American Idol: 25 Best Performances of All Time

The end of American Idol Season 11 is nigh, which means it’s time for the Idoloonie Nation to reflect on the always accessible “Top 25 Performances of All-Time” lists in their brains, then ask the question: “Who gets added from the latest crop of singers, and who gets cut?”

I limited my countdown to competitive performances on live shows — meaning semifinals, finals, and wild cards count; exit performances, auditions, and Hollywood Week do not — and still ended up with two or three dozen amazing moments left on the outside looking in. (Oh how “This Ain’t a Love Song,” “A House Is Not a Home,” and “It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right” forced me to consider making this a Top 30 list!) I also decided on allowing only one performance per contestant in the Top 25 (because, really, I couldn’t justify a list that was all Fantasia-Kelly-Cookie-Haley-Kradison). But, hey, no one said this exercise would be easy, right?

VIDEO | Idology: Who’s to Blame for Joshua’s Exit, and Why Jessica Can’t Lose to Phillip

So check out my 25 Best Idol Performances list below, then hit the comments and tell me what I got right, what I got wrong, who got snubbed, and who never should’ve made my list in the first place. Then get to work and post your own Top 25!

RELATED | American Idol Top 3 Results Recap: We’ve Got Tonight. Who Needs Tomorrow?

And for all my American Idol news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV. (p.s. I’ll be live-blogging tonight’s Season 11 performance finale, so join me at TVLine for all the good fun!)

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. QJ201 says:

    Right performances, totally wrong order below the top 3

    • John says:

      Michael, you are obviously biased. I knew that you knew Allison Iraheta’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was not her strongest one. I remember you recapped Season 8 in EW and you graded it an A-, while her strongest one was during Top 5 Night when she sang “Someone To Watch Over Me” which you graded an A, but you knew Adam fared better with “Feelin’ Good” with an A as well. Haha, I remember that you included Allison’s exit performance of “Cry Baby” in your “Best Performances Ever” list before because you knew that was her strongest one. But you knew also you really can’t include it so you put a slightly less stronger one now just to include a performance from your dear FAVORITE. LOL :)

      • john says:

        Michael’s picks are clearly clouded by nostalgia and his love of the performer (but you gotta revel in his passion for this show).
        I took a reminder look at his top 2 and I have to admit that I don’t get the hype.
        Also don’t understand the reasoning behind one performance per performer. If you’re ranking top performances then rank top performances. If someone has a bevy of them (Adam Lambert comes to mind), then give him them their due. Otherwise you’re just ranking contestants, not performances.
        Lastly, I really don’t understand your David Cook choice. There’s so many better ones to choose from (Billy Jean and Hello to name two). He struggled through Always Be My Baby. Off-key in several places and couldn’t hit the low notes. I guess the fact that he deconstructed and de-sappified a Mariah Carey song made it noteworthy but certainly not “top” anything.

        • macy says:

          Yes, I agree about not limiting it to one per performer. The list that I would love to see would be like this: eliminate the ranking, just make a good solid list of must-see, incredible Idol performances. And here’s the thing — as long as a performance fits that criteria, it can be on the list. So in other words, the list could include 37 performances or 51 performances, as many as there are that can be called incredible.

          • Lauren says:

            For all you Idoloonies out there – WhatNotToSing dot com has a list of the top 40 highest rated Idol performances (they sample a ton of online reviews and use some statistical analysis to generate it so there’s no personal bias) — their list is a bit different than Michael’s and it’s interesting to compare.

          • macy says:

            Thank you Lauren!!

          • Tom22 says:

            that what not to sing was how they were rated … on average.. at the time.;.

            a great peformance should be one you can go back to and watch on you tube today and not find yourself preferring the original artist too much…at least be different and good so that you might put the idol’s version on a playlist of your’s instead of the original .. perhaps it would be better for a different atmosphere..

            Thats my gauge at least.. almost as good as beyonce woulnd’t cut it .. different and a better take on a song than beyonce would… talking a throw away song by another artist and making it special and current is really good.

