So far this season on "American Idol," I've been disappointed by the weekly themes. Last week's top 11 Teen Idols Night was inexplicably switched at the 11th hour to a generic "Billboard's #1 Hits" theme, thus crushing my pipedream of seeing Siobhan Magnus cover her fave band Hanson and Casey James do David Essex's "Rock On." This week's theme, R&B/Soul Night, is equally unthrilling. So I've decided to propose a few fantasy themes for future "Idol" episodes. I harbor no delusions that anyone at Fox or 19 Entertainment will actually read this and heed my advice, but hey, a girl can dream.
This week's fantasy theme is...Goth Night! I want to see Siobhan and company paint it black, for real.
THEME: Goth Night
Why? Well, it is a fact that many people who watch "Idol" are misunderstood, angsty youths, and it's also likely that last season's black-fingernailed rocker Adam Lambert and Manic-Panicked teen rebel Allison Iraheta drew a pasty new Hot Topic-clad audience to the show. Also older (read: thirty/fortysomething) viewers with fond memories of their clove-smoking, lunchpail-purse-toting '80s teenhoods would surely rejoice if "Idol" dusted the cobwebs off some of their musty, mopey old favorites.
MENTOR: Robert Smith
One of alt-rock's most unlikely yet enduring stars, Robert does not have a "technically" perfect voice (I'm pretty sure if he auditioned as an unknown for "Idol," Simon Cowell would send Bob on his way), but there are few vocalists of the past 25 years who have had such a direct influence on modern rock as Mr. Smith. (Listen to Bloc Party, Glasvegas, the Rapture, Kenna, the Black Kids, et al, and tell me otherwise.) The man certainly knows a lot about being unique and distinctive, about being emotive, and (as evidenced by the Cure's covers of Jimi Hendrix, Gary Glitter, the Doors, and David Bowie) about creatively interpreting other artists' songs. Robert also knows how to mix up genres, since the Cure have successfully explored so many sundry stylesbeyond doom-and-gloom that to label them just "goth" really does them a disservice. From the band's lean and minimal 1979 debut Boys Don't Cry to the claustrophobically depressing Pornography, from the peppy synth-disco of Japanese Whispers to the bad-acid-trip psychedelia of the The Top, to their grandiose masterwork Disintegration, Robert and the Cure have done it all. So as long as these Season 9 kids could understand Bob's muffled British accent, then could learn a great deal from this spidery-haired sad-sack sage.
Keep in mind that this is "American Idol," so I had to err on the side of more tuneful crossover songs that wouldn't have the average American armchair viewer reaching for the razorblades or the remote control. Thus, Throbbing Gristle's "Hamburger Lady" and the entire Christian Death songbook were pretty much off-limits. However, here's what I came up with...
Didi Benami - The Cure, "Friday I'm In Love"
When Didi tries to be dark, brooding, mysterious, or sexy, she fails. It's just not in her DNA. So this golden girl would be better off sticking to one of the genre's bouncier top 40 hits. Or maybe this could be the Wednesday night group singalong number? If so, then the top 10 would soooo need to wear those goofy Halloween costumes from the Cure's original video for the song.
Crystal Bowersox - Echo & The Bunnymen, "The Killing Moon"
Remember when Adam Lambert had his big moment last season covering "Mad World" from Donnie Darko? I suspect Crystal covering this haunting song, also featured on that cult film's excellent soundtrack, would be similarly spine-tingling.
Lee Dewyze - The Cure, "Lovesong"
Naturally, this everyman would perform the 311 version. He wouldn't do it as well as Blake Lewis did in Season 6, of course, but he'd do it justice; his female fanbase would predictably swoon, and America's fratboy audience would also approve.
Andrew Garcia - Siouxsie & The Banshees, "Christine"
As indicated by the ad nauseum mentioning of Andrew's now-ancient Paula Abdul cover, this dude seems to fare best when performing chicks' music, and when strumming an acoustic guitar. This classic would allow him to do both. Surely Andrew wouldn't mess this one up, right? Right?
Casey James - Bauhaus, "Ziggy Stardust"
Hey, it was originally a Bowie song, but Bauhaus's version became almost as iconic. The classic-rock vibe of this goth/glam anthem would serve Casey well, I think. Casey could recreate Daniel Ash's searing guitar solo, and if he wanted to recreate Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy's famous shirtless cage scene from the early-'80s music video, I'm sure Kara DioGuardi and all the cougars watching at home wouldn't mind.
Aaron Kelly - Nine Inch Nails, "Hurt"
Aaron may seem like a goody-goody boy next door, but he comes from a troubled background (abandoned by parents, once in temporary foster care) and a world of hurt. Goth music is all about being a misunderstood teen and hating your 'rents, so in an odd way Aaron may be uniquely qualified for this challenge. I'd love to see him do something really vengeful and angry and, you know, break stuff. Plus, since he always sort of has a country vibe to his performances, maybe he could do the equally chilling Johnny Cash version.
Michael Lynche - Kate Bush, "Wuthering Heights"
Big Mike's best performance yet has been "This Woman's Work." Yes, he sang the Maxwell version, of course, but the song was originally recorded by Kate Bush. So I'd love to see him actually do an original neo-soul remake of another Kate classic.
Siobhan Magnus - Mission U.K., "Tower Of Strength"
"Tower Of Strength" is to gothic music as Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" is to classic rock. It's a huge, theatrical, over-the-top monster-epic that requires a huge, theatrical, over-the-top monster-voice. Thus, only Siobhan could pull it off. An acceptable alternative? Sisters Of Mercy's operatic, Jim Steinman-penned "This Corrosion." While wearing a black PVC bustier that shows off her Edward Gorey tattoo, of course.
Katie Stevens - Siouxsie & The Banshees, "Peek-A-Boo"
Katie is about as un-goth as it gets. While other girls her age are swooning over Gerard Way and Edward Cullen and contemplating cutting themselves (kids: DON'T try that at home), Katie is probably scrapbooking or organizing her My Pretty Ponies and Care Bears by color code on her girly bedroom shelves. Katie is sugar and spice and everything nice. But this later-period pop-crossover hit for Ms. Sioux is just about cutesy and kiddie-friendly enough for Katie to croon convincingly.
Tim Urban - The Cure, "Lovecats"
Tim is cute. Cats are cute. Simon Cowell hates Tim, and Simon often compares singers he hates to screechy cats. So this cover tune seems like a no-brainer for Tim! Bring on the kneeslide and the feline metaphors, and get ready for some good trainwreck TV.
NEXT WEEK'S FANTASY THEME: HAIR METAL NIGHT!