One week after the unexpected exit of Pia Toscano, the Idols will tackle the theme of "Songs from the Movies" for only the fourth time in the show's history. This is a theme that could have used a big voice, but there are some solid choices for the remaining eight Idols. Please, God, just don't let any of them sing songs like "Flashdance (What a Feeling)" (Julia Demato, Season 2), "My Heart Will Go On" (Diana DeGarmo, Season 3), "Endless Love" (Danny Gokey, Season 8) or "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" (performed seven times, and never well).
Before we get to the "spoilers" and odds, last week's elimination made something very clear. This year's crop of judges are entertaining, but that's where their value stops. They've decided it's not important to give valuable criticism to the Idols, nor to the audience. When everyone is wonderful, then no one is. So I've decided to do what they won't do. I'm going to pick apart every performance for you so that you'll hear from at least one source about the true "good, bad and ugly" that each Idol brings to the stage.
That starts tomorrow night with "Songs from the Movies" (or whatever they choose to call it). Like most of this year's theme's, this one is broad enough for everyone to choose something that suits them. It's also broad enough for them to choose things that will sink them. Here are my suggestions for the Top 8, as well as their odds to win Season 10:
Casey Abrams (8-1): "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca. One of the movies' greatest songs is such a broad canvas that it's been covered well by Harry Nilsson, Jimmy Durante, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and many others, in addition to the original version by Dooley Wilson. This version by Rod Stewart and Queen Latifah is a perfect example of the tone Casey could set with "As Time Goes By." The days of the Angry Idol need to be over. It's time for Casey to play on his sex appeal (did I really say that?) and connect with this sultry number.
Haley Reinhart (11-1): "Kiss Me" from She's All That. Haley's on a roll and will likely be the one to benefit most from Pia's untimely elimination. No offense to Lauren Alaina, but Haley's likely the most marketable female left on Idol, especially since she has a pretty firm handle on the style that best suits her. Tonight she needs to dial up the sexy with a song like "Kiss Me." She can undoubtedly do it better than Sixpence does live, and certainly better than the song's only performance on Idol by Lacey Brown in Season 9.
Jacob Lusk (14-1): "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" from The Big Chill. Jacob is my top candidate for worst song selection of the week based on his eye-jab to America at about the 1:00 mark of this clip. Jacob's going to do what he feels like, regardless of the wisdom of it. But what he should do is crank up his inner David Ruffin and knock out a song like "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." Yes, it was released separately from a movie, but it was a key part of The Big Chill, and it's something he could have fun with ... or at least something that won't easily make him over-emotional again.
James Durbin (7-2): "Bohemian Rhapsody" from Wayne's World. OK, let's try this again. Last week I said James should do "Bohemian Rhapsody" and he went with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." (And his Idol performance was about half as good as this YouTube version that was posted a couple of years ago. This is his second chance to do the Queen classic that is pretty much the Holy Grail of rock vocals. Only twice has it been tackled on Idol: by Constantine Maroulis' and Kellie Pickler. I'll let you guess which one was good and which was horrific. After a sleepy week, it's time for James to bring things back up a notch with this crowd-pleaser.
Lauren Alaina (11-2): "9-to-5" from 9-to-5. Let's face it. Lauren's greatest chance of success is in the country realm, but she's being hemmed in on the show there by country boy Scotty McCreery. If she's ever going to show she has the country chops, then she needs to step it up with a number like "9-to-5." She could learn a thing or two from this live performance by Dolly Parton herself, or from this live cover by Fergie and Charlotte Church. (No, really!) This would be a lot of fun for Lauren and would improve her chances of repeating Pia's fate.
Paul McDonald (33-2): "That's What Friends Are For" from Night Shift. People are so familiar with the Dionne Warwick and Friends version of this song that they forget that originated in the closing credits of Night Shift, and Rod Stewart really does it better than the later version (Stevie Wonder's harmonica notwithstanding). Paul's voice isn't suited for most things, and in spite of some love by the judges and a few online reviewers, most of America doesn't appear to be warming to him. If he hopes to survive, he needs to get a little less crazy and a little warmer.
Scotty McCreery (3-1): "Heartland" from Pure Country. Because Scotty is "Pure Country." Nuff said. Seriously, this kid is so popular right now that he could armpit fart his next song and get a standing ovation and free pass into the next week. How much more safe would he be if he evoked thoughts of George Straight in a fun song like "Heartland. If Pia's exit taught us anything, it's that the guys are safer than the girls, and that you pretty much just need to play to your audience. That's what will get you voted through again.
Stefano Langone (20-1): "Stand By Me" from Stand By Me. Stefano's pretty much toast. If it doesn't happen this week, it'll be next week. (He's now our odds-on-favorite to leave at 4-1.) It doesn't matter what he sings or how he does with the songs, so he might as well just cut loose and have a lot of fun while he's there. This song plays right into Stefano's vocal style, and it gives him tons of headroom for his vocal runs. He can also do it in a number of ways, as evidenced by the differences in the Ben E. King original, this cover by Prince Royce or the uber-cool version done by Playing for Change. (Side note: That really is one of the coolest things I've ever seen on YouTube. Take a few minutes to watch it. The production behind it is amazing!) Stefano can choose something fun and cool as his exit, or he can overreach and leave us with something forgettable. I'm hoping that he takes the cool road.
There will be no live blog of the performance show this week, but we will be live on Thursday for the elimination show, so be sure to join us!