This week's fantasy theme is...Hair Metal Night! Come on, you know it'd be nothin' but a good time.
THEME: Hair Metal Night
Why? Well, on "American Idol" it's all about song selection--and these are the songs of America, the songs of the heartland, the songs an entire generation lost their virginity to in the backseats of Camaros across this great headbanging nation of ours. There's a reason why the "Rock Of Ages" musical was such a Broadway smash, and why it single-leather-gloved-handedly revived the career of Season 4 Idol Constantine Maroulis, you know. As for the younger generation--i.e., those who weren't even alive back when David Lee Roth still had hair, Slash 'n' Axl were still making beautiful music together in some groupie-infested opium den overlooking Hollywood's Sunset Strip, and Kiss yet to remove their makeup--today's lil' rockers are discovering these Spandex-sheathed, AquaNet-soaked, Bic-flicking classics thanks to Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Besides, Hair Metal Week would rock because the "Idol" wardrobe stylists could go crazee with this theme. (Come on, who doesn't want to see Casey James in buttless pleather chaps, Tim Urban in a Darkness-style zebra-striped unitard, or Crystal Bowersox strumming a flying V?) And the possibility of a Wednesday night group number of Poison's "Unskinny Bop," complete with feral leather ladies in onstage cages and Fire Marshall-flouting amounts of pyro, is just too awesome to resist.
MENTOR: Sebastian Bach
While some songs of the genre were obviously off-limits--like Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name," because the Blake Lewis beatbox version is untouchable, and "Home Sweet Home" by Motley Crue and "I Remember You" by Skid Row because secret metal chick Carrie Underwood already covered both--overall, it was pretty easy to pick crowd-pleasing songs from this era. Get ready for a real headbangers' ball...
Crystal Bowersox - "Patience," Guns N' Roses
"Sweet Child O' Mine" was capably re-imagined as a Lilith Fair kumbaya campfire singalong by Sheryl Crow a few years back, but I think Crystal could do an even better job with this beautifully understated GNR ballad--whether she plays it on guitar or piano, with bare feet or stilettos. I of course would prefer that she play it while wearing an Axl-esque umpire vest and plaid kilt, and/or a Slash-like boa around her neck. But again, that's up to the show's stylists. I suppose the biggest concern here would be: Can Crystal whistle?
Lee Dewyze - "Round And Round," Ratt
I have long asserted that "Round And Round" is one of the greatest rock songs of the 1980s, period. Ratt are long overdue for a revival, and a cover by one of this season's most hyped rockers would help that cause. But aside from my own Ratt-promoting agenda, I picked this song for Lee because I dig the acoustic cover that indie icon Lou Barlow (of Sebadoh/Folk Implosion fame) recorded a few years ago, and I think that version could be the perfect inspiration for Lee. And finally, Lee is a bit of a dark horse, but Simon Cowell has always believed in him. Could this song's lyrics--"I knew right from the beginning/That you would end up winning"--prove prophetic for Lee?
Andrew Garcia - "Kiss Me Deadly," Lita Ford
Andrew fares best when covering chicks. Lita Ford was the baddest rock chick of the hair-metal age, able to hold her own in the Runaways alongside Joan Jett and with Ozzy Osbourne in their "Close My Eyes Forever" duet. So maybe Andrew could work some of his all-too-elusive gender-bending magic with a Lita tune. Let's face it, if he could transform the blonde bombshell's signature estrogen-and-whiskey-steeped party anthem into an acoustic folk ditty, it'd be impressive for sure, and he'd be fully back in the game. And hey, if he couldn't get this song cleared, then my alternative song suggestion would be Vixen's "Edge Of A Broken Heart." Girls rock!
Casey James - "Cherry Pie," Warrant
Kara DioGuardi's eyes would be bugging out like Jani Lane's in this song's original video (you know, that scene when Jani first focuses his binoculars on future ex-wife Bobbi Brown's Daisy Duke'd posterior) if Casey belted out this ode to, um, dessert. And she wouldn't be the only one. After this performance, I'd expect a scene straight out of a Warrant concert circa 1987, with hot 'n' bothered female fans straddling their disgruntled boyfriends' shoulders and gleefully flashing their chests (or least asking Casey to autograph their chests). And I'm sure there'd be a lot of groupie-tossed Frederick's Of Hollywood undergarments and hotel room keys littering the "Idol" stage by this song's end. But if Casey wanted to go the more sensitive route, Firehouse's wedding-dance ballad "Love Of A Lifetime" would surely have the cougars openly weeping, and Kara would certainly repeat her ridiculously fawning behavior from his similarly sappy performance of Bryan Adams' "Heaven" a few weeks back. Either way, both songs are good excuses for Casey to wear a fireman's uniform. Why not?
Aaron Kelly - "House Of Pain," Faster Pussycat
This song is lesser-known than some of my other choices, but Faster Pussycat were one of the most underrated bands of the era and deserve their due. But that is not the real reason I picked this bittersweet ballad for Aaron. I went with "House Of Pain" because of its sensitive subject matter: It's about being abandoned by one's father. Aaron, a former foster child, would certainly relate, and the lyrics might bring out an especially emotional performance from the rather robotic kid. (Kara is always griping that the contestants should pick songs they can personally connect with, after all.) This bluesy lament could be easily transformed into an Aaron-ish country song, too--and if he couldn't get "House Of Pain" cleared, alternate song suggestion Cinderella's "Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone" would serve a similar purpose in that regard.
Michael Lynche - "Until I Get You," Hanoi Rocks
Hanoi Rocks are probably the most obscure band on this list; sadly, in America they're probably best known as "that band with the drummer who was killed in the Vince Neil car accident." But the Finnish rockers' dark and desperate stalker song about unrequited love needs to be heard by a wider audience. I really think Big Mike, who did such a spine-tingling job with India.Arie's similarly yearning "Ready For Love" last week, could really have a "moment" with this one.
Siobhan Magnus - "Photograph," Def Leppard
"Photograph" is THE best song of the hair metal era. Siobhan is THE best singer of Season 9. Additionally, "Photograph" has a giant, stratospheric, money-shot note at the end that only she could handle (and in metal, her dog-whistle-decibel scream would be totally appropriate and encouraged). Plus, I am just dying to see Si perform this Britmetal smash in some cute Union Jack short-shorts. I want this to happen so badly, I'd almost give my left arm to hear it. (Yes, I went there. Oops.)
Katie Stevens - "Seventeen," Winger
Katie is 17. This song is about a 17-year-old girl. Yep, that's all I got. I'm not too inspired by Katie at this point.
Tim Urban - "We're Not Gonna Take It," Twisted Sister
At first I was going to go with Van Halen's "Jump" or GNR's "Welcome To The Jungle," because both tunes would give Tim an opportunity to recreate his famous knee-slide. (In the latter song, Tim would obviously execute such a move during the "sha na na na na na na na knees, knees" line.) But then I figured this teenage-rampage warcry was a better option. Teflon Tim hasn't had it easy this season, but he's taken his beatings with a shrug and a smile week after week. Now it's time for him to stand up to Simon et al. The perfect way to do it is by quoting the snot-nosedly rebellious lyrics of Dee Snider, of course: "Oh, you're so condescending/Your gall is never-ending/We don't want nothin', not a thing from you/Your life is trite and jaded/Boring and confiscated/If that's your best, your best won't do." He needs to sing that right in Simon's face.
NEXT WEEK'S FANTASY THEME: BOWIE NIGHT!