Idol is going back to the good ole days this week, to the days when big band and swing set the mood, standards were still the songs of the day, when performers were expected to show some class on stage and raise hell off it. The American Idol Top 5 finalists will be asked to perform the music stylings of the “Rat Pack,” that wildly popular gang of guys (and, unofficially, gals) that helped make Las Vegas the hot and trendy spot it remains today. Although the Rat Pack consisted primarily of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford, American Idol will no doubt concern itself only with the singers in the Pack: Sinatra, Martin, and Davis.
So what’s a teenager and a quartet of twenty-somethings supposed to know about the Rat Pack? Truthfully, they need to know nothing. They simply need to pick songs that they can sing passably well. It shouldn’t be that difficult. However, as one looks back over the the most boring American Idol season ever, one that has been chock full of the best overall talent they’ve ever had (not counting the awful Megan Joy Corkrey), one realizes that these guys sadly screwed up the “Year of Birth,” “Downloads,” “Country,” “Idols At The Movies,” and “Disco” weeks via their atrocious song selections.
Right off, there is hardly any doubt that Adam Lambert will walk away the winner of this week’s performance. There is a slight chance he might overplay his hand, do “New York, New York” with a screamo ending or something and just annoy the hell out of people. But it is doubtful. He’ll probably step onto the stage in an immaculate black tux and simply kill Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” or Dean Martin’s “A Kick In The Head?” He and Kris Allen may be the only ones who can pull off Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Mr. Bojangles” without it sounding contrived. Regardless, this close to the end, look for Adam Lambert to pull off another “Tracks of My Tears” moment for “Rat Pack Standards” week.
What will be most interesting will be to see who chooses the song, “Sway.” It was popularized by Dean Martin, but was recorded and released recently by that great standard crooner and former American Idol guest Michael Buble and pop superstars Pussycat Dolls. All versions are rather good and Allison Iraheta’s voice would almost be a dead-ringer for the Pussycat Doll version. It is sultry and sexy and has a soulful vibe, which Allison and Matt seem to be able to tap rather well. If they wish to go in a Latin direction, Kris Allen has proven he can arrange something in a Santana-like vein. Adam Lambert can sing anything. The only American Idol finalist I cannot see doing “Sway” is Danny Gokey. After a couple of weeks of judge Simon Cowell referring to him as “clumsy” and “awkward,” he might want to stay away from a tune that makes you want to move.
Matt Giraud, who seems to have a special soul connection, might be tempted to do Sammy Davis Jr’s “Candyman.” He should not. It will sound trite. I can totally see him doing Frank Sinatra’s “One For My Baby,” accompanying himself on the piano, those sorrowful maudlin keys tinkling out that it’s closing time. Matt is nothing if not a great pianist, so he could really nail Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Birth of the Blues.”
Allison Iraheta, who by now everyone knows is 16 years old, may have the most difficult time with this music with regard to familiarity, but who really knows? Perhaps her parents are Rat Pack fanatics? It still shouldn’t stop her from doing great with her husky voice on any number of Rat Pack tunes. The aforementioned “One For My Baby” was done by the great Bette Midler as the closing act on the very last episode of Johnny Carson. Shirley MacLaine, Marilyn Monroe, and Judy Garland were also known as sometime members of the Rat Pack, but let’s hope Allison steers clear of “Over The Rainbow.” Judy Garland’s “Come Rain or Come Shine” would be a great number for her to tackle.
Kris Allen has proven he not only can sing but that he can arrange music to flatter his voice. He could be a surprise contender for the finale if Danny Gokey slips in the next couple weeks. As for Rat Pack tunes, though, it is really difficult to tell what Kris might sing. Perhaps a Dean Martin or Sammy Davis Jr. song. He is the one I’d most like to see do “Mr. Bojangles,” if it is done at all.
Danny Gokey is going to do “Mack The Knife.” One can just feel it, like slow creeping nausea that will inevitably make you feel like crap before its over. One can hope to avoid it, but… Although I have a suspicion that Danny Gokey will give the worst performance Tuesday evening, I have no fear of him being sent home. So he can ham it up with Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” or Dean Martin’s “Volare” and be alright for another week. I would prefer Gokey doing Sinatra’s “Under My Skin.” Do not look for Danny Gokey to do “Witchcraft” or “That Ol’ Black Magic” since he has ties with the church (but you never know). He’ll just have to listen to Simon Cowell nail him for being indulgent or something. By now he should be used to it.
So Rat Pack Standards are in the works. There has been no word of a mentor (may one suggest either Michael Buble or Harry Connick Jr.?), nor has there been an indication as yet whether the Top 5 finalists will sing one or two songs, but, considering that a new episode of “Fringe” is being broadcast after American Idol, it should be safe to say, given Idol’s problems with timing in the past, that the contestants will only sing one song each. That could be a blessing as well…
And he just might attempt a reprise of “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera, which was a favorite of Sammy Davis Jr. and David Cook did so well last season.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Taylor Hicks, winner of American Idol Season 5, will appear on the Top 5 results show on Wednesday, singing “Seven Mile Breakdown” from his latest album, “The Distance.”
“American Idol,” Fox Television