Thursday, January 7, 2010

20 Idol Performances I Can't Forget (and Five I Wish I Could)

Idol starts next week. Yaaaay! I can't wait. No, I really can't wait. So, to prep myself for the new season, I've gone back through the last eight seasons and picked my 20 most memorable performances (and five I wish I could forget). The only real criteria I used is that I had to remember them. I didn't comb through the internet trying to come up with my favorites. I did use the internet to help me remember exactly when they took place, but that's it. So here goes.

Five That Will Make Your Ears Bleed

5. Carmen Rasmusen, Call Me (Season 2) -- Full disclosure: I was a Carmen Rasmusen fan. I thought she was cute and sweet and there were times when she could actually sing. This was not one of them. None of the judges could think of even one good thing to say about it.

4. Mikalah Gordon, Love Will Lead You Back (Season 4) -- This left me wishing she sounded like Fran Drescher when she sang as well as when she talked. Click on the link at your own risk.

3. John Stevens, My Girl (Season 3) -- I think he hit one note midway through the song.

2. Camile Velasco, Yellow Brick Road (Season 3) -- Camile didn't even do that.

1. Sanjaya Malakar, You Really Got Me (Season 6) -- Everyone remembers this one. It's the week that little girl was sitting in the audience crying, while we all wanted to.

Twenty I'll Never Forget

21. Summertime, Fantasia (Season 3) -- I'm throwing a bone here. I didn't get chills. I didn't cry. But then, I was never a fan. I'll take everyone else's word that this was superb.

20. Clay Aiken, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me (Season 2) -- This was as good as he got for me. But this was pretty damn good.

19. Kimberley Locke, It's Raining Men (Season 2) -- This performance was a microcosm of Kimberley's season. A little wobbly at the start and then, BAM, off to the races. I wasn't really sold on her until midway through this song. I've been on board ever since.

18. Latoya London, Don't Rain on My Parade (Season 3) -- Show tunes have ruined the chances for many an Idol contestant. It's hard to find a song that can show your vocal ability without being cheesy or overwrought. I wouldn't have guessed this song would be a good selection, but I'll be damned if she didn't bring it.

17. LaKisha Jones, And I'm Telling You (Season 6) -- LaKisha knocked this one out of the park for sure, but what really made it memorable was that she did it about a month after Dreamgirls came out and Simon couldn't resist making the stupid comment, "Move over, Jennifer Hudson." Please.

16. David Archuleta, Imagine (Season 7) -- This performance would be way higher on the list if he hadn't done it a second time. Most of what was amazing about the first time he did this was that he held his own with a John Lennon song. By the time he did it a second time, he'd already become a cartoon of himself and it just didn't work anymore.

15. Paris Bennett, Midnight Train to Georgia (Season 5) -- Her performance was definitely cheesier than it should have been, but she sounded great. And she was just a kid. This was early on in season five and it turned out she was way better with the older songs than with anything contemporary, but she had to have made Gladys Knight proud on this night.

14. Constantine Maroulis, Bohemian Rhapsody (Season 4) -- Constantine always reminded me of a young Andre Agassi -- all sizzle, very little steak. But he surprised everyone (even Simon) with a very authentic version of one of the (maybe 20?) most revered rock songs of the last 35 years.

13. Diana DeGarmo, No More Tears (Season 3) -- Diana is probably one of the least remembered runners up in Idol history (along with Justin Guarini) and she almost certainly didn't deserve to get to the finale. Regardless, to get up in front of Donna Summer herself and pull off this song (and man did she pull it off) is something she should always be proud of.

12. Allison Iraheta, Cry Baby (Season 8) -- This is the first of three "elimination" songs that made this list. ROBBED she was. The final three should absolutely have been Lambert, Allen and Iraheta. But for whatever reason, Simon was having none of it and gave her a lukewarm reception after this song. For me, it was just one more time I shook my head and thought, that girl is only 17?? Damn.

11. Trenyce, Proud Mary / Love Will Keep Us Together (Season 2) -- This is the only double on the list. There was really no possible way Trenyce could win the Idol crown based on the competition she was up against, but that didn't stop her from throwing it all out on the stage for '60s / Neil Sedaka night. It was a little too late for her though, as she went home that week.

10. Jason Castro, Hallelujah (Season 7) -- For about two minutes and three seconds, I thought Jason Castro had a shot at winning season seven.

9. Kelly Clarkson, Stuff Like That There (Season 1) -- Of all the Kelly Clarkson performances, I'm picking this one? Well, first off, I didn't watch season one all the way through until after season four so I was watching already knowing Kelly won. This is the week I think she really proved she was at the very least one of the two best of season one. Watch the Big Band weeks from other seasons. Way too many of them phone in bland, stiff efforts. This is anything but bland.

