American Idol 12 Top 8 – Motown – What Should the Idols Sing?

Are you ready for another theme featuring the legendary tunes from the Motor City?

The songs produced by Berry Gordy and his team at Motown records in the 60s and 70s defined an era and influenced a generation. But as a theme? It’s been done and done on Idol. To be specific–every season (counting Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross themes)  except S4, S7 and S9! I think it’s time to introduce some new music into the mix.

Just say no to Stevie Wonder people!  But more than just the redundant song picks—I’m really not looking forward to the kids staring at Jimmy Iovine like he’s got 3 heads before confessing they have never heard of the song they’re planning to sing.  Nigel, can we insert a contemporary theme here? It would be less painful.  

Having said that. Let’s pick some classic tunes for the remaining American Idol 12 finalists.

Janelle Arthur – “Walk Away Renee” by The Four Tops – I love this song, and have always wanted an Idol to cover it.  It’s not a crazy choice.  Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy recorded a cover. So did Vonda Shephard.

Candice Glover – “Living For the City” by Stevie Wonder –  Whatever Candice picks, I hope it’s something that allows her powerful voice to shine.

Kree Harrison – “You Really Got a Hold On Me” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles –  In an interview, Kree said she really wanted to sing Motown, so I have no worries for her.  A bluesy take on this classic could be fantastic.

Amber Holcomb – “Quicksand” or “Dancing In The Street” by Martha and the Vandellas – Whatever Amber sings this week, please let it be upbeat.  You can’t do better than Martha Reeves in that department.

Angie Miller – “I Hear a Symphony” by The Supremes –  Here’s a tune where Angie could really bring on the drama, and it would be perfect.

Lazaro Arbos – “I’ll Be There” by Michael Jackson – At this point, when it comes to Lazaro, I got nothin’.  This is a song that could, at least, match the singer’s essential sweetness.  And at this point, I see him clearly in the teen idol lane.

Burnell Taylor – What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye – There’s no other Motown singer I can imagine Burnell, and his gravelly tone singing. (Well, maybe David Ruffin!). This tune could be a real departure for Burnell, who has  soul and the ability to connect to a song.  It could be a break through moment for the singer.

Devin Velez – “Easy” by the Commodores –  An adult contemporary song for Devin who, at this point, seems positioned squarely in that genre.

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  • Incipit

    Yes, even the three seasons that seemed to have escaped really didn’t – they have MoTown songs done under a different theme title. Like Season 7 – three weeks – the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – (and also “Hello”) – Season 9 BillBoard Charts and Soul/R&B, Season 4 -BillBoard Hits, the ’60’s, and three weeks of open themes – – the freshness factor will be a joke, I’m afraid. You know it’s gonna be a bunch of retreads, because I have yet to see someone with some musical imagination in this whole bunch, and I certainly don’t count Iovine. Dreading the list coming out, and counting how many times each song has been done before.. ~sads~

    Because, for a change, Music of the Motor City doesn’t have to be just MoTown – there’s a whole slew of Detroit based artists, if that theme title is literal – – Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Ted Nugent, Eminem, and Jack White/The White Stripes/The Raconteurs, Suzi Quatro, The Detroit Wheels, among others – but are they even being considered?

  • Face

    this theme will do nothing to reverse the snooze-fest trend we’ve seen developing so far… I fear another week of generally well sung, but boring slow songs and ballads…

    so i’m *secretly* wishing for something, anything to liven it up a bit… at this point (and i know i shouldn’t think this) I want nothing more than to be entertained… maybe a couple of X Factor style OTT production numbers with fireworks, dancers and flashing lights… or dare i say it… a major train wreck or two (of the non-Lazaro looking like a deer in the headlights variety)…

    in all seriousness, surely someone is telling them, no matter how well they sing… if they ain’t entertaining then post this show the public aren’t going to want to buy their music, see them in concert, on tv etc…

  • tomr

    Grew up during this period…so many great songs but so few given on their list I believe. The theme for the week should be songs never sung on Idol before. That would be refreshing.

