In two weeks’ time, American Idol will crown a new winner and three of the final four ladies in the competition will be losers. At this point in the competition, all of the remaining contestants —Candice Glover, Kree Harrison, Amber Holcomb, and Angie Miller— are capable of winning. They each have a beautiful, big voice. They each have cultivated a distinct “brand” with an eager fan base. And they each have multiple opportunities to mess up big time.
It’s not about the talent anymore. It’s about the song choices.
For example, on last night’s American Idol, Candice Glover delivered flawless renditions of “When I Was Your Man” and “You’ve Changed,” but could still be in danger because she relies on old school runs a bit too much. Angie Miller was lambasted for choosing the wrong song for her voice (Rihanna’s “Diamonds”) even though she arranged it into one of her piano ballads. Amber Holcomb almost broke down in tears when she was criticized harshly for not selling a Pink song. Finally, guest coach Harry Connick, Jr. and Randy Jackson got into an actual argument over the way Kree Harrison chose to interpret “Stormy Weather.”
One of these four finalists made a strategic move last night that will keep them in the competition and one of them just lost American Idol. Who are we referring to?
Well, after doing extensive analysis of all 12 seasons of the show, we learned some things. And we’re here to share that knowledge with you (and this year’s Idol finalists, should they be reading this post). Here’s our dissertation on HOW TO LOSE AMERICAN IDOL IN FIVE EASY STEPS.
1) Sing One Of The Show’s Seven Songs Of Death
We went through all 12 seasons of American Idol history and made a list of every song a contestant sang on the week he or she was eliminated. Yes, we tallied all of them. What we discovered is that most of the special snowflakes who compete on Idol like to pick “unique” songs for themselves, so there really wasn’t as much overlap as you would think. That said, these seven songs are tied for sending not one, not two, but three contestants home from the live shows, and should therefore be avoided at all costs:
- “Saving All My Love For You,” by Whitney Houston: Alexis Lopez (1), Jasmine Trias (3), Tatiana Del Toro (8)
- “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” by Whitney Houston: Jennifer Fuentes (2), Tiara Purefoy (3), Asia’h Epperson (7)
- “Love Will Lead You Back,” by Taylor Dayne: Carmen Rassmussen (2), Mikalah Gorden (4), Karen Rodriguez (10)
- “If I Ain’t Got You,” by Alicia Keys: Kinnik Sky (5), Syesha Mercado* (7), Taylor Vaifanua (8)
- “A Little Less Conversation,” by Elvis Presley: Chris Daughtry (5), Jackie Tohn (8), Mathenee Treco (12)
- “Feeling Good,” by Cy Grant (also Nina Simone and Michael Buble): Leslie Hunt (6), AJ Tabaldo (6), Hallie Day (11)
- “Fever,” by Little Willie John: Nick Pedro (6), Syesha Mercado* (7), David Oliver Willis (12)
* Yes, Syesha Mercado had two of the dumbest song choices in American Idol history for her Top Three showdown against David Cook and David Archuleta. Actually, all three of her final songs on that show were terrible choices. Her third song was chosen for her by the producers and it was from an artist pretty much no one had ever heard before. “Fever” was the only one that she chose herself and she was moved to choose this song because it meant she could use a chair in her performance–as you’ll learn in the clip above.
2) Cover Whitney Houston or Stevie Wonder
For the love of all that is holy, don’t ever go out of your way to cover Whitney Houston or Stevie Wonder.
I know it’s tempting because many Idol winners have successfully covered these greats, but don’t. Like, I’m sure that when Jessica Fuentes covered Whitney in the early rounds of season two, she thought she was lining herself up as the second Kelly Clarkson, but it didn’t work.
I’m not sure if you noticed, but two of the seven worst songs to sing on American Idol were Whitney Houston tracks. All told, eleven different people have been sent home because they dared sing one of the diva’s songs. Eleven different people were also sent home for singing Stevie Wonder. So, essentially, unless it’s a Whitney or a Wonder-theme week and you’re forced to sing one of their songs, don’t sing one of their songs! Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley are also artists that American Idol contestants should tackle at their own risk.
Interestingly, no one has ever sung a Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo, Amy Winehouse, R. Kelly, Miranda Lambert, Katy Perry or P!nk* song to their doom.
*If Amber Holcomb gets booted tonight, you can strike P!nk off the list.
3) Sing Your Song Like A Karaoke Cover
Doing a great karaoke cover might get you laid on the weekend, but it will also get you booted off American Idol. In one of the earliest ever elimination shows, Alexis Lopez pulled a bad song choice hat trick when she sang a karaoke cover of Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You.” In her defense, this was the very first season of American Idol and she had no way of knowing that you could change the runs on a song. Also, this was a pre-David Cook era where singers weren’t allowed to play the guitar or piano on stage. All that being said, if you watch this clip, the judges pointed out to her repeatedly that she sucked at song choice and she sucked at not making the song sound like amateur night on a Carnival cruise ship.
Don’t be a copycat. Be an original.
4) Lose Your Voice
I’m not talking about laryngitis–though that too would be fatal for an American Idol contestant.
The nasty thing about American Idol is that sometimes the contestants really have no say in what they’re singing. There are theme weeks and songs they can’t get the rights to. Not to mention, in next week’s Top Three show, two of the songs will most likely be picked by the judges and the producers. Still, the singers have the ability to control not just the arrangements, but what will actually come out of their mouths on the live show. The worst thing a popular singer on American Idol can do is forget what their voice as an artist is.
The most disappointing example of this was when Chris Daughtry met Elvis Week in season 5 and Elvis swallowed him whole. Because Elvis’s sound originated from blues and influenced rock, the gritty rock singer could have rearranged his song choices to highlight the angsty origins of Elvis’s sound. Instead, he sang the song like a simple cover and lost what made him so different on the show–and what would make him famous after the show.
5) Choose A Song You Can’t Sing
This should be obvious, but for some reason, some contestants on American Idol overreach. I mean, why wouldn’t they overreach? It’s a show where small town Americans can become superstars literally overnight. The whole show is about overreaching.
Anyway, some contestants either choose a song that is too big vocally for their pleasantly warbling voice, or they put themselves out there selling a song they have no emotional connection to. At this point in the competition, everyone has a magnificent voice, but if you can’t make the audience believe that you are emotionally connected to the message of your song, it’s not going to be a success. Compare how season six’s Leslie Hunt (above) botched “Feeling Good” due to vocal strain and a lack of confidence with how famous Idol runner up Adam Lambert (below) owned the song not just vocally, but with his sensational swagger.
So, in conclusion, if you ever find yourself on American Idol, stay away from Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder, rearrange the original melody to make it your own, don’t ever sing “A Little Less Conversation” if you want to be a rock star, and never, ever choose a difficult song like “Feeling Good.”
Or, disregard all these little rules, if you have the chops to be a star and know you can f*#king sell it.
But like seriously, DO NOT SING WHITNEY HOUSTON. If you want a power ballad, Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” has never gotten anyone the boot.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]