There’s no telling how much — or how little — good singing we’ll get to hear when American Idol‘s Season 11 Hollywood Week rounds resume Wednesday night. Either way, I figured it might be a good idea to revisit the 10 best performances from Hell Week during the show’s first 10 seasons. Check out my picks, then hit the comments with your thoughts!
10) Middle C, “Closer” (Season 9, pictured bottom left) | Eventual third-place finisher Casey James, semifinalist Janell Wheeler, and Jermaine Purifoy skipped the fancy footwork and simply delivered a sublime rendition of Ne-Yo’s “Closer.” Lesson to future Idol wannabes: It’s a lot easier to find perfect harmony when you avoid unneccessary drama. Watch Middle C here.
9) Chris Daughtry “The First Cut Is the Deepest” (Season 5) | Simon may have given a thumbs down to one of the franchise’s most successful alumni at his initial audition, but Chris’ soulful, pitch-perfect cover of Cat Stevens’ ditty proved an early step toward changing the British judge’s mind and marching toward eventual chart domination.
8. Michael Johns and Amanda Overmyer, “Light My Fire” (Season 7) | We certainly don’t hear enough Doors on Idol, but Season 7 finalists Michael and Amanda rocked the Hollywood Week house with soul and panache on their respective covers of “Light My Fire.” (Bonus: A cheering David Cook in the audience for the former performance.) Watch Michael and Amanda here and here.
7) Blonde Chicks With Guitars (Season 9) | Oh, Season 9, what could’ve been — had America had its ear-wax cleared before voting began! For one brief episode, though, we all got to bask in the possibility of a future Idol tour starring Lilly Scott (“Lullabye of Birdland”), Janell Wheeler (“American Boy“), and Didi Benami (“Terrified”). Plus, there was eventual runner-up Crystal Bowersox — with Crystal Bowersox and her fellow contestants on backup! — memorably nailing
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Watch their performances here, here, here, and here.
6) White Chocolate, “I Want You Back” (Season 8 ) | Honestly, anything with Kris Allen and Matt Giraud gets our stamp of approval, but this jaunty spin on a Jackson 5 number — with Justin Williams and a rap interlude from India Morrison — was a treat for the ears. And the dancing wasn’t bad, either! Watch ‘em here.
5) Casey Abrams, “Georgia on My Mind” (Season 10, pictured top left) | Damn, Casey, play that bassey! Watch him here.
4) Kendra Chantelle and Paul McDonald, “Blackbird” (Season 10) | Okay, okay…so technically speaking this unbelievable harmonizing happened on the Vegas set of the Beatles’ Love show, but it still occurred in the murky area between auditions and live semifinal performances, and so it makes the cut. Has there ever been anything more tender and understated in Idol history? Watch them here.
3) Andrew Garcia, “Straight Up” (Season 9, pictured bottom right) | His subsequent performances may have seemed like let-downs by comparison, but there’s no denying the brilliance of Andrew’s winding, acoustic rendition of the Lady Abdul’s late-80s dance-pop classic. Watch it here.
2) Blake Lewis, Rudy Cardenas, Chris Sligh, and Thomas Lowe, “How Deep Is Your Love” (Season 6) | Granted, Blake’s beatboxing certainly elevated the performance, but the individual solos, combined harmonies, and overall cohesion were among the best that the Group Rounds have ever produced. Watch ‘em here.
1) Frenchie Davis and Kimberley Locke, “Band of Gold” (Season 2) | None of the other Golden Ticket holders wanted to perform with the curvaceous beauties, and after their duet, we could see why: Compared to their mountainous voices, the competition would’ve come off like inconsequential molehills. Watch Frenchie and Kimberley here.