  • jennyl2

    I don’t know any of the songs except I’ll Be There. Didn’t know that song is Motown. Not my era. My memory is blank on all the other Seasons for this theme. I think I might have slept through it. Suddenly I miss Hee Jun singing My Life, tearing off his clothes and shaking his booty at the judges.

  • CB40

    I said that last week too! Give us songs never sung on Idol or artists never covered on Idol.

  • Rami H

    If Amber picks Dancing In The Streets she is going home, that song is not a good one for singing competitions, but the other choices are really good!

  • voicesinmyhead

    Whatever they sing it will most likely be a ballad snoozefest.

    However I hope Burnell sings an upbeat song and moves around instead of standing behind the microphone. Also if Burnell has not heard of Motown as well he is off my favorites list.

  • arkboy

    From what I have seen & what Ryan said, the theme is actually Songs From Detroit. That doesn’t necessarily mean Motown, but I suspect many will translate it that way. How about some Grand Funk, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Glen Frey (he is from Detroit) Madonna, Bill Haley, MC 5? There are lots of great choices not related to Motown. And if someone did choose Motown, don’t forget they actually had a white rock group recording under the label back them…Remember Rare Earth?

  • LeoCS

    I think all these songs have been done sometimes, except for “walk away renee ” (which is a very good fit to Janelle, since I doubt she can do uptempo).

    Only songs that were recorded with Motown Records are allowed? They should pick some Rick James songs, like You and I, Give it To Me Baby, Superfreak, Bustin Out. It would be funnier than ever, but I doubt any of them have guts to do it. As for ballads did they ever sing Does Your Mother Know about me by Bobby Taylor? That’s a good one.

  • pmreyn2010

    Rami, I agree– I like most of these choices, except for “Dancing in the Street” for Amber. That song is pure karaoke, and she’ll go home if she does it. I agree she should go uptempo (and she’d sound great if she did!) But I don’t think that song will do her any favors.

  • EdmondW

    I’ve always loved Walk Away Renee too. But it’s a french song that they might not have cleared.

  • Incipit

    That’s what I said, arkboy. All the Artists from Detroit ought to be eligible with that Theme name. No one said differently. Yet.(I don’t want anyone to do “Old Time Rock and Roll” – but if someone wants to do “Night Moves” or “Against the Wind”, I would actually vote.) As If Idol would permit that. Heh.

  • justmefornow

    Walk Away Renee is not a French song. I worked with the sister (Mary) of the writer of that song Michael Brown (Lookofsky) originally of the band that recorded the song first, The Left Banke. Their father Harry Lookosky played violin on the track, and was a real sweetheart of a man.
    He was a very famous jazz violinist that also worked with Quincy Jones.

  • Indigobunting

    “Are you ready for another theme featuring the legendary tunes from the Motor City?”

    No. I am so sick of this theme. Especially since I’m not a fan of Motown in the first place.

  • Miz

    It doesn’t matter what we think they should sing since they’ll get a list of 20 songs to choose from as usual. I hope there is some uptempo in there. I’m over the ballads.

    I don’t expect anything original from this group.

    MJ, why did you say ‘no Stevie Wonder’ and then suggest him for your girl Candice?

  • Amy Beth

    Is there a legal issue with the name Motown? If not, and the theme really is Detroit-based artists, wouldn’t it be a hoot if someone did an Eminem song!

  • Sassycatz

    Even if they would be “allowed,” I don’t think this season’s group of contestants will ever think outside of the box. They are strict rules followers, so I’m guessing they will dutifully stay with the song list provided by Idol.

  • Li Wright

    Is Lazaros the ONLY one NOT smiling?

  • Li Wright

    The Motown Broadway show opened last week so this may be an homage to that Broadway show, and remember Gordy is a friend to AI. I like you are just a bit over with Motown songs.