        • trj says:

          Have to agree on the extremely odd David Cook choice. He had so many phenomenol moments on his season, yet Always be My Baby was not one of them. Hello is memorable as the moment when he first became a real contender to knock Archuleta from his preordained frontrunner position. Eleanor Rigby was fantastic. And Billy Jean was one of the most memorable performances in Idol History, on a par with Mad World, Summertime, and Alone. Always Be My Baby was, to use my least favorite word, pitchy.

        • Jen says:

          I understand his David Cook choice. Always Be My Baby stabbed me through the heart and made me fall in love.

    • How can you have Pia’s performance not be I’ll Stand By You. That is THE memorable moment of the season! Same with Jessica and I Will Always Love You. Both these videos went wildly viral. Even if they each had other performances (and Jessica had several) that were as vocally good, you have to give the props to the song that resonate with the viewers – you know, the ones that gets the youtube eyeballs and the viewers talking the next day at their water coolers. I cannot even remember the Pia song you are talking about and it was only last year!!

    • kevin says:

      thankfully the #1 spot is dead on :) the rest are subjective anyway but yeah nothing will ever touch Summertime. Kind of disappointed in some of the choices (Blake..) over Tamyra Grey “house is not a home” and a few other notables, but thats okay. I would say the top 4 are pretty much dead accurate and the rest being pretty subjective. Jennifer should definitely be higher up there though :)

    • I soooo agree. Love where Bo is though…

    • KL says:

      Well, as far as I’m concerned, at least 8 to 10 of those performances belong to Adam Lambert. And I liked Julia Sims’ (The Voice) version of Man’s World the best. Joshua is fun to watch but hard to listen to – and I thought he over sang that song. Pretty much everything Fantasia does is overkill.

  2. Jenay says:

    I am not a big fan of Adam’s, but Mad World was amazing. It would definitely
    be number 1 on my list.

    • Leena says:

      Yes!! I was/am a Kris Allen fan, but man Adam laid it down with that performance. What an amazing performer.

    • allie08 says:

      totally agree

    • John says:

      MAD WORLD….right on!!! I would have also included Scotty’s GONE!

      • John says:

        WHOOPS….I forgot to mention that I saw Adam sing this live on ‘the tour’….and he was spectacular.

    • Mary B says:

      I think Mad World was my favorite performance of all time in Idol history.

      • God says:

        i think adam’s a change is gonna come, is far superior

        • Lisa (@KittyKay3) says:

          A Change is Gonna come was by far the best performance Adam gave all season. It gets lost in the hoopla of the finale. Mad World was the most unexpected moment. We expected Adam to be fabulous, and he was, by the time he did ACIGC. Every song Adam did on idol was memorable. I would argue he had the most moments of any contestant in any season. His only bad performance was No Boundaries and i don’t think we can blame that all on Adam LOL (Who was that damn song written for?).

    • zaza says:

      Yup, Mad World was definitely note-worthy, but I would have also included Adam’s version of “Tracks of My Tears.” It was beautifully emotive in the way that he stripped it down and sung it simply.

  3. Frozen says:

    I think Bennie and the Jets would have been better for Haley

    • aljal says:

      Agreed. That’s the one track of hers that’s been on constant rotation on my iPod since last season. “House of the Rising Sun” was good, no doubt, but “Bennie” captured everything I love about Haley.

    • Danny says:

      Haley should have had a few on there. Her “problem” if ya will, was she had so many great perfomances that ya can’t give her 5 of the top 10 or what have ya. Some weeks this year I’d watch last years show, or at least Haley & James’ performances, along with this years shows. Like I’d watch top 10 week of last year w/ top 10 of this year. Top 5 last year w/ top 5 this year. They didn’t always line up 100% cuz of different themes. Still, Haley would have been best of the week quite a few weeks. This is the best season ever IMO. Last year I felt Haley ran roughshod over a bunch of stiffs (except for James). This year had some excellent talent and Haley was still better IMO.

      I think Siobhan’s Paint It Black is the best Idol performance of all time. I can’t argue w/ this list though. I didn’t even know what American Idol was until season 4, but every song on it that I’m familiar w/ I have no qualms with. I just think Paint It Black reins supreme.

