American Idol: The 10 Best Hollywood Week Performances Ever

idol casey abrams andrew garcia blake lewis janell wheelerThere’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.



Comments (69)

  • Matt Giraud’s version of Georgia On My Mind >>> Casey’s. It should be on the list tbh

    Comment by Waleed – February 15, 2012 11:53 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Yeah. I don’t know why Casey is on this list. Bleh.

      Comment by Mark – February 15, 2012 12:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • You betray personal preference over what is, from a musical standpoint, clearly the better performance. It left a lot of (experts/columnists/reporters/pundits) calling Casey the heir to the idol throne at that stage of the contest. The same couldn’t be said of Matt Giraud.

      Comment by Ben – February 15, 2012 12:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • This.

        Comment by Owen – February 16, 2012 07:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Word up!

        Comment by sharona – February 16, 2012 06:25 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Translation: “Matt’s wasn’t pimped as much as Casey’s, so therefore, Casey’s was better”.

        Comment by Trouty Mouth – February 10, 2013 02:33 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I liked that one too, but Matt’s got another performance on there already, and I don’t think Michael put anyone on the list twice. (And thank goodness he restrained himself, or there’d only be about three names up there at all…)

      Comment by Joy – February 15, 2012 02:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • You left out Haley Rhinehart’s and Jacob Lusk’s wonderful performances of “God Bless the Child”

    Comment by Linda – February 15, 2012 11:54 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I certainly don’t speak for everyone, but I was NO fan of Haley’s at that point. I found her early rounds and first few weeks of the live show to be really unpleasant. I remember this performance and thought (at the time) that she was trying WAY too hard.
      Granted, I’m a huge fan now. I could go back to rewatch that and enjoy it now – but I do feel like she matured and became a much better performer by the end than she was at that point.

      Comment by Saracen Riggins – February 15, 2012 01:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Total agreement from another devoted Haley fan here. That performance was one of the main reasons so many people had written her off before she started turning things around on the live shows. I thought she massacred “Oh Darlin’” in her audition, too — and felt the same even after I’d gone 100% Team Haley and saw that clip replayed later in the season. Jacob Lusk’s “God Bless the Child” hurt my ears, too.

        Comment by Joy – February 15, 2012 02:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • I agree. I did not like her screamy version of “God Bless the Child”. I wasn’t a fan until “Blue”.

        Comment by darcy's evil twin – February 15, 2012 07:46 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • You guys forget that the only reason you felt this way was because Slezak told you to.

          Comment by Owen – February 16, 2012 07:40 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • What about Didi Benami’s performance of “Terrified”?

    Comment by Kristen – February 15, 2012 12:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • It’s on the list!

      Comment by Michael Slezak – February 15, 2012 12:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I know you were no fan of Jacob Lusk, but his phenomenal God Bless the Child definitely ought to have hit this list. If it had been sung during the voting rounds, most people would have it near Fantasia’s Summertime as one of the greatest performances of all time.

    Comment by Ben – February 15, 2012 12:11 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Um…no. Nothing by Jacob Lusk could *ever* be considered one of the greatest Idol performances of all time.

      Comment by Aprilcot26 – February 16, 2012 07:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • This!
      I still watch Jacob Lusk’s “God Bless The Child” today and it gives me chills every time. I know he went off the rails as the season went on, but that was one of the most incredible vocal performances I’ve ever seen on ANY show.

      Comment by Cricket – February 16, 2012 08:21 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Amen! I watch this every time I need to be inspired, It is hands-down the most incredible, live vocal performance ever, on any show. Period!

        Comment by Mona – April 5, 2014 12:32 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • White Chocolate was the standard. One of the best group performances ever.

    Comment by Annie – February 15, 2012 12:19 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I haven’t watched all (or even nearly all) of the Hollywood weeks, but when I hear “Hollywood week,” i think of White Chocolate. :)

      Comment by Jess – February 15, 2012 01:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • It’s my favorite Hollywood performance ever, by far.

      Comment by Andie – February 15, 2012 01:58 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Such great memories! Loved hearing Didi again, and Kris Allen & Matt Giraud in their group! Thanks for taking the time to put these up!