  • Li Wright

    This group does seem to be very “safe” don’t they? There are no “wow” moments from this group, like last year and before.

  • durbesque

    For a lesson in how to get votes, the contestants (especially the guys) should study this video.
    Turn on the charm and fun, and the viewers will reward you.

  • vdawg

    Another week of same old songs. I wonder if these kids know these songs better than they knew the Beatles last week. I’m going to say no.

  • CanadianLady

    Yeah, he had fun and so did everyone else. But he later said he was always nervous, and he rarely even heard what the judges or Ryan said/asked.

  • b_james

    Devin, Angie, and Burnell–PLEASE sing something upbeat.

  • taylor

    What’s with the predictions that are outside of the box? We all know the contestants are given a list of twenty or so songs to pick from. What are the chances they will have someone like Jack White on that list? It will be the same old songs we have heard before on past seasons during Motown week.

    Idol desperately needs different producers.They are old-thinking and too set in their ways. I can’t believe this is what they are doing the week The Voice comes back. Are they purposely trying to kill the show?

  • chillj

    I don’t understand how anyone can go on this show without researching the themes it has historically done. Anyone who doesn’t look at the show’s traditional songbook deserves to lose. I think Iovine made a similar point last week – there is simply no excuse.

  • Cory Patrick

    If Amber does “Dancng In The Street”, she will be elimanated IMMEDIATELY. She needs to do a Ballad because her power vocals is what keeps her in the competition.
    She should do a smokey rendition of “Let’s Stay Together” ala Leah Labelle Season 3, a male song by a female sometimes works.

  • Cory Patrick

    exactly, that would be a HORRIBLE choice.

  • Cory Patrick

    I want to hear Candice sing Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) by Gladys Knight

  • Seth McHale

    An alleged setlist and performance order has already leaked:

    Candice Glover”Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” (Temptations)
    Devin Velez”Hello” (Lionel Richie)
    Janelle Arthur”I’ll Be There” (Jackson 5)
    Burnell Taylor”Superstition” (Stevie Wonder)
    Amber Holcomb”Endless Love” (Lionel Richie & Diana Ross)
    Kree Harrison”Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)
    Lazaro Arbos”My Girl” (Temptations)
    Angie Miller”All in Love Is Fair” (Stevie Wonder)

  • Larc

    This theme could be great if the contestants had the entire category to choose songs from. But the 3 or 4 dozen titles max that Idol probably has cleared means there may not be a good fit available for everybody. Most if not all of the songs we hear Wednesday night are apt to be ones we’ve heard sung on Idol before.

  • Rami H


  • Face

    LOL that would be great… a real water cooler moment…
    I was about to nominate Lazaro for something really dark like Stan… then I remembered his stutter… so probably not a good idea to suggest he raps !!

  • pmreyn2010

    I wasn’t crazy about Leah’s rendition of that song. I think Trenyce gave a better rendition which would be more along the lines of Amber’s style.

  • Cory Patrick

    Angie picked the song Amber should of sang! If this is legit that is…

  • kcostell

    I think at this point some of the contestants need to go for emergency up-tempo surgery: Sing a song in ballad tempo, exactly like a ballad, but glue on some uptempo instruments.

    That way the judges can praise them for going uptempo without them actually having to retreat out of the safe little box they’ve put themselves in.

  • CB40

    If that’s the case, goodbye Devin.

  • fuzzywuzzy

    Source please.

  • Face

    are Amber & Devin trying to get eliminated?

  • Seth McHale

    I received it in an e-mail this morning. It was from a gal I met over on Joesplaceblog. I will ask her where she got it from.

  • mjsbigblog

    This is NOT the place to post SPOILERS. Particularly if they are unsourced and probably from a troll.

  • Seth McHale

    Sorry. It looks like the gal who e-mailed them to me got them off of Wikipedia.

  • EB

    It is fun to dream of how it would be if they had a decent list of cleared songs… even if the conclusion is disappointment.

