Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


We listened so you don't have to: The 'Idol' songwriting competition

Posted on


Ashleyferl_lMichael Slezak: So Adam, it’s the final day of voting for the American Idol Songwriting competition. You ready to dive into the land of “I Believe This Is My Moment Like This Inside Your Now”? (Ew.)
Adam B. Vary: Yes. And thank you for diving with me — last year I think I was the only one on staff to listen to (and rate) all 20 songs in the Idol competition, and while I correctly predicted that “This Is My Now” was the only song that was even near “good” enough to win, it nearly killed me.
Slezak: I cannot even begin to fathom how heinous those other 19 songs sounded.
ABV: I seem to recall one or two that were about suicide. By the way, you gotta register first before you can vote.
Slezak: Gack.
ABV: I know. Because voting for the finale song needs to be fair and scientific. Whereas speed dialing for the actual winner of the show is totally fine.
Slezak: Indeed! Okay, just got the confirmation email. So first up: “When You Come from Nothing.” No effing way I am voting for a song with that title.
ABV: So this woman’s stuck in the crowd, but won’t give in to her doubts. Or doubts in general.
I have doubts about my ability to get through 19 more songs. Shall we move on?
ABV: You’ve got to believe in something when you come from nothing, Slezak.
ABV: Having heard the 20 mostly ballad-y songs from last year, I’m actually gonna give this poor downtrodden lady 5 stars (out of 10) for being uptempo.
Slezak: I give it one star.
ABV: You’re gonna be wishing for negative ratings soon.

ABV: Okay! “No Turning Back.”
Slezak: Already a better title.
Slezak: I hear guitars! David Cook fans will be all atwitter.
ABV: I’m actually not hating this.
Slezak: It’s not completely tragic, you’re right!
ABV: I’m kinda loving how it’s not about winning American Idol. It seems like it’s about not turning back from a bad relationship?
Slezak: All good Idol finale songs should be about A) winning Idol; B) a relationship; C) belief in a higher power
Slezak: ALL AT ONCE.
Slezak: I give this one a 7.
ABV: I’m at 8.
Slezak: Okay, me too — 8 it is!
ABV: Next up, “You Believed In Me.” Not to be confused with “You Believe In Me.”
Slezak: Are you kidding me that there is a “You Believed in Me” and a “You Believe in Me”?
ABV: No.
Slezak: Ugh.
ABV: And yet another song about being downtrodden.
Slezak: Okay, I hate “You Believed In Me” already.
ABV: I sense a theme. “There were times I was so low, I reached up to touch the ground.” Uplifting!
Slezak: Any song that opens with the line “Life can have so many ups and downs” gets a 2! Next!
ABV: I’m at a 3.
Slezak: “Thank You Whatever Comes.” This is the jankiest song title in the history of “Celebrate Me Home.”
ABV: First line: “I was a loner and a roamer.”
Slezak: Sorry, I was so bored I started checking email.
ABV: Hey, a choir!
Slezak: The melody is not excruciating.
ABV: And it fills all three of your requirements, but I’m still at a four.
Slezak: Okay, I’m giving this one a 5.Only because she also watched her bridges burn, which is a very controversial thing to do for an Idol.
ABV: It would’ve been a great song for Kristy Lee.
ABV: And we’re to our next song, “Believe,” which is an R&B joint.
Slezak: They can’t choose “Believe” because ‘Tasia’s joint was “I Believe.” That’s just too confusing
Slezak: We both used “joint”!
ABV: Because we’re hip, Slezak. Like this song. (That was sarcasm.)
Slezak: I reserve the right to give this song a 1, just because.
ABV: “If you believe it, See you can do anything.” Looks like someone‘s read The Secret.
Slezak: I believe this song has no chance of winning! And I believe I am moving on to the next song.
ABV: I’m at a 3.
Slezak: 1 for me!
ABV: “Overcome.”
ABV: “‘Cause I lost myself in front of me.” The metaphysical implications!
