American Idol 2023: Top 12 Season 21 Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame song suggestions
Sunday’s (April 30) American Idol show should be a fun night of Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame Music! Season 8 Runner Up and Queen frontman, Adam Lambert returns to mentor the contestants. Here is a list of song suggestions for the night.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has over 200 singers in it (with 365 inductees overall – not all sing), and many of them aren’t that rock adjacent (like Idol’s very own Lionel Richie who I don’t usually think of as a rockstar). I tried to list songs from inductees that are at least rock adjacent, as I assume Idol will keep the night fairly rock sounding. We still have quite a few singers remaining who have tackled rock prior to this round.
American Idol airs on ABC Sunday April 30 Live Coast to Coast at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Voters will eliminate two singers by the end of the episode On Monday (May 1) the judges choose songs for the Top 10.
Colin just had a big moment covering Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” and although he hasn’t nailed an up-tempo number just yet, “Long Train Runnin’” is a fun number that he could rock out on and show his gritty tone. Additionally, the song could be made more country and he could slow it down a bit. If he wants to continue with a country rock ballad, “Free Bird” is the perfect choice and is less obvious than Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” which is overdone. A bit more out of the box choice is “When I See You Smile,” a beautiful if cheesy pop rock ballad, on which Colin’s rasp could shine. His country twang mixed with harmonic backing vocals on the chorus, similar to John Waite’s version, could be lovely.
- Long Train Runnin’ by Doobie Brothers
- Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- When I See You Smile by Bad English
Haven should continue with ballads when it comes to rock music, so her voice isn’t drowned out by the band, and she avoids straining. David Bowie’s art rock style on “Heroes” would allow for a nice acoustic flip of the song, and pop masterminds like Miley Cyrus and Coldplay have tackled the song before. An even better fit would be “You’re So Vain” as the song fits Haven’s indie vibe. Olivia Rodrigo, one of today’s biggest popstars, recently covered it when Carly Simon was inducted. The youthful song, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” would be a good choice if Haven wants to go for a midtempo song, and the Beach Boys fits Haven’s fun style of pop. The song is about a young couple who want the freedom that adults have in a relationship, so it fits a young singer too.
- Heroes by David Bowie
- You’re So Vain by Carly Simon
- Wouldn’t It Be Nice by Beach Boys
Iam is one of the most consistent performers, but I need a big moment from him, and rock week gives him plenty of choices. “Sound of Silence” was a perfect fit for him in the Showstoppers round. A slowed down version of “Paint It Black” could give him the same chance to go darker and moodier and to deliver it in signature Iam style. The singer has started going more for reggae and island vibes in recent performances, so perhaps he could take the catchy earworm that “Somebody to Love” is and make it his own. Another obvious choice would be “Tears in Heaven,” which is a sad and tender ballad about Clapton losing his 4-year-old son. Iam could relate to the song and really connect to after losing his dad last year. But it’s understandable if a song like this may be too hard for Iam to perform.
- Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones
- Somebody To Love by Jefferson Airplane
- Tears In Heaven by Eric Clapton
Rock is an intriguing genre for Lucy since her creative phrasing and soul could tackle several styles. I’d love to see her deliver a moody performance with attitude like “Another Brick In The Wall” as she could navigate the dynamics incredibly and turn in a moment with the unique song choice. “Faithfully” is a beloved ballad and is a transcendent song that can be made in any genre. Lucy’s vocals could shine with a piano, an electric guitar to make it rock, and her flat out singing the ballad. “Golden Slumbers” would be a great pick too if she sticks with ballads. Her phrasing in a way is reminiscent of past finalist Michael J. Woodard, who had a moment with this song. Plus, the Jennifer Hudson arrangement for this song from Sing could suit her well.
- Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd
- Faithfully by Journey
- Golden Slumbers by The Beatles
“Wild Horses” is one of the most beloved rock ballads of all time, and Little Big Town has a lovely country-tinged cover that would suit Marybeth’s voice perfectly. “Alone” and “Barracuda” are the Heart songs we usually get, but “These Dreams” is a gorgeous ballad and it could work with a slight country twist. Ann Wilson’s voice has a little grit and breaks at times, reminiscent of Marybeth whose tone also breaks in a very pretty way. “You’re No Good,” originally by Dee Dee Warwick would be a risk for Marybeth as the last time she went somewhat up-tempo it didn’t end well. But to make it far, she needs to try it again. Linda’s voice is powerful, and the song has a slight country sound to it. If Marybeth decides to tackle it, this could be a major moment.
- Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones
- These Dreams by Heart
- You’re No Good by Linda Ronstadt
Megan’s raspy tone was made for this round. “Hurt” is a somber number, and I’m not sure it’s been covered on an American competition show, but Megan could pull the song off. The stripped back song could allow Megan to showcase her tone in a quieter, more delicate manner. “Hotel California” would fit Megan like a glove, and she could truly rock out in this song. This would be similar to her performance of “The Chain” and would be a somewhat safe song choice. “Heart of Glass” is a super risky and difficult choice, but Miley Cyrus’s version of the song showcases why Megan may want to take that risk. Miley’s raspy tone works well on it, and Megan could establish herself as a frontrunner if she pulls it off and the audience sees that Megan can rock out more than others can.