  • Ira

    I am putting a moratorium on my ballad ban…cause most of these folks could not do upbeat if they were given a pogo stick with rocket engines.

    Devliln, “Heaven Help us All (with full choir)

    Candice, “Touch Me in the Morning”;

    Angela ,”I’m Coming Out”;

    Kree, “Good Morning Heartache

    Mama’s Boy (Laz) Sing in Spanish dang blasted (cause he can…) From Jose Feliciano’s Motown LP, A cover of the classic, “I Wanna be Where You Are”

    Amber, Teena Marie, “Square Biz”

    Quirky (Burnell)…..The devil in me wants to see him do, “Ease on Down the Road”,but the nice guy says, “Treat Her Like a Lady”…Does he have the chops?

    Janelle, “With You, I’m Born Again”

  • Ira

    Rumor has it that Ray Chew and company have been working on some Motown that has not previously been performed on the show…. Then again, rumor has it that members of MJ’s production team from his last tour have been involved in Thursday’s show….Who knows….

  • Ira

    I’m really loving that idea for the rest of the season….

  • jdanton2

    Sounds like it is Motown based on the mentor. won’t say who it is since it might be a spoiler. Lazaro tweeted who it was.

  • Ira

    I’d pay good money to see Kree perform, “The Twist”

  • Ira

    If they really do have free will and access to any Detroit based works, I’d love for Amber to cover Aretha’s, “Rock Steady”

  • Ira

    There’s so much more to the Motor City than Motown…..Does Burnell have the courage to do, “Night Moves”….Would it be a credible performance? Nah..

  • sandrajane

    If the theme is Motown, you could add 90s artists who were signed to the label like BoyIIMen, Brian McKnight, India Arie and Erykah Badu.

  • Ira

    There are only two people that could “Against the Wind” with any credibility, Kree and Candice. It’s not a song for little boys and girls.

  • Ira

    Amber could kill Aretha’s, “Rock Steady”, Rick James, “Fire and Desire”; or Bob Seeger’s, “Real Love”

  • mjsbigblog

    It’s OK to say who the mentor is. The kids have been tweeting about meeting Smokey Robinson

  • fuzzywuzzy

    Those spoilers aren’t from wiki:

  • Sassycatz

    Idol is so predictable! Just this morning I was thinking, once again, that Idol needs to get back to having a mentor, along with Iovine (if they *must* have Iovine). Then, my immediate thought was … Smokey Robinson. I swear, I would claim to be psychic if it weren’t that the majority of Idol viewers probably could’ve surmised the same thing! Heh.

    I’m also glad they’re getting back to the Ford commercials *if* they get more inventive with them instead of just having the Idols dance in front of a green screen. Wonder why they waited until top 8? Perhaps they’re cutting back on expenses there too.

  • Incipit

    It’s not a song for little boys and girls.

    That’s true enough, Ira. OK, Not sure I trust Kree with it – Candice it would have to be – But we both know it will never happen. None of the music I like is “for little boys and girls”, and Idol PTB seems to prefer to cast mainly from that age group….and then fiddle with the songs they can sing. Oh well. I saw the mentor post – so I know I’ll be counting frequency of the titles’ appearances over 12 years and ‘who killed this song already’, in descending order, instead of looking forward to some unexpected musical treats. Again.

  • Incipit

    It’s not a song for little boys and girls.

    That’s true enough, Ira. OK, Not sure I trust Kree with it – Candice it would have to be – But we both know it will never happen. None of the music I like is “for little boys and girls”, and Idol PTB seems to prefer to cast mainly from that age group….and then fiddle with the songs they can sing. Oh well. I saw the mentor post – so I know I’ll be counting frequency of the titles’ appearances over 12 years and ‘who killed this song already’, in descending order, instead of looking forward to some unexpected musical treats. Again.

  • aj rabin

    Please no one sing Heatwave or I heard it through the grapevine. Those 2 songs have been oversung and have usually hurt the contestants who sang these songs.

