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 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. Waleed says:

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

  2. Linda says:

    You left out Haley Rhinehart’s and Jacob Lusk’s wonderful performances of “God Bless the Child”

    • Saracen Riggins says:

      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.

      • Joy says:

        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.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        I agree. I did not like her screamy version of “God Bless the Child”. I wasn’t a fan until “Blue”.

  3. Kristen says:

    What about Didi Benami’s performance of “Terrified”?

  4. Ben says:

    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.

    • Aprilcot26 says:

      Um…no. Nothing by Jacob Lusk could *ever* be considered one of the greatest Idol performances of all time.

    • Cricket says:

      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.

      • Mona says:

        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!

  5. Annie says:

    White Chocolate was the standard. One of the best group performances ever.

  6. Bonnie A says:

    Such great memories! Loved hearing Didi again, and Kris Allen & Matt Giraud in their group! Thanks for taking the time to put these up!

  7. LissaB99 says:

    Matt Giraud’s Georgia, is one of my all-time favs.

  8. Tahoe Mike says:

    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?

  9. Lo says:

    I agree with most of the list, but “Heaven” by David Archuleta should be up there! His version was absolutely gorgeous.

    • Saracen Riggins says:

      I remember that one and it really was great!

    • Jason says:

      Oh good call!

    • Nancy says:

      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.

      • Lo says:

        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 :)

        • Terrell says:

          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.

    • Kerri says:

      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.

  10. Jason says:

    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”.

  11. Xandra says:

    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.

    • Eolra says:

      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).

  12. Margo says:

    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

  13. LaDonna says:

    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!!!

  14. Pamela says:

    Some of them obviously peaked way too soon.

  15. Sara says:

    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?

    • KB says:

      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.

  16. Todd says:

    Didi Benami won me over with “Terrified” in Season 9 Hollywood Week. She promptly lost me with all of her bland live performances.

  17. Joy says:

    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.

    • Tim says:

      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.

  18. SweetTea says:

    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. :)

  19. syb says:

    Great list including some of my all time favorite moments (Lily Scott, Casey Abrams,Andrew Garcia and White Chocolate.

  20. MK says:

    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.

  21. Nicole says:

    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.

  22. TwigLA says:

    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.

  23. raftrap says:

    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.

  24. karenb says:

    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!

  25. Kris&Matt fan says:

    White Chocolate=Hot Chocolate.

  26. jen says:

    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! :)

    • M-E says:

      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!

  27. Jonathan says:

    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. ;)

  28. Amy says:

    Who’s Adam?

  29. marie says:

    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.

  30. derek says:

    honorable mention:
    Ashthon’s “Hit ’em Up Style” group
    Pia’s “Grenade” group
    Carly’s “Alone”

  31. Jer says:

    By far the best hollywood performance ever is Carly Smithson’s “Alone”.

  32. Shari says:

    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!

  33. Karen says:

    Love Casey James! Canmt wait for is album to be out next month! He is so talented!

  34. Karen says:

    Sorry for the spelling errors! Can I resubmit again or I hope it is corrected. Thanks!

  35. Trouty Mouth says:

    I’d replace Andrew Garcia with Didi Benami’s version of Kara DioGuardi’s song.

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