Slezak: HA! He’s like Gob on Arrested Development.
Slezak: I’m giving this a 2.
ABV: Before I rate, I need to print the entire chorus:
Slezak: Nooooo! Don’t do that to me!
ABV: “AndI have overcome / I’ve changed my ways / Look what I’ve become / And Istood up for myself / Forgotten what I’ve lost / Look what I’ve done /I have overcome”
Slezak: So many words, and yet it all adds up to nothing.
ABV: People need to understand why this is my first 1.
Slezak: Next up, “Faith”
Slezak: I swear these songs are all generated from an inspirational cliché generator.
ABV: Yep!Nigel Lythgoe keeps it in his office.
ABV: I’m beginning to feel really bad for the session musicians who have to perform these songs.
Slezak: This song completely made me zone out, which means it has a really good chance of winning.
ABV: There’s a song playing?
Slezak: “Song” — they are stretching the definition of the word
ABV: Thechorus: “With faith you know we can’t be afraid to fall / Love willcarry us through / And hey, looks like we made it after all / Look whatfaith can do, it led me to you.”
Slezak: This song is all about searching, and the road, and choices, and finding something, and faith!
ABV: You know, it’s not atrocious.
Slezak: The chorus is kind of rousing.
Slezak: I hate myself for writing that.
ABV: Grading on a steep curve, this is a 5 for me.
Slezak: This song gives me feelings of deep self-loathing and I give it a 6.
ABV: And the music is building — I can see the confetti now.
Slezak: If Carly gets to sing it, I will probably cry.
ABV: Okay, I’m bumping up to a six.
Slezak: And onto the next song…only 13 more to go!
Slezak: “Dream Big”
Slezak: AWESOME title.
First lines: “When I was a little girl / I swore that I would change the world.”
ABV: Girl/world.
Slezak: YES! “These days I just can’t seem to find the child in me / Who always believed”
Slezak: Have you heard enough?
ABV: The story seems to be “I was a wretch, but then I won American Idol.”
Slezak: I’d have more respect for this song if it was called “Clichés.”
Slezak: I give it a 2.
ABV: Yes, a 2.
Slezak: We have to move on. My will to live is fading.
ABV: “Something Like Heaven.”
Slezak: Pretty intro on this one.
ABV: Seriously?
Slezak: Okay, not anymore.
ABV: First lyric: “I’ve said goodbye to the boy that I once knew.”
Slezak: Goodbye, boy!
Slezak: Is HE the BOY?
ABV: I sure hope so. Otherwise, it’s a song about a disturbing Big Brother.
Slezak: An angel came knocking at his door. What if it’s the angel of death?
ABV: These lyrics are really creeping me out.
ABV: “I’vesaid goodbye to the boy that I once knew / He is not himself ’causeloving you / Makes me feel like someone new.” Chorus: “How did I findsomething like heaven / And in your eyes is something like heaven /Your touch defined feels something like heaven tonight / With you Ifeel something divine.”
Slezak: It’s all very “Wings of Desire.”I give this song a 1.
ABV: Yes, one star for me too. If I could rate a zero, I would.
ABV: “Only Love.” This is the first song I could hear Jason Castro singing.
Slezak: “Don’t you backslide / to the dark side”
ABV: Yeesh.
Slezak: Clearly this songwriter has never known the pleasure of backsliding to the dark side
ABV: Oh! We’ve got a “Na Na Na Na” chorus! It just went up one star.
ABV: “Only love can change the world,” Slezak, and for Jason Castro’s sake, I’m throwing down a 7.
Slezak: I agree “Na na na na” is an automatic bonus point. Therefore I give this weird little ditty a 4.
Slezak: And with that, we’re halfway through.
Slezak: I’m having a flashback to last week’s 30 Rock,where Liz Lemon describes her feelings of love and Jenna says it soundslike she’s describing the sensation of freezing to death.
ABV: Which seems like a perfect segue to “You Believe In Me.”
