists who are not American

  27. sarah says:

    World Music Night (or alternatively, songs not sung in English)

  28. Holly says:

    Canadian artist night + Songs with intelligent lyrics = Barenakedladies night. That would separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls!

  29. peggy says:

    Have the contestants pick songs for each other.

  30. KP says:

    Leonard Cohen night….

    • Yo' says:

      Or folk songs or social commentary songs or songs that changed the world.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Oh, there’s the dreaded “folk music/protest songs night” idea again. Let’s just call that one “Torture darcy’s evil twin night”. :-)
        “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own…”

        • Templar says:

          Actually I love the idea of a folk night. Especially if it included John Denver, Buffalo Springfield, the Guthries etc. One great side benefit would be that the stripped down aspect would put a stop to the band overwhelming the singer which it often does.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            Okay, Templar, I’ll admit the comment about Bandzilla not overwhelming the singers is a valid one. Your suggestions look like stuff out of my husband’s old vinyl collection, LOL. Can we just not listen to Joan Baez sing “Diamonds and Rust”?

          • Templar says:

            DET: Okay, no Baez. But I’d like to hear some Youngbloods, CCR, Dylan, Denver etc. It would sure separate the posers from the real singers.

  31. Pattygale says:

    Would love me some HAIR BANDS…….. Europe, Motley Crew, Warrant, Winger, etc.
    What a blast that would be. No pseudo metal guys to piss me off this year… YAY!

    Of course, kind of hard to picture Jessica or Phil singing DR. FEELGOOD or CHERRY PIE.
    HA !!!

    • Marsaili says:

      No, but I could picture Jessica maybe singing “Every Rose has a Thorn” or Phil changing up “Lay it Down” by Ratt or “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Warrant. OHHHH, I like 80’s hair bands as a theme!! Of course, I was excited by 80’s week and that was a dismal failure. Why didn’t get the better songs to choose from with all the songs out there? If they did a 80’s hair metal week they’s probably get a list of songs from Stryper and Cinderella and Mr. Big—totally missing the real great bands and songs ;-( What about Joshua singing “Fly to the Angels” by Slaughter??? LOL! WOW!

  32. Snsetblaze says:

    I would also suggest perhaps more tributes to a few more female artists since the majority have been guys. Some goys have even been done more than once ie Stenie Wonder

  33. Marsaili says:

    How about:

    Movie Musicals
    Songs from the Eagles
    Hard rock of the 70’s
    New Wave week
    Surfer Songs
    Motown (I know they’ve done it before, they should do it again)
    TV Theme songs
    Commercial jingles

  34. Lizabeth says:

    These are really great suggestions, Slezak. I’ve been reading your recaps for a while and I know there are more where these came from! I can’t imagine any viewer in America would be upset if they gave us a break from songs from the year you were born or even Big Band night.

  35. leo says:

    Jennifer Lopez night. Surely they can all sing her “songs” better than she can “sing”.

  36. Christina says:

    One Hit Wonders Night!

  37. kcostell says:

    Irish invasion night. Just to hear Phillip do his best Shane MacGowan imitation.

  38. Idol Fan says:

    Love all of your suggestions Michael except for the previous Idol performances theme. I’d definitely like the lyrics theme idea, most especially. I would be elated over a big hair metal night!

    I however do not want to sit through a Jennifer Lopez theme night.

  39. MusicFan says:

    I’d like to see/hear real R&B music from the 60’s & 70’s!

  40. Jane says:

    1. Number 1 songs (Any song that has reached number 1 on the billboard charts.)
    2 Led Zeppelin
    3. Classic country (Patsy Cline, Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn, etc)
    4. U2
    5. Fan poll night (let the fans pick the song each contestant sings)
    6. Bob Dylan
    7. Freedom/ inspirational songs
    8. Madonna (we got a taste of it a couple weeks back and it sounded so good)
    9. Grunge rock (I would love to see what Joshua does with that!)
    10. Psychedelic 60’s rock

    • noa says:

      fan poll night is a great idea!!! the production can choose like 10 songs and fans could vote for the song each contestant will sing (without publishing the results on the site before the show)

  41. Peyton says:

    I would love a Laurel Canyon/California music themes night – Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, James Taylor, etc.

