Not everyone who watches talent shows like American Idol realizes that the songs used have to be cleared with the composers first before they can be aired on national TV. Because of this, the list of songs available to use can be a bit limited, leading to repeated uses from season to season. Fortunately, the first audition of American Idol season ten in New Jersey had a good mix of standards and more unique song choices.
1. "Hallelujah" - Leonard Cohen, sung by Rachel Zevita
For this year's first audition, the producers pulled out the big guns by front-loading one of the crown jewel songs of talent shows, "Hallelujah." Originally written by Leonard Cohen in 1984, a cover of the song recorded by Jeff Buckley gained a cult following in the late 90s following the singer's death. In the US, "Hallelujah" became a #1 download based on its usage by Jason Castro in season 7 of American Idol. Seeing the song's impact in the US, Simon Cowell brought the song back to his own X Factor in the UK, where season 5 winner Alexandra Burke hit #1 with her cover. American Idol season 9 winner Lee DeWyze also charted at #44 with his version, and kd lang placed her performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics at #61.
2. "Hallelujah I Love Her So" - Ray Charles, sung by Caleb Hawley
Audition number two featured a lesser known song "Hallelujah" song from the early days of Ray Charles's career. While not a pop hit, "Hallelujah I Love Her So" was a top 5 R&B hit, and the reaction that judge Steven Tyler gave auditionee Caleb Hawley proved that some people hold this song in high regard. In fact, the song has been covered by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Crystal Gayle, Frank Sinatra, Connie Francis and the Beatles in their early days as the Quarrymen.
3. "The Power of Love" - Jennifer Rush, sung by Tiffany Rios
Tiffany Rios will be remembered as a star from her audition, but more for her bikini top than her singing. Having said that, her rendition of "The Power of Love" was a surprisingly good version. The song has charted on the US pop charts in three different versions during the 80s and 90s. It first hit the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986 for Jennifer Rush, reaching #57. The next year, Laura Branigan took her version to #26, but Celine Dion had the biggest success with the song in 1994 when her cover spent four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
4. "We're Young & Beautiful" - Carrie Underwood, sung by Kenzie Palmer
Kenzie Palmer became the first 15-year-old to audition for American Idol under its new age guidelines, and she brought along a song we haven't heard used on the show before. Carrie Underwood recorded "We're Young and Beautiful" for her debut CD Some Hearts, and while it wasn't released as a single, it has become a fan favorite.
5. "Midnight Train to Georgia" - Gladys Knight & the Pips, sung by Victoria Huggins
In the annals of American Idol auditions, 16-year-old Victoria Huggins may be remembered as the most perky, most upbeat and potentially most annoying contestant to date. Despite her exuberance, Victoria's rendition of Gladys Night and the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia" was good at best, with more style than substance. Originally recorded by Whitney Houston's mom Cissy Houston, you would be better served listening to covers by the likes of the Indigo Girls, Lynn Anderson, and Neil Diamond. Season 9 runner-up Crystal Bowersox also performed a popular version of "Midnight Train to Georgia" during R&B/Soul week, as did Paris Bennett and LaKisha Jones in seasons five and six respectively.
6. "Yesterday" - Original by the Beatles, sung by Robbie Rosen
Oftentimes the backstory of an auditioner can overshadow that person's performance, and someone who has mediocre talent gets through on what appears to be a sympathy vote. That's not the case with Robbie Rosen, who had the vocal skills to back up the goodwill. In his cover of the Beatles' "Yesterday," Robbie Rosen stayed true to the original while coloring it with some of his own style, providing one of the few highlights on a less-than-amazing audition episode.
7. "If I Ain't Got You" - Original by Alicia Keys, sung by Melinda Ademi
There are several songs that seem to pop up every season of American Idol, and Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You" is one of the most covered. Five contestants have covered "If I Ain't Got You" on American Idol, including Vonzell Solomon, Lil Rounds, and Syesha Mercado. Melinda Ademi gave a pretty standard performance, but may have gotten through more on the struggles of her family than on the actual performance.
8. "God Bless the Child" - Original by Billie Holliday, sung by
Devyn Rush's job as a singing waitress allowed the show to utilize another one of its many cliches: the quirky career. However, her rendition of Billie Holliday's "God Bless the Child" was anything but cliched. Performances like this continue to prove that a song almost 70 years old can become timeless in a competent singer's care. While Billie Holliday's version will always be the prototype, vocalists as varied as Jill Scott, Richie Havens, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and even Moby have taken their shot at the pop standard.
9. "Endless Love" - Original by Diana Ross/Lionel Richie, sung by Brielle Von Hugel
When Brielle Von Hugel sang "Endless Love" for her audition, it was actually the first time a woman has sang the Lionel Richie composition on American Idol. Previously, finalists Rickey Smith, Chris Sligh and Danny Gokey all placed their spin on the song originally performed as a duet for the movie of the same name. In a year where "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John spent 10 weeks at number one, "Endless Love" came very close to matching that feat by spending nine weeks at the top of Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
10. "I'm Yours" - Original by Jason Mraz, sung by Travis Orlando
The final audition in New Jersey went to Travis Orlando, whose family spent several years living in a shelter in New York City. While he started off singing the Beatles, he was asked to pick another song, which led to him performing Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours." While not innovative, it was a smooth vocal that capped off the episode. "I'm Yours" isn't the first Jason Mraz song that has been performed on American Idol. That distinction goes to "Geek in the Pink," which Chris Richardson performed during the Top 20 week during season six, and Randy Jackson said that Chris's version was actually better than Jason Mraz's.