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
, Auto-Tune Night
, and Britpop Night
. And so far, no one at Fox has paid me any attention. Now, with Season 9 down to the pre-finale wire and the judges reportedly making some ho-hum song choices for the top three this week (the overdone "Hallelujah" for Lee, the snoozy Mayer ballad "Daughters" for Casey, the potentially maudlin "Maybe I'm Amazed" for Crystal), the chances of any of my "AI" fantasies becoming reality are slim. But still, a girl can dream. So this week's fantasy theme is...John Hughes Night!
THEME: John Hughes Night
Last Tuesday was Movies Night on "American Idol." The top four had their pick among dozens upon dozens of cinema songs, and they certainly came up with some interesting choices, including themes from Caddyshack and Free Willy and a blatantly pandering-to-the-cougar-base ode to Mrs. Robinson. Some contestants fared better than others, but they all would have been better off singing gooey, goosebumpy songs off the best John Hughes soundtracks from that golden age of cinema, the '80s. (Come to think of it, when Michael Lynche performed "This Woman's Work," a Kate Bush song originally penned for the Hughes film She's Having A Baby, it was his finest moment of the season. My point is made.)
Anyhoo, the late, great John Hughes was one of the first film directors to really understand the power of an awesome pop soundtrack (it can be argued that music-packed films like Reality Bites, Empire Records, Lost In Translation, Garden State, and 500 Days Of Summer would not exist without Hughes's influence), and the nostalgic reaction to his recent memorial at the Oscars indicates that an all-Hughes night would really inspire viewers to pick up the phone and vote for their favorite "Idol" bratpacker.
MENTOR: Zooey Deschanel
Few it-girl actresses have managed to credibly cross over from movies to music as smoothly as Zooey. Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Lewis, Gina Gershon, Minnie Driver, and, um, Lindsay Lohan have all tried...but, despite some of them (not
L.Lo) recording decent music, they've failed to garner total respect among rock critics and hipster types. But not Zooey. She instead sings (quite well!) with singer-songwriter M. Ward in She & Him (pictured right) and with her ex Jason Schwartzman's band Coconut Records; is married to Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard; judges the Independent Music Awards; plays a mod babe in Almost Famous
; and so on. And as I mentioned, the film that gave her her breakout role, 500 Days Of Summer
, is a direct descendent of the Hughes school of pop filmmaking. Therefore, I think Zooey could do a fine job with this theme. Plus, she's (girl-crush alert!
) The Cutest Girl In The World, and with former "Idol" quirky-girl cuties like Siobhan Magnus, Lilly Scott, Lacey Brown, Didi Benami, Janell Wheeler, and Katelyn Epperly now all out of the running, "Idol" could really use Zooey's fresh face right now.
Really, as long as the contestants stayed away from Wang Chung, they'd probably be okay here. John Hughes knew how to pick good songs, after all. But I narrowed it down to two perfect choices for each of the top three...
Crystal Bowersox - "I Go Crazy," Flesh For Lulu (from Some Kind Of Wonderful)
Flesh For Lulu were one of the great undersung bands of the new wave era, but they came close to mainstream greatness with this sweet song about missing the one you love. "I Go Crazy" is simply a wonderful (heh) lost gem just begging for Crystal's acoustic treatment, and my guess is, if Crystal thought of her young son while singing the poignant lyrics, she'd deliver an emotionally charged performance--exactly
what this sometimes aloof contestant needs to do at this very crucial stage in the game.
Alternate song: "Edge Of Forever," The Dream Academy (from Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Lee DeWyze - "Don't You Forget About Me," Simple Minds (from The Breakfast Club)
This is arguably the most famous and most beloved selection in the Hughes songbook. Lee is, arguably, the most commercial contestant left in the competition, with what we folks in the biz like to call a "recordable" voice. So I can't see how he'd go wrong with this one. Not even if a whole Ferris Bueller
-style parade of bagpipers ambushed him midway through.
Alternate song: "Pretty In Pink," Psychedelic Furs (from Pretty In Pink
Casey James - "If You Were Here," Thompson Twins (from Sixteen Candles)
Casey made the smartest song choice during last week's Movies Night--full aware that his biggest supporters are speed-dialing, block-texting cougars, he wisely decided to sing the ultimate anthem of America's desperate housewives, Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" from The Graduate
. However, his performance was hardly as lump-in-throat emotional as his best moments on the show ("Heaven," "Don't," and especially "Jealous Guy"). That's where this ballad comes in. "If You Were Here" is the memorable number that plays at the end of Sixteen Candles
, when Sam's birthday wish comes true and she lands the hunky big man on campus of her teenage dreams--something that would only ever happen in the final five minutes of a John Hughes film, really. If Casey warbled a sensitive, acoustic cover of this song, the thirty- and fortysomething women watching would instantly recall their pipe dreams of a romance with Jake Ryan, and the "Idol" switchboards would be subsequently be flooded with votes for this season's resident Jake-like heartthrob. And it'd be such a weeper, I'd personally be bawling harder than I did when Andie picked Blane over Duckie in the final prom scene of Pretty In Pink
Alternate song: "If You Leave," O.M.D. (from Pretty In Pink
So, anyone else think this is a super idea? Bueller? Bueller?
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