One of TV’s biggest brands, American Idol is ending next year.
The producers of Idol, Fox have announced last week that the 2016 season will be the shows finale season. The show which is a spin-off from United Kingdom’s Pop Idol began in the US in 2002.
It has become a global cultural phenomenon inspiring versions of the singing talent hunt in over 30 countries including Idol West Africa which produced Nigeria’s vocal powerhouse, Timi Dakolo.
American Idol has produced some of the biggest singing acts in American’s recent pop history beginning from the winner of the maiden edition, Kelly Clarkson, R&B singer Reuben Studdard, country power singer Carey Underwood, vocal powerhouse Fantasia, Chris Daughtery, Adam Lambert, and Oscar winner, Jennifer Hudson.
To celebrate this iconic TV brand, which once made over $1 billion in one season and gave us TV’s favourite panel of judges – Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, we bring to you our pick of the Best 25 performances on the show.
Many of these performances need no commentary… Enjoy!
1. Joshua Ledet – It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World – Season 11
Oh, Joshua Ledet… this one of the best moments of the show’s history. It is still up for debate how Ledet did not win the season. It went to Phillip Phillip. But, Joshua sang his heart into America’s heart and the White House. He was reportedly the Obamas’ favourite and was later invited to perform at the White House at the US President’s celebration of soul. His single, Love Can Do, his first single will be out this year. You can watch the incredible performance here and you can watch his performance of When A Man Loves A Woman at the White House here.
2. Vincent Powell- Cause I Love You – Season 11
Vincent Powell, church music director, shocked the whole world when he didn’t advance far into the competition. He blew everyone away with his rendition of Lenny William’s Cause I Love You. It is by far, one of Idol’s greatest moments in the show’s history. I total combination of vocals, performance, guts, passion, and talent. Just incredible!
3. Candice Glover – Love Song – Season 12
The big girl with a big talent, Candice Glover won season 12 of Idols by vowing the judges and viewers at home, week after week, taking on the tough songs that other singles run away from. She is also an example of the rewards of persistence, winning Idols on her third try out. This performance of a Cure song, which Adele also covered, Love Song, was golden. Judge Mariah Carey throw her some gold dust in adulations. Randy Jackson declared it one of the best performances ever in the history of Idols. It was an incredible performance. Candice was in tears, so were we. Just watch it below.
5. Anwar Robinson – What A Wonderful World – Season 4
This music teacher was a total delight to listen to. Judge Paula Abdul said that his voice was like an orchestra. This performance of What A Wonderful World, remains our all-time favourite and for good reasons. Sad that Anwar Robinson left the competition at top 7 that year. But, we can never forget him.
6. Chris Daughtry – Have You Ever Loved A Woman – Season 5
We were as shocked at Chris Daughtry when he left the competition at Top 4 because this rocker was a delight to watch. He is one of those Idol contestants that knew exactly who they were and what they wanted to do with their careers. He was a rocker from audition to the last day. It was no wonder when he went on to form a band, named Daughtry and remained a favourite of the show’s producers, performing on Idols every season. This rendition of Have You Ever Loved A Woman is just on point. Perfect!
7. Melinda DoLittle – I’m A Woman – Season 6
This professional backup singer, was Simon Cowell’s, and our, favourite to win that year. It is unfortunate that it was the year that talents left the show for lacklustre singers. It was the year of Mandisa, the gospel powerhouse who left the show to the surprise of all. The year’s eventual winner, Jordin Sparks, who was 16 at the time was no match for Melinda Dolittle in the vocals department. Melinda left the show in a disappointing 3rd place that year, but not before the United State’s first lady, Laura Bush spotted her and later invited her to perform along with her in her humanitarian programmes. Dolittle’s I’m A Woman is an apt interpretation of the song.
8. Fantasia – Summertime – Season 3
Fantasia goes down in history as one of the most inspiring reality TV show stars with her story coming from poverty as a teenage single mother. This singer with a raspy electrifying voice has gone on to win Grammys and Tonys performing in Broadway and just about every place where the vocal integrity of the singer is required. Her performance of Summertime is credited as having cemented her victory in the 3rd season of Idols. As a bonus, watch Fantasia do justice to Lady Marmalade in honour of Patti Labelle here. She also performed in honour of then Senator Barack Obama at the NAACP Awards, she performed I Believe and you can watch it here.
