‘American Idol’ Billy Joel Theme Week: Song Suggestions

This Wednesday, the Top 10 on American Idol will be tackling the songs of famed singer-songwriter, Billy Joel. I, for one, am excited about this theme, particularly because Billy Joel’s songs are awesome and incredibly diverse, making for a wide range of unique song choices that could provide a memorable night on Idol. The success of the night, as usual, depends on the wise song selections by our Idols. Like Jimmy Iovine stated during last Thursday’s results show, no matter what song suggestions the mentors try to shove down the contestants’ throats, the decision ultimately lies with our Idols. Last week proved disastrous for some frontrunners (I’m looking at you, Jessica Sanchez), because many were just too ignorant to choose songs they were unfamiliar with, and instead settled on predictable selections that did nothing to show off their artistry or musical creativity. I’m here, once again, crossing my fingers that the Idols take my advice and make the best decisions for themselves if they want a chance of making that all-important finale. I don’t care what Randy Jackson says — song choice is everything on Idol. Check below to see what choices from the Billy Joel songbook I select for our remaining ten contestants.

1. Colton Dixon, “Piano Man” (1973, Album: Piano Man) — How many times this season have the judges been stressing the fact that Colton is at his best when playing the piano? Too many, a migraine ensued. In the hopes of finally shutting them up, I implore our resident punk-rocker heartthrob to sing a song that truly defines his role as a musician. It’s a moving ballad that could boost Colton’s value in the competition. Colton’s strong enough to jump away from the middle-of-the-pack island he’s been stranded on for a few weeks, and I believe this Billy Joel classic might just do it. Has there been a more appropriate Billy Joel song for an Idol than “Piano Man?” Let’s pray Colton does this track justice.

Can Colton Finally Calm The Judges’ Fears of Going Musically Astray? This song should allay those fears:

2. DeAndre Brackensick, “Tell Her About It” (1983, Album: An Innocent Man) — To give DeAndre a ballad after last week’s horrific performance of Mariah Carey’s “Endless Love” would be akin to having all the chambers in a revolver filled while playing Russian Roulette. I think DeAndre could be a dark horse if he starts choosing the right songs for himself, and I still can’t forget how downright spectacular and groovin’ his “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” was two weeks ago. He needs a similar uptempo number to make voters come to his corner in droves. I believe “Tell Her About” has a looseness to it that would let DeAndre have a bit of fun with the melody. He doesn’t necessarily have to change it, but he can twist it to suit his reggae style. As long as DeAndre chooses an upbeat Billy Joel track, I’ll have a smile on my face. If he chooses a ballad, I’ll be crying for all the wrong reasons.

Can DeAndre provide us with the sequel to “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” with this track?:

3. Elise Testone, “Modern Woman” (1986, Album: The Bridge) — I wanted to give Elise a song that could get a rise out of viewers yet also be dynamic enough for her to deconstruct. I actually would love to hear a stripped-down version of this fairly upbeat track. I think it would sound beautiful with Elise’s voice over the song, and I actually challenge Elise to reword the lyrics so the title “Modern Woman” is referring to her instead of another woman from a man’s perspective. This song is an empowering one that would give Elise the strength to smack America in the face for continuing to ignore her talent. I’ve stated this in some other online blurbs, but I’m now pushing forth a new campaign for Elise known as the “Don’t Release My Elise” campaign that is meant to drive viewers to rally behind her so that way her undervalued talents don’t go unnoticed. I mounted a successful “Don’t Hurt My Haley” campaign for Haley Reinhart at the started of the Top 13 last season, and Haley was able to make it all the way to the final three despite finding herself near elimination the first two weeks of the finals. I’m hoping for a successful campaign repeat, and this song suggestion could be one that ignites the fire for Elise. C’mon America, open your ears!

Will Elise be respected as a “modern woman?” With this song, she better:


4. Erika Van Pelt, “Pressure” (1982, Album: The Nylon Curtain) — Erika Van Pelt is getting on my last nerve. If someone proclaims themselves a rocker yet only chooses one rock song throughout the entire time we’ve seen them on the show, either they’re misrepresenting themselves as an artist or are making such boneheaded decisions, you question their sanity. I’m leaning toward the latter. Despite Erika over-singing Bryan Adam’s “Heaven” last week, I was finally able to hear a unique, earthy quality to her voice that I hadn’t realized was there before. It’s that tone I want brought to the forefront this week, and the only way Erika can do that is to start showing us the rock goddess I know is hiding within that powerful core of hers. Billy Joel isn’t known for being a hardcore rocker this side of Def Leppard, but “Pressure” will fill the rock void in Erika’s Idol portfolio. I love the creepy electronic sounds that give the track a dark and melancholic edge. It’s just the type of flavor I want dumped all over Erika. Drop the sweet girl act, Erika. We know you’ve got sass and sultriness aplenty, so live it up, lose the ballads, and get dark and gritty.

