American Idol: Advice, Caveats and Dream Set Lists for the Season 14 Top 9

American Idol‘s current crop of contestants represents a sharp improvement over Season 13’s largely uninspiring lot — but that’s not to say the singers haven’t had their share of creative missteps over the first four weeks of live competition.

From Clark’s turgid “Takin’ It to the Streets” to Jax’s disastrous “Blank Space” and Joey’s unspeakable “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” even our current front-runners need a little advice/encouragement/real talk.

That’s why I’ve put together a handy gallery of each contestant’s strengths and weaknesses — along with at least a half-dozen song suggestions that could push them outside their safety zones and give them chances at true Idol Moments (TM pending).

Peruse the gallery below (or CLICK HERE for direct access) to see what I’ve cooked up for Rayvon, Tyanna, Nick and their cohorts — then hit the comments with your own suggestions and dream set lists!

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. Jan says:

    Especially like your suggestions for Nick.

  2. Hayder B. Hayden says:

    It’s almost pointless to request anything specific for Quentin, Jax, or Joey. Those three are at their best when they are reworking a song into something you never heard before. Whatever they do, it will not resemble what you are expecting. I woudn’t bother wasting time trying to make suggestions for those three and then predicting the final product.
    For the rest, I’d like to hear:
    Rayvon: Mercy Mercy Me (the ecology) – Marvin Gaye
    Clark: Holdin On (Citizen Cope)
    Nick: Keep The Car Running (Arcade Fire)
    Tyanna: Pump It (Black Eyed Peas)
    Qaasim: Give It Away (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
    Daniel: I’ve got nothing here
    Jax: Falling (Julee Cruise)
    Quentin: Queen (Perfume Genius)
    Joey: Shezus (Lily Allen)
    I couldn’t help it. Had to make suggestions for everyone.

    • Lisa B says:

      I agree, Rayvon’s voice would be amazing singing Marvin Gaye!!!

    • bobsaccamanna says:

      But it is an inspiring selection to think about Joey performing “Call Up Tyrone” by Erykah Badu, now that would be a great moment and I could see her pulling it off in her slow jazzy tone. On another note I love Voices Carry for Jax, and I’m trying to think back, as anyone ever performed an Aimee Mann song on the show. So many great songs to choose from with her, and it certainly would be different than the usual same old.

    • Hayder B. Hayden says:

      Here are a few more after last night’s show:
      Jax: Picking Up The Pieces (Paloma Faith), No Ordinary Love (Sade)
      Rayvon: If You Touch Me I Might Scream Pt. 2 (My Morning Jacket), Who Do We Think We Are (John Legend)
      Joey: Float On (Modest Mouse), Happy Pills ((Norah Jones)
      Tyanna: Rhythm Nation (Janet Jackson), That’s Not My Name (Ting Tings)
      Clark: Harvest Moon (Neil Young), Daddy’s Gone (Glasvegas)
      Nick: Read My Mind (The Killers), Love Runs Out (One Republic)
      Quentin: Biko (Peter Gabriel), Skeletons (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
      Qaasim: If I Had No Loot (Tony Toni Tone), Roses (Outkast)

  3. Hayder B. Hayden says:

    Why isn’t my comment posting? Have I been blacklisted?

  4. Veronica One says:

    I don’t like your song suggestions, at all, but we all know any song suggestions are irrelevant. Never going to happen–and no one should dictate a particular song anyway. When American Idol, The Voice, X Factor assign particular songs, rotten performances ensue. Song lists are bad enough.

  5. Timmah says:

    I like your idea of Quentin doing Lana Del Rey. I think he could do something really interesting with a song like with Serial Killer or Shades of Cool. For Joey, I’m thinking Kat Edmondson’s Nobody Knows That could give her a much-needed “moment”. For the rest of them I don’t really care.

    • Temperance says:

      I’d move a lot of the suggestions around, but you’re absolutely right that Quentin doing del Rey would be a great fit. I’d like to see Tyanna do Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, and if Jax did Cyndi Lauper’s I Drove All Night, I’d be a fan for life.

  6. Giana says:

    Haha Michael it must have been so hard to write the what’s working section for Daniel! He needs to go!!