ABV: (P.S. Until freshman year of college, I thought “segue” and “segway” were two different words.)
Slezak: Segue looks like it should be another word for legumes.
ABV: Doyou see, Popwatchers, what this task has done to us? We’re literallydriven to nuts! Or at least nut-like foods! And bad jokes aboutnut-like foods!
ABV: Meanwhile, we’ve got our first Mariah-esque chimes.
Slezak: “My spirit’s finally free/ ’cause you believe in me”
ABV: I’m no longer a wretch! Thank you America!
Slezak: Is it a requirement that every song mentions a road or a journey?
ABV: Actually, Slezak, the lyric is “cuz you believe in me.”
Slezak: This song wasn’t half as horrid when it was called “I’m Everything I Am (Because You Loved Me).” And even that was awful.I give it a 2.
ABV: Yes, a 2, and this song is so early ’90s we need to move on before I regress to middle school.
Slezak: (I wish I could give it one and a half)
Slezak: Next up, “In This Moment.” Again, a song title too close to a former Idol coronation song: “A Moment Like This.”
ABV: The singer has a kind of a whiny alt-rock voice.
Slezak: Totally. And he’s basically whining to his mother. Who never believed in him (I think).
ABV: “Mother,can you hear me, for the first time I see / born into eyes not by my owndecision / take me away from a life with no vision / step down from thesubway, / climb the staircase to the street / spinning in circles andholding on tight / to this moment forever / if only tonight
Have any of these writers heard of therapy?
ABV: Or Cute Overload?
Slezak: Hello, I am gonna set my clock for one hour and charge him $150 for making me listen to this dreck. It gets a 1.
ABV: But this is one of the most David Cook-friendly melodies. So I’m voting 3.
Slezak: “Align”! Hot title. (relatively speaking)
ABV: Okay,we have our first awesomely bad lyrics: “It took a long time / To put aman up on the moon / It took a long time / To get past me to get toyou.”
ABV: We must move on. It’s actively making me hate music.
ABV: Slezak, are you there? Has this song killed you?
Slezak: Sorry, that was the sound of me dying inside.
Slezak: I give this a 3…because there’s a pretty long instrumental part.
ABV: For a singing competition. You’re brain’s been warped, clearly. Because there is no minus 5, I rate a 1.
ABV: So hopefully the next song, “Stronger,” will make me, you know, stronger.
Slezak: I wish this was Cher’s song “Strong Enough.”
ABV: Or, heck, even Britney’s “Stronger.”
Slezak: “Life can be so mean” is a terrible lyric — especially when rhymed with “machine.”
ABV: “You’ve settled in to strugglin’, barely getting by.”
Slezak: Call 911! I am being assaulted by a song!!
ABV: Just click on the one star and move on!
Slezak: Yes!
Slezak: “All You Will Need”
Slezak: I don’t immediately loathe this.For starters, it’s not totally mopey
ABV: In that the melody doesn’t immediately require anti-depressives, yes.
ABV: Toan uptempo rock beat: “Seems to me you’ve put chains around yourheart and locked it away / By doing this you hope no one will see yourlonely pain.”
ABV: I could see Carly doing well with this song, actually.
Slezak: She also references prison guards and one-room jails. Edgy! (Again, relatively.)
Slezak: I’m giving this a 10, because just like Carly, it will never win.
ABV: Okay, even though its lyrics yet again make me think of in-patient psychiatric care, I’m going with a 7.
Slezak: I am voting for the Carly finale that will never happen.
Slezak: “Fly Me Away” — also an automatic DQ for its similarity to “Flying Without Wings.”
ABV: Wow — a 30 second piano and strings intro.
Slezak: I can’t help but think of Amanda Overmyer’s famous quote: “Ballads are boring!”
ABV: “Flying on a wing and a prayer / Fly me from despair.”
Slezak: Fly Me Away from this songwriting competition! I am giving it a 2 and moving on.
ABV: Popwatchers, we promise, we’re not being snarky for snarky’s sake here. These songs are just that awful.