Can Erika finally….FINALLY….unleash the beast? The “Pressure” is on:

5. Heejun Han, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” (1977, Album: The Stranger) — Heejun is one note away from a total fan base collapse. Last week, nearly every Idol pundit hated his out-of-breath delivery of Richard Marx’s most popular song. Many feel that Heejun is now out of his depth compared to the remaining contestants, who outshine him as performers and vocalists. Heejun is only going to commit Idol suicide if he goes for another boring ballad, so I’m giving him a song choice that goes for broke in its bold undertaking. “Movin’ Out” is perhaps one of the most difficult Billy Joel hits to master. The phrasing is very precise and the notes have to be hit spot on. If Heejun wants us to value his worth on Idol, he is going to need to take massive risks otherwise he’s on his way out the Idol backstage door. Why am I challenging Heejun so much if I don’t have faith in his abilities? I’m not sure why, but I always feel like every contestant, no matter how I personally feel toward them, deserves to be given the best advice in order to make it through this week. I can’t think of a more obscure song choice that could surprise everyone if pulled off successfully.

Heejun has a risky song choice. Can this clown put on his game face, and pull off the impossible?:

6. Hollie Cavanagh, “Big Shot” (1979, Album: 52nd Street) — Hollie needs to change up her ballad pattern, because I smell a stench of Pia on the rise. We get it, we get it — Hollie can sing her butt off, made even more impressive by the fact that she is a tiny little thing with a ginormous voice! Now, can we all be adults here and move past that “O-M-G” shock value, and give this girl some constructive advice so she doesn’t get an unfortunate shaft. I don’t need to hear Hollie sing another soaring ballad one more time, and neither do many viewers out there. She needs to change it up, which is why I’m giving her a slightly angry song that will up her “cool” factor and let her personality shine a bit more. Hollie still has that “deer in the headlights” look to her facial expressions, and it needs to come to a serious halt. Elise, Hollie, and Phillip Phillips are pretty much on an even scale when it comes to my Season 11 favorites, but Hollie could bounce back as my top tier contestant if she starts to diversify her song choices. I believe Billy Joel’s “Big Shot” could be both unexpected and memorable if Hollie performs with abandon.

I’m begging Hollie to change it up this week. Will this song be a right fit?:

7. Jessica Sanchez, “Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel)” (1994, Album: River of Dreams) — Jessica may have handed over her frontrunner title to several competitors thanks to one disastrous song choice. “Turn the Beat Around” revealed a serious lack of maturity and musical knowledge. Jessica’s voice will always sound amazing, but the track selection made Idol viewers question whether this girl is serious about becoming the next relevant artist. Is she just adding the experience of American Idol as an extracurricular for her college applications? Whatever Jessica’s intentions are, I sincerely hope her next performance will rekindle the magic of “I Will Always Love You.” Steven Tyler himself asked Jessica to return to her ballad wheelhouse, and while I find that advice a bit marginalizing, maybe she needs to remind viewers that she can be a consistent force of greatness. I couldn’t think of a more fitting Billy Joel song for an act of redemption.

Jessica Sanchez should redeem herself with this Billy Joel tearjerker:

8. Joshua Ledet, “Uptown Girl” (1983, Album: An Innocent Man) — Ballad, uptempo, ballad, uptempo. That is the right way to play the Idol game if you want to go deep in the competition. Joshua Ledet needs to ride the huge wave of success from last week’s earth-shattering “When a Man Loves a Woman” with a smart pick that won’t pigeonhole his talent. “Uptown Girl” has always been one of my favorite Billy Joel songs, and I think it could work wonders with Joshua Ledet’s voice and upbeat personality. He could sing the living daylights out of this song, and still infuse a fresh R&B flavor to this standard pop tune. I have no worries about Joshua’s abilities at this point, but his mantra should be “consistency,” because he is one of those contestants, for whatever reason, that could fall through the cracks if he doesn’t hit it out of the park on a weekly basis.

I believe Joshua can bring people to their feet with this track:

9. Phillip Phillips, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (1989, Album: Storm Front) — I’m not giving up with this song suggestion. Even before I knew this week’s theme would be “Billy Joel Songbook,” I pushed for Phillip to sing this hit last week. Here’s what I had to say: “I know Phillip will probably choose Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” as a predictable choice, but I want him to continue making performances that will surprise us by how unique and fun their covers are. This is probably the most “fun” song from 1990, and I am really curious to see how Phillip Phillips would interpret this Billy Joel hit. I think he could pull it off, and it could arguably be one of the coolest moments in Idol history if done right. I dunno, I’m just kind of in love with this whole notion of Phillip Phillips singing this song, that I look past it being a risky choice. It may be bold, but a true musician can pull anything off, and I think Phillip could do so on this hit.” My feelings haven’t changed, and if anything, I’m even more pumped up to see if Phillip can bring the Idol viewership to its knees with such a courageous undertaking of an extremely difficult-to-memorize song.

Second attempt at this suggestion. Can Phillip finally heed my advice?:

10. Skylar Laine, “Keeping the Faith” (1983, Album: An Innocent Man) — I’ve gone through the entire Billy Joel songbook, and this song sounds the most “country” to me. The way Billy injects a bit of a twang to his voice while singing makes me think that if Skylar were to cover this song, she’d do wonders. The title also resonates with Skylar’s southern voting bloc, who most likely connect to songs discussing faith. The track is a little boring, so Skylar could spunk it up with her rascally persona and give it a boost in entertainment value. If Skylar meshes this song into something that sounds like Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel,” she may find herself climbing back into the potential winner’s circle.

Boring song that needs a bit of Skylar Laine spunk? You decide:

And that’s a wrap for this week’s song suggestions article. I hope whether you agree or disagree with my choices, you won’t be shy to share some of your own song suggestions. I’d love to hear them. Sound off below in the comments section.