This is the third part of my look back at the best and worst of American Idol and its imitators in 2011.
Today, my picks for 10 favorite songs from Idols — and just Idols — in 2011.
The only requirement — the songs had to be released in 2011. In other words, songs released as singles in 2010 and included on albums in 2011 didn’t count.
I limited the selections to one song per artist, tried to shy away from the best-known singles (though I’m not sure they would have made the list anyway) and didn’t consider duets Idols recorded for albums released by other artists.
That said, here’s the list, complete with the song in cases where it was available. Coming tomorrow: My picks for best albums.
1. “We Believe,” David Cook
What a great feel-good song about perseverance, faith and determination, co-written by David. My favorite verse: “Everyone / every single person under the sun / has a moment when they now they’ve won / but until then … ” It’s the standout track on “This Loud Morning.” And I was thrilled to hear it as a Season 11 Idol theme song.
2. “Einstein,” Kelly Clarkson
And this makes for a great kiss-off song. Includes my favorite lines of the year: “I may not be Einstein / but I know / dumb plus dumbs equals you.” Kelly has a co-writing credit on the tune. Best of all guys — just change a couple words, and you too can sing along.
3. “Gone Too Soon,” Daughtry
Three albums in, this is my favorite ballad yet from Chris and the guys. A heartfelt tune about a child lost to soon. It’s easily my favorite track from the band’s third album, “Break the Spell.” Unfortunately, I can’t find a great quality audio of the song on Youtube, but head to Daughtry’s website, click on the “play music” button and you can listen to it.
4. “Just Cry,” Mandisa
Great ballad from the Season 5 contestant who recently got a Grammy nomination for her third album, “What If We Were Real.” Hard to believe she finished ninth. I could have easily put two or three other songs from the album on this list.
5. “Black Doll,” Siobhan Magnus
Remember Siobhan, Idol’s magnificent screamer from Season 9. She released this tune in early October, just in time for Halloween. And I immediately found myself haunted by that chorus. Different. Catchy. And so Siobhan. Her CD, “Moonbaby,” is supposed to be available for download in January, followed by a physical release something in February.
6. “The Locket,” Lauren Alaina
There are lots of catchy, up-tempo songs on Lauren’s debut album, but this is the track that drew me in the very first time I listened to her album. A tender song about the passing of a locket from grandmother to granddaughter, beautifully performed by Idol’s Season 10 runner-up.
7. “Better Than That,” Scotty McCreery
My only complaint about the Season 10 Idol winner with the voice deeper than his years is that he sometimes sang older than his age. Well, he’s young and fun on this toe-tapping tune. And I get a perverse pleasure out of that fact that he sings about a Chevy truck after starring in all those Ford commercials on the show.
8. “Hotter Without You,” Kimberly Calwell
Hey, Kelly Clarkson doesn’t own the market when it comes to kiss-off songs. There are a couple of great one on Kimberly Caldwell’s long-awaited, much-delayed debut album, “Without Regret,” which was released in April. “Mess of You” is my favorite, but it doesn’t qualify since it was released as a single pre-2011. This one will certainly do in a pinch. You’ll have to head to iTunes or a similar site to listen to a snippet.
9. “Love is a War,” Lacey Brown
There was no way I wasn’t going to include a song from Lacey’s splendid “Let It Go” EP on this list. This might be the quirkiest of the five originals she unveiled in late May. And to think she finished dead last among Idol’s Season 9 finalists. Clearly, she should have been singing her own songs.
10. “Screaming,” James Durbin
I sometimes complained that James screamed too much on Idol. Which strikes me as funny now since “Screaming” is my favorite track on his debut album. It could be his theme song, an anthem for underdogs from the guy who overcame Tourettes and Asperger syndrome. Five artists had a hand in writing it, including James and Season 7 Idol winner David Cook.