  • LA944

    I love Walk Away Renee–such a great song. I had forgotten the Four Tops covered it. I am more familiar with the Left Banke recording. However, I have also heard terrific versions from Kerri Getz, Rickie Lee Jones, Linda Rondstadt and others. I also remember when the actress who played Peg Bundy sang the hell out of it on some talk show. This was when she was on Married With Children. I still remember because I didn’t know she had sang w/ Bette Midler & she was awesome. However, I think I might like to hear Kree sing it.

    I am sure it’s not cleared–but how about Golden Lady for Burnell. One of my fave Stevie Wonder songs.

    I’m sure Candice will kill whatever she does.

    But, yeah–it will be the same songs as every year. The show would be so much better if they would clear more songs

  • Incipit

    Heh. Which one? “Twist”, “Twist Again”, or “Peppermint Twist”. Or a medley of all three? *wink*

  • Seth McHale

    They are. Here is a link to the old version they came from.

  • Face

    dear god, i hope he isn’t performing with Joss Stone again… that was a train wreck and a half!!

  • Kody Baker

    Here’s what I’m thinking for this week.

    Candice Glover – The very first song that came to mind was “Living For the City,” by Stevie Wonder

    Amber – I feel like this could be a great week for her. But, odd enough it was hard for me to find a song choice for her. But, what I came up with was “Midnight Train To Georgia,” or “Heatwave.”

    Angie – I would love her to do her own rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come.” I think she could do something amazing with it!

    Janelle – To me the obvious song choice for her this week is “Son of A Preacher’s Man.”

    Kree – I really think she would kill “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.”

    Devin – I really think he needs to take a chance this week if he wants to stay a while. I really think he is the most talented guy left. “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” would either be awesome or a hot mess. Or something a little more in his wheelhouse would be “Sitting On The Dock of The Bay.”

    Lazaro – I really don’t know what would be a good song for him because he just isn’t that good. lol. So, lets go with a pretty basic song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” I’m sure he will find a way to screw it up.

    Burnell – I think his tone would be great song “For Once In My LIfe.”

  • Face

    maybe Lazaro should do a Heatwave/Grapevine mash-up…

  • ReginaFilange

    Found a few pretty good Motown songs that haven’t been done on Idol.

    Candice – It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday (give us those expert runs)

    Kree – The Weight (has the folk feel)

    Janelle – Same Old Song by Four Tops (easy to make into a country romp)

    Amber – Superfreak (have FUN girl, the style you’ve been stuck in hasn’t won you any new fans)

    Angela – Footsteps in the Dark by the Isley Brothers (at the piano, please)

    Burnell – That Girl by Stevie Wonder (a lesser known hit that has a great groove and room for impressive vocals)

    Devin – I Second That Emotion by Smokey Robinson (still really vanilla, but at least it has a beat to it)


    Burnell definitely HAS to pick a song that is going to create a moment for him — and not something so obscure that voters won’t recognize it — otherwise, he won’t challenge the top girls for the balance of the competition

  • Ira

    Good set list,but the Isleys are not from Detroit,and that song was not from a Michigan related LP. Then again,they were with Motown for a hot minute.

    “That Girl” is one of Stevie’s most popular hits, and the expectations could turn Burnell into Laz…(mysteriously missing from your list). What about giving him, “Knocks Me Off My Feet” (Luther’s arrangement)?

  • Ira

    Too funny!

  • Ira

    Would love to hear if Candice can take that song to church, therefore, I’m pitching Ray Charles’ arrangement.

  • Kariann Hart

    I have been requesting a Celebrity Mentor to come in to “assist” Jimmy for weeks. I also requested the Ford commercials return for some fun. It’s been too serious this season. Twitter is a good way to get these ideas out there. YAY!

  • Kariann Hart

    With over 200 TOP 10 hits from Motown, you would think there would be new songs coming up. Smokey Robinson should be an excellent mentor. My 8 year-old Granddaughter has The Thriller CD. No excuses, folks.