Top 3 Song Choices: Just Not The One About Penguins

Firstly, I have to celebrate the fact that we’re going back to three songs on top three night. Now, if we could get the three songs each in a sixty minute package, I’d be partying in the street with tears of joy streaming down my face. (Although, come to think of it, I’m extremely grateful that we were only treated to six songs total last year. /obligatory Season 9 insult) For the uninitiated, the song selections for the top 3 week are as follows: judge’s pick, producer’s (Jimmy Iovine’s) pick, contestant’s pick with no theme-restrictions attached to any.

Of course, the fact that two thirds of the songs are not in the contestants’ control makes things a little dicey; especially since history has proven that the producers and judges are often no better at song selection than the contestants (whether this is unintentional or not is an entirely different conversation). Two of the most famous instances of the Idol bus both were made possible by this. Filipino-Hawaiian flower girl Jasmine Trias stuck around way beyond her expiration date, outlasting front-runner Latoya London in a shock boot. Her punishment? A song selection of “All By Myself” – not only was it a soaring ballad that was far out of Jasmine’s vocal capabilities, it also happened to be the song that had kick-started Latoya’s run on the show. The other instance was when bottom three champion, Syesha Mercado, managed to claw her way into the top three. She was promptly saddled with Gia Farrell’s “Hit Me Up.” Don’t recognize the song? Well that’s because it’s from the Happy Feet soundtrack. Yeah, the movie about the penguins.

The point being, contestants don’t have a whole lot of control this week, so they need to make the best of their one choice. (Also, I’m pretty sure they have the option of a repeat performance this week. Please, for the love of all that is entertaining, do not retread a performance. It’s boring and you’re already forced to do one in the penultimate show of the season anyway.) Here are my picks (along with, spoiler alert, the judge’s picks):

Let’s start with potential bus-recipient Haley Reinhart.* The judges picked Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” (You know, the song Crystal sang with Alanis at the grand finale last year with the line, “would she go down with you to the theater?” So scandalous!) It’s not a terrible choice for her. It’s a little growly and angry and has lots of room for Haley to improvise some phrasing changes. To complement this, I’d like to see what Haley could do with “Fearless” by Taylor Swift. Okay, so before people think I’ve lost it completely, Haley needs to be able to take credit for a radical rearrangement. She’s had great moments by twisting the drama and phrasing of songs, but hasn’t had that “this is like nothing I’ve ever heard before” reaction yet. Picking a song by sweet country phenom, Taylor Swift, is an easy way to achieve this. Taylor’s vocals aren’t so hot, so Haley will look awesome in comparison. On the other hand, she writes some strong melodies and with a bigger, grittier, more rock-sounding arrangement, Haley could just tear through “Fearless.” (To be fair, the song is already a pop/rock song masquerading as a country song, but Idol judging is very shallow and a rearrangement of a Taylor Swift song would be radical! genius! etc.)

Moving on to the contestant I think is in the most danger of leaving this week, Lauren Alaina. Her judge’s song is Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” On the surface, it’s impossible to believe this will result in anything other than a safe, solid performance. Lauren doesn’t have the life experience to tap into that something extra for this song and it’s not an terribly exciting number to begin with. That said, it’s the nuts of wonder song, so I’m pleased with the choice. If she throws in the “nuts of wonder” lyric, I’ll vote for her for all two hours. Because the world already knows that Lauren can be current and that she can go uptempo by singing a country tune by a female artist (“Flat On The Floor,” “Turn On The Radio,” “Any Man Of Mine,” and “Born To Fly”), I’d like to hear a different take on her uptempos, namely, “Your Smiling Face” by James Taylor. Lauren’s got just enough twang and smoke in her voice to make just about any song unique. It just sounds like a generally good song and contrasts nicely with the weighty “I Hope You Dance.”

Last and absolutely least, is the last male standing, Scotty McCreery. The judges saddled him with Kenny Rogers’s “She Believes In Me.” Yawn. We’ve seen this. We don’t need to see this again. But, at this point I think I’d feel that way about any song for Scotty. That’s why my pick for Scotty would be “99 Problems” by Jay-Z. I’d laugh. It’d be awful. But at least awful is entertaining. And then I’d promptly go listen to the original (ah, the days when Jay-Z was making real rap music).

Woo. Top 3 betta’ bring it.

*Oops, as I was writing this, spoilers for Haley’s songs came out. They can be found here.

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