    Comment by Bonnie A – February 15, 2012 12:30 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Matt Giraud’s Georgia, is one of my all-time favs.

    Comment by LissaB99 – February 15, 2012 12:41 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Ok,I’m back from a lost hour on Youtube, thanks for that. How did Momma Sox not get her own spot at the top of the list?

    Comment by Tahoe Mike – February 15, 2012 12:59 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I agree with most of the list, but “Heaven” by David Archuleta should be up there! His version was absolutely gorgeous.

    Comment by Lo – February 15, 2012 01:00 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I remember that one and it really was great!

      Comment by Saracen Riggins – February 15, 2012 01:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Oh good call!

      Comment by Jason – February 15, 2012 01:14 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Slezak
      Never liked David Archuleta, but David Archuleta’s Heaven made the backup singer cry and for all the right reasons. It was beautiful and breathtaking. Most beautiful voice ever on AI. But I wasn’t surprised he didn’t name David Archuleta. I have listened to that Heaven over and over and never get tired of it. Of course I love anything he sings. He puts everything he has into all his performances.

      Comment by Nancy – February 15, 2012 01:38 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • LOVE that you mentioned the background singer crying; that’s one of the reasons I love watching that video. David’s voice is so moving. One of the few Idol contestants I’ve disagreed with Mr. Slezak on :)

        Comment by Lo – February 15, 2012 06:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • Nice one! David Archuleta’s Heaven is an all-time A.I. highlight for me… I have his last album, dude has mad vocal skills.

          Comment by Terrell – February 16, 2012 05:57 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Nancy, you are right he never cared for David and put him down anyway he could, but that Heaven performance by David could not be beat.

      Comment by Kerri – February 15, 2012 01:40 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Great list! May have changed the order a bit. I agree with others saying Jacob Lusk’s “God Bless the Child” and Matt Giraud’s “Georgia On My Mind”. I personally loved 3 Men and a Baby’s(Andrew Garcia & Katie Stevens) rendition of “No One”.

    Comment by Jason – February 15, 2012 01:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I really loved Josiah Leming’s version of “Grace Kelly” in Season 7. Of course, it went all downhill after that, but still a great moment.

    Comment by Xandra – February 15, 2012 01:16 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Agree – 2 great moments from Hollywood not on this list are Josiah Lemming (Grace Kelly), and The Minors (Somebody to Love). I also have a soft spot in my heart for Brooke White (Beautiful).

      Comment by Eolra – February 15, 2012 02:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • There must be some kind of error…maybe a rough draft of the list because where is Jacob Lusk’s ‘God Bless the Child’…that was a mind-blowing performance

    Comment by Margo – February 15, 2012 01:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Im sorry but Casey James BLOWS them ALL outta the water!!!! He’s the BEST!!!!!! ;) Just stop and check the top charts…you will see!!!

    Comment by LaDonna – February 15, 2012 01:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Some of them obviously peaked way too soon.

    Comment by Pamela – February 15, 2012 01:35 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Dangit, after watching Blackbird I went to listen to Paul and Kendra’s song “Like You Loved Me Then”, but it’s not on youtube anymore!! Tragedy! Does anyone know if that song is still available anywhere?

    Comment by Sara – February 15, 2012 01:35 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I loved that video! What a great song, delivered beautifully by two charismatic singers. Is it really off youtube? I still think Kendra could have won the whole thing last year if the boneheaded judges hadn’t cut her before voting rounds.

      Comment by KB – February 19, 2012 06:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Didi Benami won me over with “Terrified” in Season 9 Hollywood Week. She promptly lost me with all of her bland live performances.

    Comment by Todd – February 15, 2012 01:36 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • and the crying

      Comment by Annie – February 15, 2012 08:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Wow, revisionist history here. I’ll grant that Lilly Scott went home too soon in season 9, but Janell Wheeler earned her ticket home with that semifinal performance, and if Didi Benami should have lasted past tenth place, it’s only because the rest of her competition was so awful — three of her six live performances (Lean on Me, You’re No Good, and What Becomes of the Brokenhearted) were borderline train wrecks. Michael, if you really think those two eliminations were any significant part of what went wrong that season, I suspect you’re the one with the earwax problem.

