For the first time in Idol history, the show was allowed to do an entire show based on the songbook of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick put together a list of songs for the season 7 contestants to make their selections “(We didn’t want them doing ‘Glass Onion,’ Lythgoe told Billboard at the time).
Smithson looked over the list. “‘Come Together’ was the one song I felt I could really lean into as a rock artist. It has a great bass line and a stomping rhythm that drives through the entire performance. I was a local bar singer before my Idol success. ‘Come Together’ had been part of my weekly set, so I was very familiar with the song and the lyrics.”
Smithson was a long-time Beatles fan. “Being from Ireland, I grew up surrounded by Beatles music. They covered so many genres. The core is rock and roll but you can hear so many other sounds and influences. I picked the one song that has been a complete lyrical mystery. Lennon described each verse as utter nonsense, but it’s open to interpretation and allows the performer to be very free.”
Smithson wasn’t the only finalist who asked for “Come Together.” “I wanted it badly. I knew I could have a real show moment and let go on stage for a change. Michael [Johns], Amanda [Overmeyer] and a few others requested it. So out came a [hat] and we all had to reach in and pick. I was lucky; the song title was on the piece I pulled out. I bounced off the walls with excitement for the rest of the day.”
Smithson worked on the song with Debra Byrd and associate music director Matt Rohde. “We were trying to figure out the key when we stumbled across a version of the song by Tina Turner. The higher key sat in a sweet spot for my voice and slightly changed the feel of the song, giving it some grit. When we got to the stage rehearsals, [stage manager] Debbie Williams took it to the next step. Byrd gave me the performance attitude but Debbie completed the delivery with the direction of movement. For the longest time I had just been a stiff voice. This was the first performance on the show where I used the stage. Byrd and Debbie get all the credit for that.”
The judges were effusive in their praise for Smithson. Simon Cowell compared her to Kelly Clarkson. “I usually pick myself apart after I step off stage but that night I felt calm and satisfied. It was the one night everything ‘came together.’”