American Idol: 20 Songs We'd Ban Forever!

If familiarity really does breed contempt, then there exists a select set of overperformed songs American Idol fans would like to drag into a darkened alley and hurl into a manky dumpster.

Indeed, over the course of 12 seasons, certain offending ditties have become almost inescapable on the show, and their annual arrival feels as welcome as Kim Kardashian at a Mensa meeting.

VIDEO | Idology: Report Card for Idol‘s Week 1 Singers! Plus: Nicki’s Side-Eye, Keith’s Best Body Part

The good news is that executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and Fox reality chief Mike Darnell have both expressed amusement — and, dare I say, intrigue — at TVLine’s proposal to create a list of banned tracks for the live-performance rounds, a move that would spare the Idoloonie Nation from what those great Motown-era philosophers The Four Tops referred to as “the same old song.”

RELATED | American Idol: Fox’s Mike Darnell Talks Unlimited Voting, New Theme Nights, Honest Judging

Check out our picks below, then sound off in the comments about which ones we got right, which numbers we unfairly maligned, and what blasphemous omissions we made!

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. T says:

    Anything by Whitney ever should be left alone. #justsayin’

  2. JD says:

    So pretty much everything Jessica Sanchez sang?

    • IMHO says:

      I was just about to comment on how often Jessica’s name appeared!

      I wholeheartedly agree with everything Mr Slezak has written here. I want new stuff and there are so many classics out there. Personally I would like anything that has been done twice (or more) from the semifinal rounds onwards of any series to be banned. And a complete ban on any artist played more than five times in total. And a ban on anything ever performed by one of the many judges past and present – well, apart from anything Mr Cowell has destroyed on karaoke night down the local …

  3. Will says:

    Georgia on My Mind (?)

  4. Anything by Whitney, Mariah, Janis and more importantly ANYTHING by Aretha.

  5. Joe says:

    Bohemian Rhapsody or any other song by Freddie Mercury. When contestants on reality competitions sing them, they definitely and predictably pale in comparison.

    • ejones says:

      But BoRhap by Suzie McNeil on Rockstar is one of the stand out reality performances, its still on youtube. Its the cutting down to less than 120 seconds that is the issue, she was allowed over 3 minutes.

  6. Tory says:

    Alicia Keys is another one. They butcher her songs too.

  7. Cy says:

    “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

    • Especially that God-Awful “Iz” version.

      And BTW I know he’s dead, so don’t feel the need to point it out, or tell me about his funeral.

      • Dean says:

        Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole’s version was one of the most touching, original versions of the song ever recorded.

        • Tom22 says:

          I absolutely agree .. I guess we all have our own tastes but I found his version incredible . It was Different, and I suppose those who don’t like it really should look at it as an entirely different song rather than a change to the one they like. Same lyrics, different song(as a song as is much melody as it is lyrics)

  8. Taryn says:

    haven’t watched in years but remember many of these and completely agree

  9. Alienate says:

    All Michael Jackson “songs”

  10. duranmom says:

    Put us out of our misery now and ban Adele songs. No one can sing them like she can.


  11. Billy says:

    Ban anything and everything Beatles!

  12. MB says:

    How about ” It’s a Man’s World” HIts been sung alot on all the shows lately.

  13. Templar says:

    Over The Rainbow, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bridge Over Troubled Water, any Bon Jovi song and any Queen song.

    • Jane says:

      Ding, ding, ding – we have a winner: TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART – worst song ever!!!!!!!! (well, except for “Against All Odds”) Anything Bonnie Tyler – no, no, no. And I am so sick of all the damn divas, so no more Whitney, Mariah, Celine – EVUH.

  14. Mark says:

    Every single Luther Vandross song. Period. Ok? No really. I mean it. Thanks.

  15. Trident says:

    I just want to hear something from this century. XF and The Voice manage to clear current and fairly recent songs, why does Idol only seem to have the same six 100-yr-old songs? Every week’s theme is “Songs From the Year Your Grandparents Were Born.”

    • Tom22 says:

      I wonder about this to. I’m not sure the ‘not able to clear’ the songs excuse rings true. Certainly I can see a few artists with control of their books and mega millions (zepplin is quite picky about -who- they clear to sing their songs… evidently they watch tapes to make sure they don’t think the singer is a “wannabe” or cheapens their songs. But I’d think 95% of artists really aren’t as rich as the once were and really could use the extra income from both royalties and even a little bit more interest in their music (maybe a reminder to their old fans that they might want the songs from albums they lost again).

