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Billboard #1 Hits
Year You Were Born
Nadia Turner chose the song "The Power Of Love" for her first semifinal performance. Nothing special there, right? Wrong. This "Power" wasn't the Celine Dion standard but rather an obscure Christian rock number by one Ashley Cleveland. A gutsy start to be sure, but Turner's hard-edged, fist-pumping delivery earned her unanimous praise from the judges and an outstanding 86 rating from the reviewers. More importantly perhaps, the big-haired Miami bartender and band singer announced defiantly to the world that she had no intention of following the tired Whitney / Celine / Aretha wannabe act of so many female Idols before her.
Turner's novel song choices didn't stop there. Two straight pieces by male artists came next: Paul McCartney's 1974 chart-topper "My Love," followed by Otis Redding's classic "Try A Little Tenderness." If Turner's objective was to demonstrate her versatility and unpredictability to America, she certainly succeeded, but so far the reviewers stood by her; "Tenderness" rated out as her second 5-star performance in three weeks. Advancing easily to the Final 12, Turner then delivered her masterpiece: a showstopping rendition of Dusty Springfield's plaintive ballad "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me." At 92, it tied for the second-highest rated performance of Season Four and established Turner as one of the favorites, if not the front-runner, for the crown.
But trouble was just ahead. For the Billboard #1 Hits theme, Turner tied her hair into an enormous 'Fro-hawk and did a bouncy, reggae-fied version of "Time After Time" that left the judges cold and the Idolsphere confused. Turner found herself in the Bottom 3 the next night, and she remained there the following week too despite a 4-star (barely) rendition of Melissa Ethridge's "I'm The Only One". She seemed to get herself back on track with "As Long As He Needs Me" from Oliver!; at 72, it was the highest-rated performance of Classic Musicals Week.
And then, disaster. For "The Year You Were Born" Week, with all of the music of 1977 to choose from, Turner went with Crystal Gayle's "When I Dream." You say you've never heard of it? Neither, it seems, had anyone else other than Turner or Gayle (though Wikipedia reports that it was a #3 hit on the Billboard Country chart.) Unlike with "Power Of Love," Turner was unable to sell America on the merits of the long-forgotten ballad. She was unceremoniously eliminated from the competition the next night, finishing in a somewhat disappointing 8th place.
In her exit interview, Turner was asked if she had been considering any song that week besides "Dream". Why yes, she replied, she deliberated between that or Fleetwood Mac's classic Go Your Own Way. At this, thousands of Turner fans across America beat their heads against their desks in exasperation.
As you'll see on our About Us page, Turner is one of two AI contestants to whom WhatNotToSing.com is dedicated. We thought she had the entire package: good looks, a great voice, and a free-spirited personality that was anything but cookie-cutter. We can't help but wonder where her career would be today had she chosen "Go Your Own Way" for that final, fateful performance.
Turner was roundly criticized in the media for her quirky song choices, but we think some of it is unwarranted. "The Power Of Love" may have been obscure, but it turned out to be quite an engaging gospel-rock song and Turner did a terrific job of selling it to America. Similarly, while "Needs Me" might have been unknown to most viewers under the age of 30, so was pretty much every other song from that forgettable episode. The older generation recognized how well she sang it. "Tenderness" and "YDHTSYLM" were impeccable choices, and we think the latter fully deserves its reputation as one of the season's finest performances.
We save our most impassioned defense for the much-maligned "Time After Time", a performance that the WNTS.com staff asserts is among the most underrated in American Idol history. Yes, the singing was noticeably breathy in spots, and yes, the 'Fro-hawk was ridiculous. But "Time" is one of the finest pop songs of the last half-century, and Turner did it justice with a clever and energetic ska-rock arrangement (not unlike the signature sound of Philadelphia rockers The Hooters, who co-wrote the song with Cyndi Lauper.) In hindsight, the arrangement plus the hairdo were probably too much for Middle America to take in one sitting; Turner should've contented herself with one or the other.
In the end, we think Turner made just two demonstrably poor song choices during her run, but of course one of them was a doozy. The other, if you're wondering, was "My Love," which is just too tepid and dated for Idol. If you're intent on performing a Paul McCartney song, there are about three dozen better choices awaiting you.