On Wednesday night (not Tuesday), American Idol will perform the music of Motown. We celebrate the 50th anniversary of Motown this year. We look back at Hitsville, USA and think about the nice soul classics by Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and many more. We have lost the historical significance of a black-owned, black-run business achieving true cross over success in 60′s America. Motown was more than just a hit making machine, it was a revolution making “black” music accessible to middle class white America. Maybe only Barry Gordy could have imagined the success and impact Motown would have when he started it in 1958.
Smokey Robinson will mentor the American Idol performers. Along with Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson must be considered one of the greatest songwriters of the ’60′s. In addition
to his own hits “Tears of A Clown”, “Oh Baby, Baby” and “Tracks of My Tears”, he also penned many of the great Motown hits such as “Get Ready”, “My Guy” and “The Way You Do The Things You Do”. He has nearly 4,000 songs to his credit. Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson “America’s greatest living poet”. The American Idol performers visited Motown this week in a highly publicized trip. I would have been thrilled to make that trip. Given the R&B leanings of all the American Idol performers (except rocker Allison Iraheta and hair metal guy Adam Lambert), this should be a very good week. I am sure every one of the American Idol performers has a Motown favorite. The trick is to see if that favorite song is the best one for them to perform. I am pretty sure we will see the American Idol judges skewer one of the contestants for song selection only to have them respond, “this has been my favorite song forever and I just had to perform it.” Song Selections If it is on the list, I am sure someone will perform Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. I hope this song, probably the best in all of the Motown catalogue falls into the hands of Kris Allen or Danny Gokey. I would like to see their interpretation of this surprisingly timeless piece (check out the remake of that entire album by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band ). The one who does not sing “What’s Going On” should take on one of The Temptation classics like “Get Ready”, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” or “(I Know) I’m Losing You”. There are so many songs in the Motown catalogue, who knows what American Idol will have for them to chose from. Here are my wished for song selection:
- Kris Allen can turn “What’s Going On” into a modern, relevant song of substance.
- Danny Gokey should take the chance to show off his riffing skills with “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”
- Lil Rounds needs to perform one of the bigger songs in the Motown collection, like Martha Reeve’s “Dancing in The Streets”.
- Scott MacIntyre needs an easy ballad, like Lionel Richie’s “Hello” ,to pour himself into.
- Matt Giraud must use this opportunity to flex his R&B skills with something like Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed and Delivered”.
- Michael Sarver should grab Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of The Brokenhearted”. I can just see the television falling in love with him again as he sings “I’m know I’ve got to find some kind of peace of mind”
- Look for Adam Lambert to grab some rave-up like The Temptations “Psychedelic Shack”, Edwin Starr’s “War” or, the best yet, Rick James’s “Super Freak”
- Allison Iraheta needs to show her other side with a ballad like Smokey Robinson’s “Oh Baby Baby” . She will probably grab something like the Vanilla Fudge arrangement of The Supreme’s “You Keep Me Hanging On”
- Anoop Dedsai can do anything from the catalogue but he needs to right his funky self so I suggest he grab Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Please Anoop, don’t try anything from Rick James, no “Super Freak” or “Dance Wit U” . You funk is not as funky as you think.
- Finally, Meagan Joy needs to show her singing chops by taking on the Gladys Knight classic “Midnight Train to Georgia.” No funny stuff, just sing it straight up so we can see what you got.
Of course, none of them will probably sing these songs. As far as Wednesday night goes anyone, but Danny, Kris and Lil , could go home based on a bad performance. The Motown catalogue is fun and it fits the American Idol Season 8 performers like a glove. It should be a good show. Join me as we live blog the American Idol Season 8 Top 10 performances. Be sure to grab the live performance videos or the American Idol studio recordings of these songs by clicking through to iTunes below