American Idol: Which Auditions Still Give You Chills?

For a lot of people, the American Idol audition rounds are all about the point-and-hoot spectacle of watching deranged, deluded “singers” committing treacherous acts against the beloved songbooks of Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, and a host of other musical superstars. Yet while I’m not immune to occasionally chuckling at said catastrophes, I get far more enjoyment from the good auditions, from experiencing the sudden and unexpected chills that come from seeing a nervous, heretofore anonymous kid floor a panel of judges (and 25 million viewers) with his or her vocal prowess.

Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I occasionally find myself journeying back to previous seasons to relive the best Idol tryouts. And with season 10 only a few hours away from kickoff, I thought I’d share three of my old favorites with you. Check ’em out below, then head down to the comments to nominate the Idol auditions that still give you the warm fuzzies/cool tinglies/urge to reach for a Kleenex to mop up a sudden flood of tears.

Melinda Doolittle, “For Once in My Life” (Season 6) | In a performance that lasts less than a minute, a timid backup singer begins to blossom into a triumphant frontwoman. Watch. Gasp. Repeat.

Briana Davis, “The Phantom of the Opera” (Season 4) | Girl enters room dressed like an extra from Beetlejuice, and audience braces for another annoying Idol “joke.” But the crazy soprano sounds that emanate from her mouth turn out to be positively haunting — and hauntingly beautiful. Where is she now?!

Jermaine Purifoy (changed to Purifory in future episodes), “Smile” (Season 9) | Somehow, the judges didn’t advance this guy — with his buttery vocals, good looks, and easygoing demeanor — to the top 24, but found room for Jermaine Sellers, John Park, Aaron Kelly, Todrick Hall, and Andrew Garcia?  Oh what might have been!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Logistics says:

    Always and forever, Frenchie Davis. I get chills just thinking about it. I think her audition was the first one that ever really floored me.

  2. Tracy says:

    Lisa Tucker – One Moment in Time:

  3. Gail says:

    David Cook’s “Livin’ On A Prayer”. Knew right then he had something special to offer. (And I was right!)

  4. Brittany says:

    chills, chills, chills.

    I still think they mixed up the Jermaines.

  5. h2oconvo says:

    Definitely agree on Melinda! I would also add Paris Bennett’s audition. Her “Take 5” was amazing!

  6. Lauren says:

    I gotta be real with you, Michael. Clay Aiken delivered a hot joint in the season 2 auditions. Can’t say no to Hercules.

  7. Heartsong says:

    My favorite all time audition is David Archuleta’s Waiting on the World to Change. Here was this 16 yr old who overcame vocal paralysis and the voice I heard was totally unexpected. I’ve been a fan ever since.

  8. Susan says:

    I am haunted by a large black woman who auditioned the first year. In my memory, she sang fairly well, but then when it was over, the judges just looked at her. SImon said something like, that was good, but you know what we’re going to say, don’t you? And she said something like, because I’m a big girl? and he said yes. In my memory, it was heartbreaking and real and merely all about image and is possibly one of the most cruel things I have ever seen. But no one ever talks about it, and so I wonder if it really happens as I remember it. I’ve always wondered what happened to her, or if she auditioned again another year, once they relaxed the appearance rules.

    Along those same lines, a year or so later, remember the guy in the full-on yellow suit who had bought a one way ticket to the audition site and didn’t make it (even though he sang fairly well). They just so casually and cruelly showed him in the hotel trying to figure out how he would get home. Another heartbreaker.

    • chris says:

      i remember that girl. she had an amazing voice. all i could think at the time was JILL SCOTT. hopefully she’s off singing somewhere and we’ll hear of her again. it’s funny how the show has changed looking back at how many plus-sized people have gotten onto the show afterwards.

  9. DZ says:

    Thanks for reminding me of these auditions, Slezak. I’m looking forward to tonight. I really wish Purifoy would try out again (if he can). He was just too good to not have been included in the finals.

  10. Saracen Riggins says:

    The most memorable (for good reasons) audition for me remains to be Michael Johns. Oh. My. GOSH. Another great one was Jory the Canadian. She sang “Chains” by Tina Arena.

  11. Jeanette says:

    so glad to have found your Michael, just in time for Idol..can’t see Idol without your comments…
    hope you still have your Idoloonies…etc!!!

    • Laurirose says:

      Ditto.. So cool to have you back, Michael.. Us Idoloonies can’t watch American Idol w/out you, & EW’s loss is certainly TVLine’s gain – ours too!

