I've been mostly disappointed by the weekly themes during this season of "American Idol," so I've been coming up with fantasy concepts for imaginary "Idol" episodes. So far I've suggested Goth Night, Hair Metal Night, Bowie Night, Stoner Rock Night, Hall & Oates Night, and Auto-Tune Night. And so far, no one at Fox has paid me any attention. But that, of course, hasn't stopped me. So without further ado, this week's fantasy theme is...Britpop Night!
THEME: Britpop Night
England is the country that, for better or worse, started this whole "Idol" thing, you know. England brought us "Pop Idol," the show that launched the global "Idol" franchise, and Will Young, the first-ever Idol, who dueted with Kelly Clarkson on the Season 1 "AI" finale and whose "Leave Right Now" is the Season 9 "AI" exit song. (Read my Will Young interview here.) The U.K. of course, also brought us Simon Cowell. So why shouldn't there be an entire night of "AI" dedicated to Mother England? It'd be bloody brilliant.
MENTOR: Noel Gallagher
I have rallied for Noel to be Simon's replacement on "Idol" ever since I heard Cowell was quitting. Every TV talent show must have one surly, cantankerous, straight-shooting Brit on its judging panel--"America's Got Talent" has Piers Morgan, "Dancing With The Stars" has Len Goodman, "So You Think You Can Dance" has Nigel Lythgoe, "America's Next Top Model" has Nigel Barker, etc.--and therefore former Oasis grouch Noel, with his talent for crafting vicious soundbytes and his vast musical experience, would be the perfect man to fill Simon's seat. His "Idol" mentorship would be an ideal test run--at the very least, a chance for xenophobic American viewers to get accustomed to his thick Mancunian accent--and a real test of strength for the hapless finalists who'd have to face this unibrowed wonder's wrath. (However, if Noel is unavailable or just in too bad a mood, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker would be a great alternate, since Sir Jarvis is pretty much the most smashing thing to come out of Britain since Cadbury chocolate.)
With only four contestants left in the competition, I had to be super-selective and go for the creme de la creme of Britpop--so no Menswe@r, Cast, or Dodgy allowed. Sorry, Anglophiles! But among Britpop's brightest stars, there was plenty of fantastic music to choose from.
Crystal Bowersox - "Bittersweet Symphony," The Verve
I am picturing Crystal with her acoustic guitar, singing bittersweetly of heartache and perseverance and resilience, backed by a huge "Idol" orchestra playing this majestic song's famous "The Last Time" sample. It would be pure magic--anyone who witnessed the Verve's all-too-few reunion gigs knows this song is totally timeless (why has no "Idol" contestant ever covered it before???). And Crystal has the voice and grit and life experience to make its lyrics ring true. (She'd be "believable," to quote Kara DioGuardi.) It'd be a Bowersox Symphony, if you will.
Lee DeWyze - "Wonderwall," Oasis
Probably the most iconic Britpop song ever (at least on this side of the pond), this classic was hauntingly covered by troubadour Ryan Adams a few years ago. Lee's pre-"Idol" albums, which are floating around the Interweb, are very singer-songwriter in feel, more Ryan Adams-ish than the sort of Nickelbackian vibe of some of Lee's recent "Idol" performances. So I think Lee could work wonders with "Wonderwall." If he wanted to be a little more anthemic, though, my personal all-time favorite Oasis song, "Live Forever," would be a good second choice. "Live Forever" practically sounds like a coronation song, actually.
Casey James - "No Distance Left To Run," Blur
I've repeatedly asserted that Casey is at his best when crooning sad, sappy love songs, as his heartrending take on John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" proved. So...have you HEARD "No Distance Left To Run"? Blimey. It's so tear-jerking, so poignant, it makes "Jealous Guy" sound like the Spice Girls. A five-hanky breakup ballad penned by Damon Albarn for his ex, Elastica's Justin Frischmann (the Helen of Troy of Britpop, who used to date Suede's Brett Anderson too), "No Distance" was one of Blur's finest moments. And if Casey performed unplugged it in his captivating six-string-and-stool manner, it'd be one of his finest moments, too.
Michael Lynche - "The Fear," Pulp
Michael is often criticized for being too theatrical, but I say he ain't theatrical enough. I say give Big Mike a big song and let him go nuts with it, big-time. This harrowing, slightly gospel-ish ode to midlife-crisis madness and drug dementia wouldn't be the most feelgood, family-friendly song in "Idol" history, but it'd give Michael a chance to bring the drama, plus it would edge him up a bit. (Sometimes he can seem a little corny, but this spooky song would make him seem cool.) I can totally imagine Michael belting out "The Fear," fearlessly. But if Mike did have some fear about taking such a risk, and wanted to go a happier route, I suggest the Spectorian "Not Alone" by ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, or something from Bernard's R&B side-project, McAlmont & Butler. Michael couldn't go wrong with such superb Britsoul material.
NEXT WEEK'S FANTASY THEME: JOHN HUGHES NIGHT!