So far this season on "American Idol," I've been disappointed by the weekly themes, and so I've been coming up with fantasy concepts for future "Idol" episodes. So far I've suggested Goth Night and Hair Metal Night, but this week's dream theme might be the dreamiest yet.
This week, in real life, the theme will be Elvis Night, mentored by Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert. While the prospect of Glambert returning to the "Idol" soundstage to inject some glam and glitz into this year's lackluster season sounds like a surefire winner idea indeed, I am, admittedly, a little dejected by the material he'll be forced to work with. Sure, Adam has a somewhat Elvis-like pelvis and Presleyan lipcurl, and he bears some resemblance to The King when he goes a little crazy with the pomade...but to my knowledge he has never cited Elvis Presley as a major musical influence.
And that is why my alternate fantasy theme for this week is...David Bowie Night!
THEME: Bowie Night
I've been seriously jonesing for Bowie, one of the greatest rock visionaries of our time (or any time, really), to bring his sound + vision to "Idol" ever since Simon Cowell suggested that Crystal Bowersox cover Bowie on a future episode. Crystal seemed somewhat hunky dory about Simon's idea at the time--saying, with her typical mild enthusiasm, "Um, Bowie would be fun"--but frustratingly, she has yet to follow through on this plan. With Adam Lambert (who in a recent Reality Rocks interview revealed his own moonage daydream of performing a Bowie duet, and whose sweaty, sexy Bowie medley was the highlight of last year's Idols Live Tour) coaching, that would be the ideal time for Crystal and her remaining fellow contestants to get in touch with their inner Ziggys. Let's dance, everyone.
MENTOR: David Bowie (duh) with assistant Adam Lambert
David Bowie is pretty much a recluse these days, happy to remain sequestered in his palatial estate with Iman and their genetically perfect, exotically named offspring. But maybe, just maybe, "Idol" would lure the glam god out of premature retirement. And hey, if Bowie and Lambert wanted to sing a "Life On Mars" duet on the Wednesday results show, while wearing matching lightning-bolt facepaint and sequined Velvet Goldmine unitards, even better. Sure, both my television set and head would probably explode into glitterdust at such a spectacle, but that's a risk I'd be willing to take.
With Bowie's four-decade-plus catalog running the gamut from twee hippie Britfolk to OTT glam-slams, from druggy Berlin cool to blue-(and-green)-eyed soul, from peppy new wave to icy electronica, there's a Bowie selection suitable for each of this season's top nine hopefuls. The real trick here was just whittling it down to one song apiece.
Crystal Bowersox - "The Man Who Sold The World"
Brit ingénue Lulu covered this proto-glam classic in a cabaret style in 1974, and 20 years after that, Nirvana famously transformed it into the most depressing campfire singalong song ever on MTV Unplugged. If Crystal, with her gorgeous, lilting voice and grungy, aloof demeanor, could somehow split the difference between the two versions, she'd have a real magic "Idol" moment on her hands.
Lee Dewyze - "Heroes"
This year's "Idol" everyman, Lee could redo this triumph-of-the-spirit underdog anthem in the vein of the Wallflowers' rustic version, and there wouldn't be a dry eye or unraised goosepimple in the house by the time he got to the big, fist-pumping coda. Not even the addition of some random bagpipes could screw up this number.
Andrew Garcia - "Modern Love"
Andrew's finest "Idol" moment to date was his overhyped cover of Paula Abdul's 1988 hit, "Straight Up." So for Bowie Night, he'd be wise to apply his trademark acoustic style to Bowie's bounciest, fluffiest '80s hit. If he could manage to put a modern spin on "Modern Love," he'd finally be back in the game. He should just avoid wearing Bowie's famous Let's Dance-era lemon yellow suit. Andrew doesn't quite pull off a suit the way Bowie does.
Casey James - "Be My Wife"
Casey likes to rock out on the guitar, so amped-to-11 arena tunes like "Rebel Rebel" and "Suffragette City" might seem like best bets here. But as evidenced by his heart-stoppingly/-breakingly poignant "Jealous Guy" performance on Lennon/McCartney Night last week, Casey is actually at his finest when he pulls back, pulls the plug, and pulls on America's heartstrings. Therefore I suggest an unplugged rendition of "Be My Wife," which just so happens to be my personal favorite Bowie song of all time. I know he'd deliver something sweet and special, and I can already picture Kara DioGuardi sneakily removing her wedding ring when Casey gets to the bended-knee chorus. And there's little doubt that millions of other female viewers would be lining up to become Mrs. James, too.
Aaron Kelly - "Changes"
Aaron was the hardest Idol to assign a song this week. He's about as un-Bowie-ish as it gets, and it's difficult to imagine him doing any song by the Thin White Duke real justice. I mean, last week the boy managed to ruin "The Long And Winding Road," a seemingly impossible feat. But "Changes" might translate decently into a Rascal Flattsian country ballad, and of course, since Kara always wants the contestants to be able to relate to the lyrical content, maybe Aaron's ongoing transition through puberty would provide him with some personal inspiration. Ch-ch-ch-changes, so to speak.
Michael Lynche - "Young Americans"
I actually loved Big Mike's soulful take on the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" last week, but apparently I was alone in that sentiment, since he got the fewest votes and would have gone home if not for the Judges' Save. So perhaps it would be best if Michael doesn't attempt such a risky, radical rock remake in the near future. This title track from Bowie's Philly soul-inspired album (which happened to feature backing vocals by Luther Vandross) would suit Michael's crossover-R&B style nicely, and it would really showcase Big Mike's big voice.
Siobhan Magnus - "Ashes To Ashes"
Lady Lambert, as this season's quirkiest and screamiest contender is sometimes nicknamed (that's a huge compliment in my book, by the way), would naturally have to tackle one of the glammier, hammier selections in the Bowie songbook. And she'd have to rock the stage in a getup that'd make her Stevie Nicks lace monstrosity from last week look like a plain Hanes tee and faded pair of Levi's. Therefore, I enthusiastically suggest she belt out this early-'80s epic, with all its crazy falsettos (or "falses," as Randy Jackson might say), while wearing the puffy harlequin clown suit and Klaus Nomi kabuki makeup from the song's totally bizarre 1980 music video. Plus some mismatched colored contact lenses, of course. Only Siobhan could pull that off.
Katie Stevens - "Wild Is The Wind"
Katie did an impressive job on "Let It Be" last week, so why not give her another big, bloated ballad to show off her McPheeverish diva pipes? Bowie and Katie aren't exactly a no-brainer pairing, but I think this season's pageant teen could pull this song off with dignity.
Tim Urban - "The Laughing Gnome"
Come on, the title says it all. With Teflon Tim's ever-chuckling demeanor and impish good looks, how could he NOT do this song?
NEXT WEEK'S FANTASY THEME: STONER ROCK NIGHT!