American Idol Season 8- Birth Year Songs Preview

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.

Danny Gokey- “The Rose”    Download the original Bette Midler - The Rose (The Original Soundtrack Recording) - The Rose

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.

Adam Lambert- “Tainted Love”  Download the original Soft Cell - The Very Best of Soft Cell - Tainted Love

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.

Lil Rounds- “What’s Love Got to Do With It”  Download the originalTina Turner - Private Dancer - What's Love Got to Do With It

1985 was a banner year for American Idol Season 8Kris 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.

Kris Allen- “Everytime You Go Away”  Download the original Paul Young - From Time to Time - The Singles Collection - Every Time You Go Away

Matt Giraud- “Careless Whisper”  Download the original Wham! - Make It Big

Scott MacIntyre- “I Want to Know What Love Is” Download the original  Foreigner - Agent Provocateur - I Want to Know What Love Is

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.

Anoop Desai- “Holding Back the Years”  Download the original Simply Red - Simply Red: 25 Greatest Hits - Holding Back the Years

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.

Allison Iraheta- “Hunger Strike”  Download this song  Temple of the Dog - Temple of the Dog - Hunger Strike

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

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American Idol Season 8- Motown Preview

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.

The Motown Family

The Motown Family

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

Smokey Robinson & Barry Gordy

Smokey Robinson & Barry Gordy

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 Dirty Dozen Brass Band featuring G. Love - What's Going On).  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

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