The Top 30 American Idol Performances of All Time — A Second Opinion

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READ: Ranking the American Idol Winners Based Solely On Their Idol Performances
READ: The Best and Worst of the American Idol Finale

Starting with his tenure at Entertainment Weekly and continuing through his time at tvline.com, Michael Slezak has been the guru of all things American Idol. I consider myself an extremely loyal and knowledgeable fan of the show of the show, but Slezak makes me look like a total amateur. Between breaking Idol news, writing insightful recaps, and his weekly “Idology” video series (featuring Season 6 finalist Melinda Doolittle for the past couple of years), he’s practically defined what it is to cover the biggest show of the millennium, approaching it as both a journalist and a fan. I have incredible respect for what he does.

However…that doesn’t mean I always agree with him. Take, for example, the list he posted last week of what he considers to be the 30 best American Idol performances of all time, of which this season’s Candice Glover took the top spot for her rendition of “Love Song.” He put some restrictions on his list — most notably, that no contestant could be represented more than once. This, of course, prevented powerhouse contestants like Kelly Clarkson and Adam Lambert from from dominating the list, and created an ancillary question that is, in some ways, just as interesting than which performances are the best ever — namely, what is the best performance that each individual contestant ever delivered, and which 30 contestants will make the cut?

So, with all due respect to the great Michael Slezak, I thought I would offer a second opinion. My Top 30, using the exact criteria Slezak used, is below. Here are key difference between our two lists:

Different Artists
I couldn’t imagine a Best Idol performances list that didn’t include Tamyra Gray’s Season 1 showstopper “A House is Not a Home” (#12) or Latoya London’s Season 3 semifinal debut “All By Myself” (#11) — both performances literally made my jaw drop the first time I saw them. I also thought Kimberley Locke’s “Home,” Ruben Studdard’s “Superstar” and Diana Degarmo’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud” were missing from Slezak’s list. So who had to go to make room for these five artists? I gave the boot to LaKisha Jones, Michael Johns, Kendra Chantelle, Pia Toscano and Crystal Bowersox, whose best performances, in my eyes, did not measure up.

Different Songs
I agreed with most of Slezak’s selection for each Idol contestant’s best performance, with a few exceptions: I subbed in Kree Harrison’s Vegas rendition of “Up to the Mountain” (#29) instead of “Help Me Make It Through The Night”; Haley Reinhart’s “House of the Rising Sun” (#17) replaced “Bennie and the Jets”; Allison Iraheta’s “Cry Baby” took the place of “I Can’t Make You Love Me”; and, most notably, Jennifer Hudson’s “Weekend in New England” for “Circle of Life,” which shot the Oscar-winner all the way up to #4 on my list.

Different Order
The most significant difference between my list and Slezak’s is the order. Though it was indisputably brilliant, I think it’s too premature to call Candice Glover’s “Love Song” the best performance of all time as Slezak did; I have it at #7, with Fantasia’s iconic rendition of “Summertime” topping the chart. I thought Slezak undervalued Carrie Underwood’s “Alone,” which I have at #6; Clay Aiken’s “Solitaire,” which I bumped up to #13; and Jordin Sparks’ “I Who Have Nothing,” which landed at #14. The most dramatic demotions went to Elise Testone’s “Whole Lotta Love,” which fell from #17 to #28, and Phillip Phillips’ “Home,” which plummeted 14 spots from #13 to #27.

So — here it is — my list. Thanks to Slezak for providing the inspiration, and let me know what you think of this order. I’m sure a third…and a fourth…and a fifth opinion are in order.

1. Fantasia, “Summertime” (Season 3)
2. Kelly Clarkson, “Stuff Like That There” (Season 1)
3. Adam Lambert, “Mad World” (Season 8)
4. Jennifer Hudson, “Weekend in New England” (Season 3)
5. Melinda Doolittle, “My Funny Valentine” (Season 6)
6. Carrie Underwood, “Alone”
7. Candice Glover, “Love Song” (Season 12)
8. Kris Allen, “Heartless” (Season 8)
9. Blake Lewis, “You Give Love a Bad Name” (Season 6)
10. David Cook, “Always Be My Baby” (Season 7)
11. Latoya London, “All By Myself” (Season 3)
12. Tamyra Gray, “A House is Not a Home” (Season 1)
13. Clay Aiken, “Solitaire” (Season 2)
14. Jordin Sparks, “I Who Have Nothing” (Season 6)
15. Bo Bice, “In a Dream” (Season 4)
16. Elliott Yamin, “A Song For You” (Season 5)
17. Haley Reinhart, “House of the Rising Sun” (Season 10)
18. Joshua Ledet, “This is a Man’s World” (Season 11)
19. David Archuleta, “Imagine” (Season 7)
20. Chris Daughtry, “Hemorrhage” (Season 5)
21. Jason Castro, “Hallelujah” (Season 7)
22. Jessica Sanchez, “And I Am Telling You…” (Season 11)
23. Ruben Studdard, “Superstar” (Season 2)
24. Allison Iraheta “Cry Baby” (Season 8)
25. Kimberley Locke, “Home” (Season 2)
26. Skylar Laine, “Stay With Me” (Season 11)
27. Phillip Phillips, “Home” (Season 11)
28. Elise Testone, “Whole Lotta Love” (Season 11)
29. Kree Harrison, “Up to the Mountain” (Season 12)
30. Diana Degarmo, “Don’t Cry Out Loud” (Season 3)

READ: Ranking the American Idol Winners Based Solely On Their Idol Performances
READ: The Best and Worst of the American Idol Finale

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About allinsparetime

Thoughts on TV, movies, theater, books and more from an opinionated pop culture addict
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One Response to The Top 30 American Idol Performances of All Time — A Second Opinion

  1. These are all songs (except for this year’s) that I remember as being great now that you brought them to mind. Only disagreement is Jennifer Hudson’s Circle of Life which was one of my favorites of all. I’d also rank Hailey’s Rising Sun higher..
    Wonder if they can make a CD of these. Thanks for the memory jog.

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