9. Adam Lambert – The Tracks of My Tears – Season 8
Adam Lambert ranks as one of the best male vocal performers of his generation. He narrowly lost the title to missionary boy, Kris Allen, but went on to have an incredible career as a glam rocker. His performances of Smokie Robinson’s classic, The Tracks of My Tears, brought many to tears. His control and the heights his pitch can reach, was a fresh take on the Idols stage.
10. Jessica Sanchez – I Have Nothing – Season 11
Whenever Idols contestants attempt a Whitney Houston song, they end up annoying us. That was until 15 year-old Jessica Sanchez came on the stage in the 11th season. She belted her way to the top 2 on Idols and not without reason. She was amazing. Truly.
11. Taylor Hicks – You Are So Beautiful – Season 5
This is one under-celebrated Idol winner whose talent and personality saw him take the title in the 5th season of the show. Known for his paid-his-dues persona, quirky dance moves, Taylor Hicks was also a damn good singer, according to Simon Cowell and we agree. This rendition of You Are So Beautiful is so tender, so sweet. This singer, whose fans were known as the Soul Patrol went into the Blue-eyed soul music after winning the contest. Blues rock is a niche genre and thus he is perceived as a not-so-successful Idol winner. We don’t think so. The man was true to his soul and went with his heart and in Bluegrass, he has a respectable reputation in the industry with two albums under his belt, and playing over 100 shows a year in Las Vegas since 2012. He is the only Idol winner to get a major permanent gig in Las Vegas.
12. Pia Toscano – I’ll Stand By You – Season 9
This beautiful makeup artiste redefined this classic song, I’ll Stand By You, with this unforgettable performance. She remains one of those contestants we feel left the competition too soon.
13. Joshua Ledet – You Pulled Me Up – Season 11
I know you would have been wondering if we would repeat a name. We just couldn’t help it with Joshua Ledet. He got 11 standing ovations from the 3 judges – Randy Jackson, Steve Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez – in the season of Idols, an unprecedented feat. He finished 3rd that year, and he gave so many inspiring performances and You Pulled Me Up is one of them. He was truly the one to beat.
14. Candice Glover – I Who Have Nothing – Season 12
This Idol winner is one we can’t help putting in the list repeatedly. She was truly awesome in this 1963 classic by Ben. E. King.
15. Scott McCreery – You’ve Got A Friend – Season 10
This Idol winner shocked the whole world with the depth voice at the age of 16. He stayed true to his country roots throughout the competition and went on to create a respectable music career in the country genre. Analysts agree that Scott’s performance of You’ve Got A Friend was his brightest moment on the show.
16. Haley Reinhart – I Who Have Nothing – Season 10
Haley Reinhart was a judges’ and fan’s favourite the year Scott McCreery won Idols. She stood tall among her peers and gave some truly amazing performances and this version of Ben E. King’s 1963 classic I Who Have Nothing is one of such.
17. Angie Miller – Who You Are – Season 12
This likeable pop singer was also truly talented. She wowed the judges with her performance of her original song, You Set Me Free, during the Hollywood stages of the show and went on to give some of the most electrifying performances on the show. She came 3rd behind country singer Kree Harrison and Candice Glover. Her performance of Jessy J’s Who You Are was brilliant.
18. Curtis Finche Jr – I Believe I Can Fly – Season 12
Curtis Finche Jr’s year on Idols was not just for the boys. All the boys were eliminated first from the top 10 leaving 5 girls as the finalists on the show. This was not for lack of talent, we just think elements didn’t come together for Curtis and the other boys that year. Watch this unforgettable performance of R. Kelly’s Grammy winning classic, I Believe I Can Fly. Sad, we didn’t get to hear much of Curtis.
19. Anoop Desai – Always On My Mind – Season 8
This brilliant University of North Carolina student struggled a bit on the show, but thank goodness, he got his moment to shine before he left the competition. Anoop Desai sang from his heart when he performed this Idols favourite song, Always On My Mind. He went down in Idol history as the 2nd Indian American to advance to the final stages of the show. He made it to 6th place before he left the show.