    • Read “The Better Mom” Interview with an American idol mom by Kara Chupp! It is about Daniel and an interview with his mother. Made me tear up, she is very worried about him! His parents are pastors! Good interview!

      • Its easier to find the article above about Daniels mom on his facebook page under “posts to page”. Even though Im a Quentin fan, I am a mom and that article got to me emotionally.

  7. Fangirl says:

    Hey Michael,
    Why so tough on Qaasim? I think he can sing~ That said he could have chosen a better song than Addicted to Love to showcase that. Come together was probably the best “idol save” song, ever. Understand that some of Qaasim’s naysayers were just people who were angry that judges saved Qaasim, when Tyanna may have needed it. Apparently these people have trouble with deductive reasoning. You were on his bandwagon last week. Why the 180?
    I think several people performed poorer than Qaasim last week, including Joey( to my chagrin), Rayvon, Daniel and Tyanna( 2nd week for pitch issues). My favourites were Quentin & Jax. I like Clark ~ but no matter how well he sang it~ someone should have stopped him from singing the stalker song(Every breath you Take). I am not buying your spin on that. That said , I enjoy your critiques especially the videos with Melinda. Keep doing what you do. :)

  8. Larc says:

    I think one of the biggest things Jax needs to do is put some honest feeling into her performances. As technically good as some of them have been, they have all seemed mostly 2-dimensional and pretentious to me.

  9. Alexander Jeffrey Aerni says:

    I don’t care who wins, I just want to hear someone sing a song by my all-time favorite musical artist, Elvis Costello! American Idol seriously needs to do some of his songs!

  10. hytl8884 says:

    These suggestions all suck especially the ones for Nick & Jax

  11. Here are my song suggestions for the top 9:
    Tyanna-Pretty hurts (Acapella) by Beyonce, or Conqueror by Estelle and Jussie Smollet
    Joey-Elastic heart (Stripped) by Sia, or Bright by Echosmith
    Jax-I know you (piano) by skylar grey, or Shatter me by Lindsey Stirling ft. Lzzy hale
    Quentin-Do I wanna know by Arctic monkeys, or Out of my league by Fitz and the tantrums
    Clark-I beg my life by Imagine dragons, or Cosmic love (Stripped) by Florence and the machine
    Rayvon-Let me love you by Neyo or mario, or Fourtofiveseaconds by Rihanna, Kanye west, and Paul McCartney
    Daniel-I won’t give up by Jason mraz, or Secrets (stripped) by onerepublic
    Qaasim-Bills by lunch money lewis, or All of me by John legend
    Nick-Budapest by George Ezra, or Nigh changes by one direction
    Feel free to comment. 😃

  12. Jax should sing Oceans by Hillsong united

  13. I like the idea of Jax covering U2. However, my wish list would also contain her performing something from Fiona Apple’s collection like “Criminal” or “Sleep to Dream”. For Clark, I would love to hear “Have a Little Faith in Me” by Joe Cocker. My choice for Quentin is “Beautiful Day” by U2. Joey’s would be “Killing Me Softly”.

  14. Simon says:

    I think you’re confusing Qaasim’s “Sir Duke” performance with “I Wish.” Sir Duke was a week later, and he sang that pretty badly.

    Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of these song suggestions were probably chosen more for the personal pleasure you would get out of seeing your favorite obscure artists get some exposure, rather than the actual strategic benefit they would have for these contestants. I love “Hit the Ground Runnin'” as much as you do, and it would be awesome for Haley if that happened, but it’s not the kind of thing that gets people votes. They really succeed the most when singing songs that everyone knows.

    And besides, if anyone covers Haley, it should be Quentin singing Spiderweb. That would be dope.

    • Temperance says:

      Slezak’s song choices aren’t obscure – your musical knowledge is just pretty limited.

      • Simon says:

        I can guarantee most of America hasn’t heard of Missing Persons, Gin Wigmore, or Til Tuesday. And those are just from the first slide.

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          Well, I certainly rememember Til Tuesday and I have heard of most of those songs mentioned by Slezak.
          The problem is I can’t say I honestly like very many of the songs.
          But, I’m old, so I still prefer something with more melody and more electric guitar.
          And more cowbell. ;-)

          • bobsaccamanna says:

            To quote someone from this blog, you’re “more cowbell” gets a “made me laugh” lol
            As far as Simon saying Slezak’s choices are obscure “Hush hush, keep it down now”

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            That’s funny right there!

