Minefield ahead! As last week proved, too much American Idol freedom results in bad song choices. Last week’s “iTunes Top Downloads” theme fueled the weakest show since the Top 13 was selected. Combine that with the reality that all but two of the American Idol Season 8 contestants were born in the mid-80′s and you have a recipe for disaster.
With all apologies to Randy and Paula, the period between end of true new wave and the birth of grunge was possibly the worst era of pop music in the 20th century. This was the era that took new wave to synth pop and soul to R&B . Once I remind you that the super group of Dionne Warwick, Elton John and Gladys Knight had the number 1 song of all of 1986, I think you must agree with me that the mid-’80′s were difficult for radio listeners. For me, the only real musical genius to come out of the era came from Prince, REM and U2. Even Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen struggled during those years. If you don’t believe me, try to sell your LP’s from the mid-80′s. It could be one really bad American Idol show, but the American Idol Season 8 group has surprised us before.
As I said yesterday in my American Idol Season 8 Top 8 Power Rankings, the competition is tightening up and I think five of the top eight are at risk this week if they have a bad performance. It is also time to start watching the competition for the Final 3. The front runners right now are Kris Allen, Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert. I don’t think they will be the Top 3 but I do think two of them will make it to the American Idol Season 8 final trio. Allison Iraheta has the best shot at breaking into the top 3 but she needs to get back to blowing us away with her huge voice. Lil Rounds and Matt Giraud could also make a big push in the next few weeks to jump into the finals.
Now to American Idol’s Season 8tour of the mid-80′s:
1980 was the year that Danny Gokey came bouncing into the world. The number 1 song of 1980 was Blondie’s “Call Me”, and then new wave died. Bette Midler reached the height of her popularity in 1980 as she starred in her first movie, The Rose, a loose bio-pic of Janis Joplin that denied any similarities to Joplin’s life. The title song from that movie, “The Rose” provides a wonderful platform for Danny Gokey’s singing and arranging skills. This is the type of platform Danny could use to create his American Idol moment.
In 1982 Adam Lambert came screaming into this world. Olivia Newton John topped the charts in 1982 with “Physical” and pop music was in full decline. Adam has two good choices. Journey dropped the American Idol untouchable “Don’t Stop” in 1982. Soft Cell twisted Grace Jones’ “Tainted Love” into a synth pop American Idol booby trap. Expect Lambert to latch onto the freedom of arrangement that “Tainted Love” affords and drop on us a version closer to Marilyn Manson than anything we have ever seen on American Idol. Expect drooling Nine Inch Nails references from the judges.
Lil Rounds may be in trouble. She was born in 1984 and that was not a good year for big-voiced R&B singers. Prince ruled the R&B charts that year and his best song ever “When Doves Cry” was the number one song of 1984. If Lil could get the rights to “Purple Rain” she should give that a shot, but I think she will sing Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It”. I promise, that is all I could find. Good luck Lil.
1985 was a banner year for American Idol Season 8. Kris Allen, Matt Giraud and Scott MacIntyre were all born that year. Maybe Live Aid inspired musicians to write some good songs but regardless, 1985 was a bright spot in the 80′s so there is plenty of good material for these three guys. Kris Allen can take on the British pop superstar Paul Young and arrange his ballad “Everytime You Go Away” into a modern hit. I hope Matt Giraud can turn Wham’s “Careless Whisper”, the overall number 1 song of 1985, into a cool 21st century R&B rave. Scott MacIntyre should choose Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” and made it his own keyborad driven anthem of love.
Anoop Desai joined us in 1986, just in time for Elton John to join Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight for the number one song of the year, “That’s What Friends Are For”. I beg you Anoopdawg, don’t sing that song on American Idol. Luckily, Anoop has a few choices that are more appropriate for him. If he wants t bring his attitude he can take on Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”. I think he will stick with R&B and sing Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years”. If he is ready to go back to North Carolina he can fool himself into thinking he has as much soul as Tom Jones and perform Prince’s “Kiss”. That would be the kiss of death. I hope you are having as good a time as me.
That brings us to 1992, the year Allison Iraheta and grunge were born. We were all amazed when the opening chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” burned out of the radio and we realized that rock could be rejuvenated. The problem for Allison is that grunge does not really lend itself to her big bluesy rock voice and the best of the rest is Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me” which charted in a duet with George Michael. The exception is a little gunge number, off a tribute album, sung by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell called “Hunger Strike”. If she was able to find the song, she will be able to tear tiles off the American Idol roof with this song about the unfair distribution of wealth in America.
If my predictions are correct it will be a night of ballads. Join us as we live blog the tonight at 8e/7c.
If you want to check out the past performances on American Idol Season 8 just download songs and videos from iTunes