      Somehow I just got to think it is a matter of agreements with certain companies and perhaps a desire to be sure every episode seems safe to an older audience that might be more inclined to let their 12 year olds listen to older songs about steamy emotion than newer ones they’re not familiar with.

    • zaza says:

      I think it’s about money. American Idol wants to make it; they don’t want to spend it. So they are more interested in using songs that are in public domain so that they can make money selling the contestants’ versions on Itunes without having to pay for rights.

  16. Lee says:

    I would say anything by a current judge…Mariah because no one can match her range, Nicki because what she produces isn’t music and the other country guy because no one would recognize it…

    • vincent dante says:

      By the way, the country music genre is currently the biggest selling market in music. (If you don’t believe it, count how many country songs are currently on the iTunes Top 100.) Keith Urban is well known to country fans, e.g., we know his music.

    • Tessa says:

      Ummm lots of people recognize Keith Urban songs…

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Lee – Keith Urban is incredibly talented and quite popular. It’s amusing how people that aren’t country fans dismiss country music.

    • Lee says:

      Great…awesome….y’all know his music. You realize that the ONLY reason he was hired was because The Voice has the better, more recognizable, more personable, more talented nondescript “what the hell was his name” country artist, right? American Idol is tanking FAST so they are trying to match other models that work. Just wait for the Coke cups to be on a swivel and for Team Nicki to prevail…

      As the TV Line team points out REGULARLY…this show will not improve until they fundamentally change the way they judge it. Putting on judges that can sing but make none of the decisions about their career is a continued mistake…the only judge this show EVER had who made sense was Simon…

      Rant over…country guy is country, which means I’ll never remember his name…other than to call him Mr. Kidman…

  17. Radford says:

    A few more to consider: When A Man Loves a Woman, All By Myself, All in Love is Fair, Feeling Good, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Imagine, Lately, Let’s Stay Together, Piece of My Heart, Saving All My Love For You.

  18. I must agree with you about the 20 songs. I wanted to screams bloody murder when I hear how the song is murder by a singer who think that they got talent. We both know that ban song will still show on the American Idols and everyone will still scream how their favorite singers being ruins.

  19. Diana says:

    I have chosen a perfect way to avoid the same song loop. I refuse to watch until they limit the voting to 10 per device. Problem solved.

  20. Karrah says:

    The Letter, All By Myself, Fallin’! I can’t even enjoy Fallin’ on the radio anymore because of Idol.

  21. Jill says:

    “Dream On” by Aerosmith, because NO ONE has been able to sing it correctly

    • Billy says:

      Ummmmm…then Im guessing you didnt watch The Voice this year…youtube Amanda Brown Dream On, she slayed it…

      • Brandon says:


      • George says:

        And she also slayed “Someone Like you” by Adele.

        I really don’t want to ban any songs, just certain people from singing them. The powers that be in these shows should stop inferior singers from destroying classics. But I do agree that Idol needs to bring in more current stuff.

  22. Chrissie Kirk says:

    “I’m Every Woman”.
    I sometimes wish that just on one night (at least) they have all the top whatever do the same song. Could be interesting?

  23. Christina says:

    Everything Motown!

  24. Aaron says:

    I don’t mind people singing a Mariah song, as long as it’s not “Hero.”

  25. deedee says:

    1. “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” Harol Melvin and the Bluenotes/ Simply Red
    2. “Without You Harry Nillson/ Mariah Carey

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      deedee – has “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” been performed that much? I don’t remember hearing it that much but I could be wrong.

  26. Shawn says:

    I agree with most of the songs but I’d add Natural Woman and I heard it through the Grapevine to the list too.

  27. Timmah says:

    Jordin Sparks did a fantastic I Who Have Nothing… they should have retired it after that.

  28. Anonymous says:

    And to add insult to injury, Shannon Magrane isn’t even listed in her correct season. She’s from Season 11, not Season 10.

  29. Adam says:

    Look, I love your commentary and interviews but for you to put out this kind of “page-view” bait is disappointing. Making it worse is that you’re packaging a topic you’ve covered at least twice a year for the past 5 years in other formats (episode recaps, Idology, your interview with Nigel last year . . .) into this dreck and wasting our time with it. If you really want to engage fans of the show in a dialogue about this, then go to the trouble to write up a good article with more than 2 sentences per song and make a compelling case.

    • Adam says:

      BTW – they will never BAN songs for being played too much. Your best hope is to get them to agree that contestants can’t choose them. The songs one the restricted list would be limited to the semi-finals when the judges each choose a song for the contestants. Make them earn the right to sing these songs and keep the performances limited.