  15. danin says:

    If anyone should sing Sly&the Family Stone, it should be Quentin and Clark.Everyday People or Stand or even better,We Can Make It If We Try.They both need upbeat songs.(and they are 2 of my favorites) And if Quassim could sing he could kill on Sly.I like some of your other suggestions too,Mike.Especially,Adorn.And whoever said Fiona Apple was rig

    • danin says:

      Was right on! Maybe some Tori Amos.But here’s my genius The Voice- Idol crossover,Quentin does Electric Feel!! How’s about it.Or ooo, can you hear Clark do it? Maybe it would shake him out of his encasement.

  16. kcostell says:

    It’s safe, obvious, and overdone, but I’d still love to hear Clark tackling some Sam Smith.

  17. darcy's evil twin says:

    I think Clark, Quentin, and Qassim would do well with some Otis Redding songs – Try a Little Tenderness, Love Man, and Hard to Handle.

    • Nan says:

      This may seem a bit out there, but I think Qaasim should do Spinning Wheel by Blood Sweat & Tears. Try a Little Tenderness is being overworked on a commercial right now, so I’d steer clear of that. IMO Clark needs to get away from the tortured angst and sing something happy and upbeat. As for Quentin, maybe Michael Jackson’s She’s Out Of My Life or Elton John’s Sacrifice. Nick would do OK with Springsteen’s I’m On Fire. I don’t really care about the girls who remain [I loved Adanna] so I’ll leave them alone.

  18. rw says:

    I’d like to see Joey Cook do “At Seventeen” By Janis Ian

  19. Purple says:

    This is just some stuff I came up with really quick.

    Clark – a current pop song with male vocals

    Jax – another soft classic rock song with her arrangements or a blues song with soft vocals (not a pop song)

    Daniel – Keep rolling with Hall and Oates or something similar. It worked.

    Nick – a Bruce Springsteen song (not a fast one) with his acoustic guitar and band. He seems really comfortable with his guitar.

    Tyanna – something bouncy from Beyonce or Meghan Trainor. If she has to sing something slow (as the judges requested), stick to a soul song with a gospel feel to it. She has a great gospel voice.

    Qaasim – a medium to fast Earth Wind And Fire song – Sing a Song or Shining Star. Something that will show his vocals some but give him something to move to. The judges want him to sing something that really shows his vocals like a ballad. If he has to do what the judges request maybe pick a classic soul ballad (not a rock song).

    Quentin – any song made dark or funky I know the judges want him to do something fast, but I can’t come up with anything right now.

    Joey – any song in her range that she can arrange and make weird.

    Rayvon – Marvin Gaye – I Want You (I agree with Hayer B. Hayden. Marvin Gaye should work well with him.

    Tonight should be fun with Kelly.

  20. Me. says:

    Oh man would love to hear Clark sing Anyone who had a heart -love love love that song!.

  21. DTF says:

    Nice suggestions. I’d also include Eddie Vedder’s arrangement of Dream a Little Dream for Joey.

  22. ann says:

    Jax — Emmy Lou Harris material or Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’

    And to another comment — no one — no one — should ever touch Janis Ian’s ”At 17.”
    Melody, lyrical, performer perfection. Been done. Mic drop.

  23. phil says:

    Clark needs to sing Alex Clare’s “Too Close”.

  24. phil says:

    Love to hear Joey or Jax sing Melody Gardot’s “Worrisome Heart” or Gardot’s new song “Same to You”.

  25. Dams says:

    I would love to hear some Kate Bush finally this season. I can picture Jax having a moment with “And Dream of Sheep” or a piano version of “Hounds of Love”. Joey could go for it, pick “Running Up That Hill” and then win the show.

  26. Woodmeister says:

    Late to this and I don’t have picks for everyone but I’d love to hear Joey sing Billy Joe Shavers’ (I am a) Chunk of Coal or Jill Barbour’s “Chances”.

    Jax – California Dreaming or Desperado a la Diana Krall

    Quentin – American Woman (Guess Who/Lenny Kravitz)

    Qassim – Hot Legs (Rod Stweart)

  27. Lisa says:

    Clark should sing Van Halen’s when It’s Love. He’d totally nail it.