Slezak: Seriously, this is the musical equivalent of watching I Know Who Killed Me.
ABV: I’m at a 3. I don’t know why. But let’s fly away from this song.
ABV: To “You Can Do Anything.”
Slezak: I wonder how much money the winner of this competition makes.
ABV: Enough for a year of intensive therapy, I hope.
Slezak: Next year I say we poop out a horrible shlocky ballad and win the Idol Songwriting competition.
Popwatchers, rating these songs just made Slezak say “poop.”
Slezak: Is it possible this is the worst song in the bunch?“You can find your own star/ Reach any height”?
ABV: I have no ability to differentiate any more.
ABV: But, yes, 1, make it stop, 1, 1, 1, 1!
Slezak: I give it a 1 as well. This honestly could play over the closing credits of an Olsen twins’ direct-to-DVD release.
ABV: No, not good enough.
Slezak: Ha ha! Adam watches Olsen twins movies!
Slezak: God,listening to his music is making me mean, just like drinking gin! Let’smove to “We’re Gonna Make It.” With only three songs left, do you think wewill?
ABV: We will, I promise.
Slezak: I might make it, but I have to take a Pepto Bismol first.
ABV: Okay, this is my favorite lyric so far: “We both know this was not gonna be easy / All these demons telling us we’re stupid crazy.”
ABV: Stupid crazy. That is exactly how I feel. In this moment.
Slezak: DEMONS!
Slezak: The demons tell me to give this song a 9!
Slezak: I…I…I can’t! The demons have taken control of the keyboard.
ABV: But, actually, am I stupid crazy, or is it not that bad?
Slezak: Inthe name of all that’s holy, this 20-song exercise has completelywhittled away my ability to tell what’s good and what’s bad.
ABV: I think this is pretty good.
Slezak: It’s not awful, for sure.
ABV: Let me put it this way: It certainly suits David Cook better than Archuleta.
Slezak: Totally.
ABV: And, whoa, it’s the first song we actually listened the whole way through.
ABV: So I’m going 8.
ABV: Demons, you win.
Slezak: Okay, time for “Here I Am.” And the opening line is “I’ve been searchin’, never findin'”
ABV: “And I never understood why” music like this can exist.
Slezak: Becausenone of these people are allowed to have a moment of emotional orspiritual fulfillment prior to making it to the final two.Idol = Life.
Slezak: That whole vibe offends me, as does this wretched pabulum. I give it a 2.
ABV: Iwas at a 2, but then I got to the second lyric, and this interestingstring production kicked in, and kicked me up to a 5. Also, it’s one ofthe only songs in which I’ve detected power notes.
ABV: Surprisingly so.
Slezak: I will take your word for it as I move on to “The Time of My Life”
ABV: Because we’ve had the time of our lives doing this?
Slezak: And Adam, I must thank you for cajoling me into joining you on this journey.
ABV: I’m just glad we’re on different coasts, so you don’t have to show your…gratitude in person.
Slezak: Literally, this song contains the phrase “magic rainbow.” That is AWESOME.
Slezak: I want David Archuleta to sing about the “Magic Rainbow” as little faeries and hummingbirds are dropped from the Nokia ceiling.
ABV: Nice old school spelling of faeries.
Slezak: Thank you.
ABV: Thatis the only comment I have for this song. After 19 songs, it literallysounds like this to me: “WaablahblahblahBLAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Waa woo hooBLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”
Slezak: It does!
Slezak: I give this song a 5. Just for being last.
ABV: Yes, I’m going 5, because it certainly isn’t the song’s fault for going last.
Slezak: Okay, I am going to log off and go to the gym immediately to try to sweat these heinoustries out of my system.
ABV: Good luck, good sir. Me, I think I’m going to blast Rufus Wainwright for the next five hours to clean out my ears.
ABV: And brain.
ABV: And soul.
Slezak: I might have to play some Ludacris.
ABV: That works too.