    Comment by Joy – February 15, 2012 02:06 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Didi took a lot of chances and was interesting to watch, even when she failed. And when she succeeded, she succeeded big (Rhiannon for example). I’ll take her over a boring DeWyze any day.

      Comment by Tim – February 15, 2012 03:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • My personal fave, season 4 Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch with Constantine Maroulis and others, a self-admitted train wreck of choreography, yet the judges heard something special in the rubble. :)

    Comment by SweetTea – February 15, 2012 02:43 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Great list including some of my all time favorite moments (Lily Scott, Casey Abrams,Andrew Garcia and White Chocolate.

    Comment by syb – February 15, 2012 03:12 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Number 6 should be number 1. White Chocolate was awesome. It brought us Kris Allen and Matt Giraud. It was the shape of things to come.

    Comment by MK – February 15, 2012 04:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Great list! Only thing I would change is the number one spot. To me, “How Deep Is Your Love” is hands down the best group performance ever. It was pretty spectacular.

    Comment by Nicole – February 15, 2012 05:23 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Love your list, Michael. I’d also put White Chocolate as my #1 group/Hollywood week performance. They were sooo good and enjoyable to watch.

    Comment by TwigLA – February 15, 2012 05:26 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Oh “Blackbird”, that was something. I want Kendra back on my TV, she should form a group with Paul and go on X Factor or The Voice, or maybe she should go with Brennin Hunt, or whatever, just come back to my TV Kendra.

    Comment by raftrap – February 15, 2012 05:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Hands down, #1: WHITE CHOCOLATE!! Good times! Love that one!
    Loved Paul and Kendra,too. But just had to use the caps for WHITE CHOCOLATE!

    Comment by karenb – February 15, 2012 06:36 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • White Chocolate=Hot Chocolate.
    LOL

    Comment by Kris&Matt fan – February 15, 2012 08:14 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I happen to think that season 8 hollywood group number featuring Adam Lambert and group singing “Some Kind of Woderful” will be my all time favorite EVER! It is what got me sold on Adam! That was one AWESOME performance! :)

    Comment by jen – February 16, 2012 02:47 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I agree; we never saw enough of that “Wonderful” performance; the voices and the dynamics were stellar! Adam brought out the best in the others; still love Michael Sarver and Jessie Langseth was let go far too soon. Adam was simply stunning!

      Comment by M-E – February 16, 2012 05:12 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am offended that Crystal is listed merely as a blonde chick with guitar. But that’s just me being an sometimes insufferable Crystal fan. ;)

    Comment by Jonathan – February 16, 2012 02:51 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Who’s Adam?

    Comment by Amy – February 16, 2012 06:34 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Casey’s “Georgia” was fine, but it was his “Why Don’t You Do Right” that gave me – STILL gives me – shivers. Probably my own single pre-live-shows Idol favorite performance.

    Comment by marie – February 16, 2012 08:40 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • honorable mention:
    Ashthon’s “Hit ‘em Up Style” group
    Pia’s “Grenade” group
    Carly’s “Alone”

    Comment by derek – February 16, 2012 01:12 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Loved Carly’s performance!

      Comment by Jer – February 16, 2012 07:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • By far the best hollywood performance ever is Carly Smithson’s “Alone”.

    Comment by Jer – February 16, 2012 07:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • You said something nice about Casey James!! Is this the first or last sign of the apocalypse? Maybe we’ll finally get that interview we’ve been waiting for since May 2010! Better late than never!

    Comment by Shari – February 17, 2012 12:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Love Casey James! Canmt wait for is album to be out next month! He is so talented!

    Comment by Karen – February 17, 2012 06:18 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Sorry for the spelling errors! Can I resubmit again or I hope it is corrected. Thanks!

    Comment by Karen – February 17, 2012 06:21 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’d replace Andrew Garcia with Didi Benami’s version of Kara DioGuardi’s song.

    Comment by Trouty Mouth – February 10, 2013 02:27 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
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