OK, friend. The time has come for the Cardinal Rules of American Idol song selection. This season’s competitors REALLY need a refresher course on these key guidelines.
I. Under no circumstances should you attempt a Stevie Wonder song. Ever. (Caveat: Unless you can pull it off.) Stevie done well is a career-maker. Stevie done poorly is a terminal mistake.
II. Other singers that are off-limits: Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson. I know you think you sounded good singing “Dreamlover” or “Genie in a Bottle” or “Man in the Mirror” at your high school talent show. But you stunk, compared to them.
III. Singers that are risky, but not off-limits: Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Eddie Vedder. Again, avoid them if you can, unless you have the golden pipes.
IV. Do not cross gender lines early in the competition. This one is simple. Guys, if you’ve heard a guy sing the song in a popular, successful version, go for it. Same applies for the ladies. But if the only guy to attempt to sing a song is Michael Bolton, stay away! (Prime example: Antonella Barba’s butchering of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” last week.)
V. Sing songs with actual hooks. Seriously, if there is a song that as a teeter-tottering or middling chorus, don’t sing it! Doesn’t make them great songs. Just means it won’t connect with the audience or show your talents. Remember, this list is designed to help you! Case in point, the girl who sang “Brass in Pocket” last week and Katherine McPhee’s KT Tunstall cover. Two great songs that just didn’t fit in the context of American Idol.
VI. Choose with Cajones. Don’t sing a Journey classic unless you are prepared to have Randy tear you apart. Never make fun of Paula’s escapade with a coyote/wolf/rapper. Don’t mess with See-moan unless you can back it up. Yes, he was behind the Teletubbies. But he has more money than you will ever dream of.
VII. Be Yourself. Know why Chris Daughtry was so good? He gave every performance his own spin. Sure, he didn’t win the competition, but his song and album topped the charts for weeks. Over the course of the show, he built a musical brand that connected with the audience–a brand that was featured on his album. Simple, no?
So there you have it, the Seven Cardinal Rules of American Idol Song Selection. Follow me, kid, and you’ll go straight to the top!