  30. Brandon says:

    10 points on the Ricky Braddy mention. He WAS robbed!

    • Brandon says:

      Also? I TOTALLY remember Adriel singing this from Season 1. I remember being bummed when he didn’t make the top 10.

  31. Fern says:

    “Someone To Watch Over Me”

  32. Mich says:

    Love Will Lead You Back. Everyone who sings that song gets eliminated the following night.

  33. Melody says:

    Please include ANYTHING from Motown week(s)

  34. Melody says:

    Can we add Somewhere over the rainbow

  35. Tahoe Mike says:

    You are tilting at windmills Michael.

  36. Betsy says:

    How about just an overall “don’t sing anything anyone ever sang on this show before'” rule? That would be awesome.

  37. James says:

    Anything by Mariah, Whitney, Celine, Aretha, Michael Jackson, or Queen.

  38. Why won’t this show just go away and NEVER come back.

  39. teatime says:

    I wish they would stop singing Katy Perry songs. Even Katy Perry can’t sing like Katy Perry.

  40. Mafs95 says:

    Other songs that should be banned:

    “Proud Mary”, Tina Turner
    “Natural Woman”, Aretha Franklin
    “Your Song”, Elton John
    “At Last”, Etta James
    “Mercy”, Duffy (this applies more to audition rounds)
    “Georgia On My Mind”, Ray Charles
    “If I Ain’t Got You”, Alicia Keys
    “Fallin”, Alicia Keys

    Don’t get me wrong, some of these songs are amazing but they have been sung so many times that the WOW factor completely disappears to me, unless it is an extraordinary performance!

    I wish they would stop with some of their predictable theme weeks, such as “The Year They Were Born” or “Motown” week.

    I would also strongly advise the contestants not to choose a song someone else had a big moment (unless you can pull it of amazingly as well) like “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”, “And I Am Telling You”, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, “I’ll Stand By You” but mostly…
    do NOT sing BENNIE AND THE JETS!!! Unless you are Haley Reinhart, of course…

  41. Me says:

    These are the ones which I find are incredibly overdone in the auditions (usually by 15/16 year old contestants in some cases; annoying “singer/songwriter” types in others):
    -At Last
    -Sitting On The Dock of the Bay
    -Midnight Train To Georgia
    -The Story
    -Make You Feel My Love (this and the story are the two that have pissed me off in recent seasons; it’s always some hipstery blonde chick singing in head voice and after the eightieth time, it starts to become less interesting)
    -Over The Rainbow

    Also, it’s time to retire the Hollywood group round/solo songs. Especially these:
    -Mercy (and PSA kids; if you are on American Idol and you’ve never heard this song before, then you probably have never watched Idol before, so you need all the help you can get)
    -Georgia On My Mind (I’ll always be mentally comparing you to Matt Giraud anyway)
    -Somebody To Love
    -I Want You Back
    -What About Now (Colton Dixon did it twice – and a third time on the Ellen show – and it made me want to gouge my ears out)
    -Time Of My Life
    -Home (basically anything by a past Idol contestant)
    -Gravity (I’d personally like to call a moratorium on this particular song)
    -What A Wonderful World

    • Sheneshqua says:

      oh…and let’s add “Get Ready” to that list.

    • Jay says:

      ugh…can we call a ban on hipstery singers? SO over it. Crystal was great because she could actually sing, but ever since her season, we’ve had a ton of hipster chicks with breathy, airy voices croaking out “The Story” or “The Way I Am” and it’s annoying as hell.

  42. Lisa Tolbert says:

    New Rule- all WGWG’s who make it to the top 12 must be able to perform “Stray Cat Strut”, and must invite Casey Abrams to guest on bass….

  43. noa says:

    rolling in the deep please. enough…

  44. Snsetblaze says:

    Dance with My Father

  45. chris says:

    any songs about 9/11 or patriotism makes people feel unpatriotic to vote for them

  46. ChellemaBelle says:

    Feeling Good– I actually love this song, but it has been done on nearly every singing competition show for the past few cycles that it makes me want to curl in a ball and primally scream.

  47. Lacey J says:

    Georgia On My Mind. We’ve heard some amazing renditions of the song (Matt Giraud, Kendra Chantelle [still not over it]), but it gets driven into the ground during Hollywood week every year. I can’t take it anymore!

  48. zaza says:

    How about banning any song done by an artist Randy has worked with?!