- Hurt by Nine Inch Nails
- Hotel California by The Eagles
- Heart of Glass by Blondie
This theme is well-suited for Nutsa as she often tackles big ballads, and “Paris (Ooh La La)” showed she can rock too. A power ballad would be the smartest move. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” wouldn’t necessarily gain her many votes, but if she wants to go out with a bang, this is the song she should tackle. There are several slowed down, dramatic versions of the song on which she could show off her vocals while bringing her signature dramatic style. Nicole Scherzinger’s tender version of “Purple Rain” could allow her to connect with America as she shows off her soulful voice and emotional side. “Everybody Hurts” is an epic rock ballad that has been covered by many pop divas including P!NK and Kelly Clarkson, and that is why this too, could be a good fit for Nutsa to showcase her big booming vocals.
- Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
- Purple Rain by Prince
- Everybody Hurts by REM
Bonus: Creep by Radiohead. It’s one of her signature songs that she has already nailed several times. But if she wants to be extra confident, she could wow viewers with her version. Here is her performance of it on “All Together Now.”
Oliver possesses a more singer-songwriter like vibe, so the songs I chose for him also have more of that vibe. “All Along The Watchtower” would be a nice pick, and if Oliver goes for it, he could mix the Jimi Hendrix version with Ed Sheeran’s rendition (minus the rapping). It’s soulful and could also showcase his guitar abilities. Another option would be to ditch the guitar all together and just concentrate on connecting with the audience. “One” worked well for Elliot Yamin back in Season 5, and he too was a soulful singer. “I’m On Fire” is a melody that has been flipped several times, and Bruce and other singers’ simplistic approach on the song would work well for Oliver. If arranged right, he could build a few bigger moments into the song.
- All Along The Watchtower by Bob Dylan
- One by U2
- I’m On Fire by Bruce Springsteen
I’m not sure what Adam Lambert will sing if he performs, and it could be his cover of “Ordinary World” that appeared on his latest album High Drama. But if not, Tyson should tackle the ballad as he has the range for it and his superb technical skills would soar on it. “Message in a Bottle” is another choice that would suit Tyson as Bruno Mars has a fun soulful rendition of it.
Vocally, Tyson is reminiscent of Bruno, which he proved when he covered one of his songs in Hawaii. “Everywhere” is a song that could be tackled by several of these contestants, but I would love to see an R&B version of it from Tyson. The song is an earworm and seems to be big right now with it appearing on commercials. Niall Horan and Anne-Marie made a pop-centric version of it in 2021, so maybe it would be a good fit for Tyson who is a mix of pop and R&B.
- Ordinary World by Duran Duran
- Message In A Bottle by The Police
- Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac
Before Tina, Bonnie Tyler sang “The Best,” and her raspy tone got me thinking that Warren could turn in a Southern Rock version of it and really let loose. Warren’s “It’s Not My Time” illustrated that Warren, along with Zachariah, are the most rock-centric contestants left. Warren may want to stay in that lane to differentiate himself from pure country contestants like Marybeth and Colin. If he sticks to this style, The Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” would be a song in the same realm, and he could nail it. “I’ll Be There For You” is a classic song with an ache to it. Warren could convey the lyric with his gruff tone.
- The Best by Tina Turner
- Best of You by Foo Fighters
- I’ll Be There For You by Bon Jovi
There are so many good choices for Wé’s voice. She could pull off “Always” in a dramatic manner, and it would showcase how complete her range is, from the low notes to the belts. Another song that would fit her tone and allow her voice to shine while rocking out is “We Belong.” Contestants have covered Pat quite a bit on shows, and she is one of my favorite rock artists. Wé would be the perfect person to cover her legendary songbook. “November Rain” is a 9-minute song, but there are shorter versions that have been done on international talent shows, so maybe it is a possibility. She would be able to do the hit song justice and convey its emotions.
- Always by Bon Jovi
- We Belong by Pat Benatar
- November Rain by Guns N Roses
Bonus: Dream On by Aerosmith. Another option could be “Dream On” by Aerosmith with its soaring high notes that are pleasing if you can hit them, and she has hit them before. This performance from over 5 years ago shows off her range, but I believe her voice is much fuller now and she could nail this even more today.
I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest Zachariah fan, but either way, this round should be a blast for him. He has covered several rock adjacent artists so far, and this round will allow him to shine. “Black Dog” would be a fun choice as his cover of “Lucile” in Hawaii showed he can pull off the squeals that the song requires. Also, it would be refreshing to hear a different Led Zeppelin song on Idol rather than “Whole Lotta Love.” Elvis, one of the OG rock stars, with his dancing and classic style. is an obvious choice for Zachariah. The anti-war anthem “Fortunate Son” also is growly. I can just hear Zachariah sing the “it ain’t me, it ain’t me” hook of the song.
- Black Dog by Led Zeppelin
- Burning Love by Elvis Presley
- Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival
What songs do you think the contestants should tackle? Comment with your thoughts below. Here’s an A-to-Z list of the inductees for reference HERE.