    And my biggest Idol disappointment was back in season 9 when they were supposed to have a “Teen Idol” night and it got cancelled. I would love for them to bring that back, especially because there’s so many ways you can go with it – boy bands, mall singers of the 80s, early Beatles.

    Tom Petty night – I know Slezak’s mentioned that as a theme before and I would love a night devoted to my favorite band.

  42. Elaine says:

    Great ideas…………… ooooh Fleetwood Mac … I would love to hear Elise sing “Need Your Love So Bad”!

  43. Elaine says:

    Billboard Hot 100 One-Hit Wonders – any era.

    Let ’em all sing the blues………… classic blues. Let’s see who can rise to the occasion (thought maybe that’s a lot to ask from inexperienced singers) Elmore James, Etta James, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, B.B. King, even George Thorogood (hey, a girl can dream can’t she?)

    • Layla says:

      Be a great theme! Etta still gets lots of cover love by the youngins’ but I bet the guitarists in the house band would be loving it most!

  44. PAIGE says:

    Those are absolutely brilliant suggestions! So much better than what we’ve seen so far. (Billy Joel AND 80’s week AND Stevie Wonder week) talk about keepin’ it current :/

  45. YowzaPowza says:

    Madonna. Imagine Jessica doing Take a Bow or Colton doing The Power of Goodbye. Brilliant.

  46. Tex says:

    Disney Songs
    Ruban had a moment with A Whole New World and Jennifer Hudson blew Elton John, the judges and America away with Circle of Life. It would also be great promotion for the American Idol Experience at Disney World.

  47. Henry says:

    A few artists who have a huge catalog of well-written songs that haven’t had a theme on Idol-


    Tom Petty

    David Bowie


    The Who

    The Carpenters


    • Layla says:

      Carpenters would be great! Wish Prince would release his songs.
      There’s also Girl Bands. Divas. Broadway. Jersey Theme.
      New York Theme and Songs about Dreams.

    • Templar says:

      IMO Abba wouldn’t work. it’s the same problem as The Beach Boys or The Mamas & Papas. Their songs depend on group harmonies which don’t work for solo artists.

  48. JK says:

    Acoustic night would be great but then Nigel would worry it wasn’t flashy enough and then fans of contestants who are not musicians would complain that their favorite wasn’t treated fair enough. All that aside, I’d love to see that theme!

    Of Slezak’s suggestions I like One Hit Wonder night the best. Specific enough everyone could understand it but broad enough so everyone can find a song.

    Artist specific themes that could be interesting are Fleetwood Mac, U2 and Madonna. I’d even find it entertaining to see what they could do with a Britney Spears or Rihanna week but then again not enough contestants would be able to rearrange for it to be a good idea.

    I have no idea why they have not had an “Idol Homecoming” week. Have Carrie or Kelly mentor or even be a guest judge. Make the Idols’ post Idol songbook the theme for the songs. So many Idols have released songs that it doesn’t have to be just the Carrie and Kelly hour. Even tap multiple idols to perform on the results show. It could be fun and really draw in the audience for some nostalgia.

    How about the 1990s as a theme? Pretty much every other decade has been featured.

  49. Dani says:

    Because famous mentors would have all week to work with random Idol nobodys.
    Because songwriters would write entirely new songs (that may or may not be chosen) for a single week of Idol competition.
    Because people want to hear songs others have already sung on this show that already repeats songs far too much.

  50. j. says:

    Songs about money!!

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Great idea – “Money, Honey”(The Drifters, I think. Maybe it was The Coasters), “Taxman” (The Beatles), “The Pretender” (Jackson Browne), “Black Friday” (Steely Dan), Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”, Donna Summers’ “She works Hard for the Money”, Lefty Frizell’s “If you’ve Got the Money, Honey (I’ve got the time)”. All sorts of possibilities!