8. Adam Lambert, Mad World (Season 8) -- There were many weeks when I didn't "get" Adam Lambert. This was not one of them. There was not one thing that wasn't perfect about this.

7. Kris Allen, Heartless (Season 8) -- Top three night and the one thing Kris Allen had yet to do -- having been more than very good every week -- was have that singular performance that brought the judges to their feet. The apprehension I (and virtually everyone else) felt when he said he was doing a Kanye West song only added to the brilliance of his simple acoustic version.

6. Carrie Underwood, Alone (Season 4) -- Anyone that hadn't figured out Carrie was winning season four before this performance, knew it afterward. It only pointed out even more how great a singer Carrie is when Gina Glocksen and Ramiele Malubay butchered this same song in seasons six and seven respectively.

5. David Cook, Always Be My Baby (Season 7) -- Probably Hello and Billie Jean are the David Cook performances that everyone else remembers most. And if this list were about other people's memories, one of those two songs would be on it. But I sat through six other contestants singing Mariah Carey songs, bitter that no one did this. I couldn't imagine that David Cook would do it; or that he would do it soooo spectacularly. The "linger on" at the end might be my favorite lyric of all time.

4. Katharine McPhee, I Have Nothing (Season 5) -- Frenchie Davis, Trenyce, Jennifer Hudson and Vonzell Solomon all did this song before Kat. And I loved every one of their renditions (well, maybe Vonzell's was a little stiff). But two things make this performance memorable for me. First, I literally got chills as she broke into the chorus. And then Simon ripped into her for being a poser, which he had to retract the next night on the results show. The first (of only a handful) time I'd ever seen him apologize to a contestant and say his critique was wrong. Oh, I guess a third thing is that she almost fell out of her dress near the end of the song.

3. Jennifer Hudson, Weekend in New England (Season 3) -- Two weeks prior to this performance, Jennifer brought the house down with Circle of Life. In a perfect world, that would have been her most memorable performance. Unfortunately, this song got her eliminated. Listen to her belt it out and try to figure out how the hell that happened. Hers and Chris Daughtry's remain the two most controversial eliminations in Idol history. The brouhaha surrounding this one probably ended up helping her in the long run. If she had disappeared quietly off the Idol stage, she might not have gotten the opportunity to do Dreamgirls.

2. Bo Bice, In a Dream (Season 4) -- Forget stripped down and acoustic, this was unprecedented in Idol history. Bo Bice, a microphone and a spotlight. No band. No instrument (they weren't allowed in season 4). No back up. I'm not 100 percent certain, but I don't think anyone else has ever tried it again. It's one thing to try it, though. It's another thing entirely to nail it the way Bo did. So good it could almost be 1A.

1. Tamyra Gray, House Is Not a Home (Season 1) -- The first Idol performance I ever heard is still the standard by which all others are judged for me. I remember watching it like it happened yesterday. Not that it wouldn't be number one anyway, but Simon Cowell said about this performance that it was one of the best television performances he'd ever seen. I submit that if you didn't know who won any of the years and each contestant could submit only their one best performance, Tamyra Gray would be voted one of the top five Idol contestants of all time.

Which performances do you remember most?


  1. I'm totally with you on most of your choices. I started watching at the top ten of season one. Ryan Starr (who?) was first and I thought she was pretty good. Kelly performed eighth that night, and two seconds later, my jaw hit the floor. But I'm right with you on "Stuff Like That There". That was the night (there were five of them) that Kelly and Tamyra proved they should be in the finale. Alas, Tamyra succumbed to fourth place due to a dismal performance of "New Attitude" (and 4th is a very popular place for surprising knocking out of top contenders). "Stuff Like That There" (along with the results show performance, not the competition show performance, of "Without You") ranks as her best performances on the show.

    Bo Bice "In a Dream" -- all I can say is, chills.

    The most moving performance (not necessarily one of the best) would have to be Brooke White's "Let It Be".

    Here's a glaring omission... Chris Daughtry. If we're only considering the finalists (i.e. top 10 or top 12/13), I would suggest,"Have You Ever Loved A Woman?" Otherwise, I would suggest the semifinal performance of "Hemmorhage (in My Hands)"

    LaToya London -- for me, it would have to be "Somewhere" if we're doing finals, "All By Myself" overall.

    Kimberley Locke -- for me, it was definitely "I Can't Make You Love Me".

    Kat McPhee -- the first time she did "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"

    Carrie Underwood -- "Independence Day" 'Nuff said.

    I guess that's all I have... always love your reviews!


  2. I was worried, but you came through with a tennis reference!!! Will be looking forward to your critiques of this season's performances!

  3. He didn't make the show, but YouTube's Josiah Leming's Hollywood Week audition several times afterwards: