Grammy Nominations 2017
'American Idol': Clark Beckham Knew All About Taylor Hicks' 'Takin' It to the Streets'
Plus: Hicks' response to the performance, and Clark's fellow finalists explain how they picked their party songs.
For this week's cinematic theme, the American Idol top 11 will perform songs from the movies. Last week, they were told to "get the party started," and Clark Beckham asked for clarification before choosing his song.
"They asked me what would I play to get the party started. If it's my party, it would be the Doobie Brothers' 'Takin' It to the Streets' all day long. It's such an energetic song with a great piano part, and Michael McDonald is one of my heroes."
Billboard asked Beckham if he was familiar with Taylor Hicks' performance of the same song way back in season 5. "It's one of my all-time favorite performances," Beckham confessed. "I've watched it hundreds of times. I did his arrangement. That's how I made the cut [to one minute and 30 seconds]. I looked back at what he did, and that's what I ended up doing."
Hicks, fresh off spontaneously sitting in with Carlos Santana at a show in Birmingham, Ala., was watching American Idol and saw Beckham's performance of "Takin' It to the Streets." "I thought it was great. It definitely fits Clark's style of music," the season 5 champ told Billboard. "He understands his identity as a performer on the show. Clark definitely has the musical tools to go really far in the competition." Then, laughing, Hicks added, "I might have him beat on the dancing part!"
Not everyone was thrilled with the "get the party started" theme. "I was terrified," Joey Cook admitted. "We're all aware I'm not the best with modern music. I'm not a good dancer, unless I have a petticoat on. I decided to go all-out and instead of pretending I can run around on stage, do it my way, Gatsby-style. With my song, I was screaming to America, 'I'm so fancy, you already know.'"
Observant viewers might have noticed that Cook did something at the end of her performance that was different for her. "I laugh after every single song," she said. "I just watched a video of me doing a solo performance in high school and I laughed when I finished. It's been happening for a long time because I get overwhelmed." Cook did not laugh at the end of Iggy Azalea's "Fancy"; Billboard wanted to know if that was deliberate. "I may have practiced," she smiled. "To laugh after 'Fancy' would have turned it into a joke. That's the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to keep a straight face and show I'm not always a cartoon character."
Jax chose to get the party started with Taylor Swift's recent No. 1 "Blank Space." "I love Taylor as a songwriter," Jax said. "She's the perfect combination of sweet and amazing and psycho-bananas but really romantic at the same time. The song is a chick anthem. She says what we're really thinking." Jax points out that this season's mentor, Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta, was the perfect person to help her with a performance of a Swift song. "He had a great way of bringing out Taylor's perspective in my performance. He pushed for me to be aggressive and flirtatious at the same time."
Tyanna Jones channeled Janelle Monae during her performance of "Tightrope." "I'm a big fan and I get compared to her a lot because of how I dress," said the 16-year-old. "I do like the tailored look, and then there's my hair."
This year's youngest finalist, 15-year-old Daniel Seavey, says he chose Pharrell Williams' "Happy" because, "It describes and defines me so well. I'm always happy and I like to spread joy in my music. It was the perfect song for me."
Rayvon Owen may have surprised some people with his selection of "Burn" by Ellie Goulding. "The judges said they wanted to see more attitude and more of an edge, and I thought that song would take it to the next level. It's still in my zone and is something I can relate to. Ellie Goulding is a fantastic artist."
Quentin Alexander says he talked about singing Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" with another contestant before he made the song his final choice. "I threw the idea out to Joey. Where I'm from and where Joey lives, there's a style of music called 'bounce.' 'Rolling in the Deep' is one of the most popular 'bounce' songs. So if we're throwing a party, why not do a party like we do back home? I took the song and completely had fun with it. I enjoyed every moment of it."
Adanna Duru performed "Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars. "I love the energy behind that song and the sassiness of it," she said. "It's about a guy who's a player and he's telling all the girls to stay away because he's going to break their hearts. I chose it because it's fun and I love the way I feel when I sing it."
Nick Fradiani started the party with Aloe Blacc's acoustic version of "Wake Me Up," a song he had performed previously on American Idol. "I know all the melodies and I didn't have to stress because I'd sung it before. We did it with a folkier feel, not the disco/dance stuff. That's how the music I write is. It felt very comfortable for me."
Qaasim Middleton turned to the Paul McCartney songbook. "I sang 'Jet' because it's a fun party song," he explained. "It's one of my all-time favorites. I had fun. But I was called a one-trick pony and that's because you haven't heard all my different colors yet. I've got to get that nickname off my brand!"
American Idol airs Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.