      Even tho I can’t find JESSE LANGSETH’s audition, this is the closest thing to it on YouTube, & includes the extraordinary Adam Lambert singing harmonies with her..

      I know you agree with me, Mike, that not moving Jesse ahead in that season 2 years ago was one of the biggest mistakes the Idol judges ever made:

  12. John C says:

    Always and forever, Kelly Clarkson “Express Yourself”.

    Unexpected song choice for an audition, and home-sewn clothes.

  13. Mike says:

    Paris Bennett and Mario Vasquez!!

  14. Broadway Baby says:

    Does Hollywood Week count? Because when Andrew Garcia sang ‘Straight Up’ it really was revelatory. Too bad he didn’t live up to that moment ever again.

    • malc b says:

      Broadway Baby, I could not agree more. I was blown away by that performance and then thoroughly let down from that point on.

  15. Jesscaz says:

    Michael Johns, I been loving you for too long…. Words can’t describe his amazing voice. I literally remember holding my breath going… Wow! He’s going places… Incredible.

  16. b says:

    I always liked Briana – I was annoyed that they didn’t even show her in Hollywood week to let us know why she went home. I have no doubt that maybe she couldn’t make her voice fit a pop style (though there are plenty with opera training who go to pop/rock), but it would have been nice to at least see it instead of wondering!

    Last season, Didi and Crystal both wowed me during Hollywood week. And I agree that David Cook and Paris Bennet’s auditions were terrific. And don’t forget about the surprise that was Taylor Hicks!

    • Eleanor says:

      Finally some love for Taylor! His was my favorite surprising audition, and I’m royally PO’d that so far his post-Idol career just can’t live up to that fabulous moment.

  17. Eolra says:

    Can’t recall any during actual primary auditions, but the Hollywood auditions I still remember are Josiah, Didi, and the “How Deep Is Your Love” group of guys including Blake Lewis.

  18. Grace says:

    Ooh, I’m with you on Melinda Doolittle, she might be my favorite contestant of all time. As far as I’m concerned she won season 6, kind of like Crystal Bowersox won last season and Adam Lambert won the season before…

    My favorite audition though would have to go to Paris Bennett from season 5. Wow, her speaking voice and demeanor were so meek and then she opened her mouth and I was just in total shock. I’m getting chills just thinking about it!!

    • Laurirose says:

      Hope someone in this season’s AI auditions comes even close to the amazing natural talent of Crystal Bowersox from last season — revealed in just a few seconds of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart”:

      Btw, her new debut album “Farmer’s Daughter” (released a month ago) is extraordinary.. Check it out if you don’t have it yet…

  19. David says:

    @Grace, but she didn’t win and neither did the others. Sorry for bringing you back to reality.

  20. Eloiza says:

    William Hung “She bangs” best idol moment evah LMMFAO!

  21. Lo says:

    Katharine McPhee’s audition was perfect

  22. waffles says:

    David Archuleta’s Waiting on the World to Change. I remember I was going to give up on Idol and then I saw this audition. David was so fresh, sweet, with a beautiful smile, and then he sang and BOOM! -I was hooked. (and David sealed it for me with “Imagine”).

  23. Mark says:

    Tami Gosnell, Leneshe Young, and Melinda Doolittle, in no particular order. All for different reasons.

  24. Mark says:

    Actually, I’ll amend mine. Lensehe wasn’t chill-inducing, but she was the most fun audition ever. I’ll hold to Melinda and Tami, though.

  25. Karen says:

    Fantasia. When she hit the first chorus of Proud Mary and didn’t oversing it, I told my roommate that she would win the season.

  26. J says:

    Jermaine is actually now a part of an a cappella group called Voice Avenue: /

    They have an awesome cover of September:

    • Laurirose says:

      Wow, thanks for sharing this link.. that’s a great song and he sounds fantastic in it…

      I just found Jermaine on Facebook & sent him a message giving him the link about this highly complimentary blog piece by Chief Idoloonie Mr. Slezak…

      I wonder if he can try out again for AI?

  27. Jules says:

    Paris Bennett, Katherine McPhee and Chris Daughtry for drama.

  28. Ctw says:

    Briana’s is one of my favorites of all time! To the person who said they didn’t show her in Hollywood – they actually did, she sang “The Letter” (group rounds I believe) and she flubbed the words a bit. It wasn’t amazing but I’ve seen people do FAR worse in group rounds and still make it through. Lame.

    Been trying to track her down forever simply because she was so amazing and I’d love to find out if she’s still doing music. Anyone have some info on this?