20. Stefano Langone – I Need You Now – Season 10
This was one of the rare moments on Idols when a contestant forget what anybody says or thinks and went for what his heart told him. Latino singer Stefano choose Smokie Norful’s I Need You Now as his wildcard performance. And boy, did he sing. He gave the performance of his life and it came as no surprise that the judges put him back on the show.
21. Candice Glover – When I Was Your Man – Season 12
It’s Candice Glover again! The week the show told contestants to sing songs released that year, Candice took a risk and did Bruno Mars’ When I Was Your Man. Till date, her version of the song remains our favourite.
22. Joshua Ledet – To Love Someone – Season 11
This needs no commentary. Just watch.
23. Carrie Underwood – Independence Day – Season 4
Carrie Underwood won America’s hearts with her country singing and classic blond looks. Another grace to grace story, Underwood went on to be the highest album selling Idol winner of all time. Her she shone so bright when she sang Independence Day, an American classic and continued to shine after Idols. She has won seven Grammys, seventeen Billboard Music Awards, eleven Academy of Country Music Awards and eight American Music Awards, along with being nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, making her the most decorated Idol winner in history. She has 4 albums under her belt.
24. Kelly Clarkson – Natural Woman – Season 1
The first American Idol, arguably, the platform’s biggest star wowed audiences with her country-soul-pop-rock flavour. Her rendition of Aretha Franklin’s Natural Woman dancing and voting her victory. Kelly Clarkson went on to win Idol and remains an inspiration many idol contestants.
25. Reuben Studdard – Flying Without Wings – Season 2
The lovable teddy bear winner of Season 2 of American Idol was a breath of fresh air for the American music listening crowd. He was the mainstream R&B sound that everybody yearned for. He beat out vocal superstar, Clay Aeiken in a finale that saw 24 million votes cast. Studdard reminds us of Luther Vandross. His cover of Westlife’s hit, Flying Without Wings is believed to be one of this shining moments during the show.
26. Burnell Taylor – Let It Be – Season 12
Burnell Taylor is one Idol singer who left the competition too early. It wasn’t the year for the boys, many fans said. Critics had put down the electric church singer down for the finals. His cover of the Beatles’ classic, Let It Be was the talk of the week, he performed it and still remains one of our favourites.
27. Matt Giraud – So Small – Season 8
Matt Giraud was one Idol contestant full of talent. The judges used their ever save on him in Season 8 and for good reason. His cover of fellow Idol contestant, Carrie Underwood (Season 4 winner), So Small brought out the soul of the song and showed why Matt was special to the audience and the judges.
28. Elliott Yamin – A Song For You – Season 5
Elliott Yamin was the dark horse of the competition in Season 5. A child of a professional singer of the 50s and 60s, Elliott Yamin was a fan of the old school soul singers like Donny Hathaway, whose classic A Song for You, he covered on American Idol. His perfect rendition of the song, led to a new interest in Donny Hathaway on his music. It was a beautiful night for this Jewish soul singer and for everyone who watched this performance. Yamin went on to finish 3rd that season.
29. Casey Abraham – Georgia On My Mind – Season 10
Casey Abraham finished 6th on Season 10 of Idols, but not before wowing the judges and America with his groffle voice. He sang an American Idol audition favourite, Georgia On My Mind by legend, Ray Charles. This performance is better left undescribed. Just watch.
30. Jacob Lusk – God Bless The Child – Season 10
15-year-old Jacob Lusk got his most beautiful moment on stage during the Hollywood audition stages where he took on God Bless The Child. He just blew us all away on his cover of this Billie Holiday classic. Judge Randy Jackson, in the next episode, declared that this performance was ‘the best ever in Idols history’. He got a standing ovation from the judges, and his peers, and went on to finish 5th that season.
And there is a bonus…
31. Jermaine Jones – Dance With My Father – Season
Jermaine Jones come back on the show in Season 10 as a wildcard pick and blew us away with his cover of Luther Vandross’ Dance with my father, only to be eliminated from the show by the producers over an alleged undeclared police record. This gentle giant, as his fans called him, went off the show too soon.