      • Danny says:

        DOH!! I just re-read your main article & see that you limited it to 1 performance per singer. My bad. But now I REALLY think ya missed the boat by not including Siobhan. -=)

      • really? says:

        Sorry, but Haley did not have 5 or 10 great performances. She was a grunting screaming singer who some liked, but as detailed by her lack of success afterwards, those who claimed they would buy her album were just big talkers. She’s overrated and did not run roughshod over anyone. She should have been eliminated way earlier.

        • Mary B says:

          what are you talking about. Haley’s album just came out today and she is already #8 on the itunes top 100 albums. Haley will become a big star. The reviews of her album are high praise.

          • WishesRandyCouldn'tSpeak says:

            everybody go and buy Haley’s album, “Listen Up”

            I made an account just to buy her music – usually I download but I went out of my way to support Haley, everyone go support her and help her out!! She deserves it!!! :D

          • Yes!!!!! She is right up there with Adam Lambert’s new album! If all is right with the world, she will be just as successful as Kelly, Carrie and Adam!

        • tarc says:

          Haley had one so-so performance the entire season. She was, and is, amazing. As an example, the judges panned Blue; the girl even yodled, and in a side by side, she beat the original. It was *perfect*. But, hey, the judges have their own (ridiculous) prejudices. And BTW – Haley’s first album was released TODAY, and it’s number 7 on the iTunes Top 200 album chart. Maybe you should read something before you blather nonsensically.

        • Lily says:

          Yup, she got a lot further than she should have, and I couldn’t stand the attitude, even taking into account the “major judge bias” and the “villain cut.”

          And before the accusations come flying, I tend to support my fellow females in competitions to the same extent I support the “white boys with guitars” and anyone else with talent.

          • FreeHaley says:

            oh please

          • ha ha.. some people should be humble enough to know that others are a much better judge of talent than they are.

          • Missie says:

            Name names, and THEN I’ll believe you support your “fellow females.” However, society has a double standard when it comes to attitude, because apart from one off night where she was a little upset (with valid reason – shut up, Randy), Haley’s was perfectly likeable. So you’re disproving yourself already.

          • FreeHaley says:

            So true. In fact, I was just cleaning up my hard drive and came across some recordings of her performances last season. And even as far into the show as the Moanin’, well they just finish bringing down the house and then Seacrest is like but now it’s time for results and I say that one of you two, Haley and Casey, are safe and the other is in the bottom three. And when he says it’s Haley bottom three, she gives like a cute aww shucks smile and darn it snap and goes and playfully dusts off her stool. And don’t forget that at this point the judges and production had already driven the bus over her a few times and also don’t forget that last season the busing was so particularly and severely aimed at just one person, her.

            And don’t forget that despite her attitude being so ‘horrendous’ and all that someone she still had like it seemed 80% of former contestants supporting her last season and even last season, even after the melt down, when Randy called her out alone on the stage among the remaining few, that even fellow contestants such as Lauren called out what they were doing to her as total BS, even Steven Tyler broke ranks with the production and was on an interview show saying it was garbage what was done to her that night, he understood where she was coming from and he even got a little fiery and kinda put down Randy a little even. And Haley’s vocal coach, you know the really fierce lady hah, totally defended Haley too.

            Oh and why not ask people from her hometown what she is like? I know people there and they sure paint a picture 100% the opposite of the one the producer’s tried to paint of her at times.

            By bashing her character and attitude you (the other poster) are just playing the part of a mindless sheep or a lemming being driven off a cliff by the reality TV scripters.

        • Johhny says:

          Her new single is actually selling more then scotty’s new one. Scotty and Lauren went off of the just after idol runner-up and winner vibe and haley would have sold just as much if not more considering how highly classified her album has been from critics. She would have also sold more from her idol compilation cd except for the fact that everyone was buying her songs week in and week out as evidence from their placement on itunes sales during their season. You may not like her tone but she is the best singer from that season(although pia is a better belter.)

    • TheBeach says:

      “Bennie” was the performance that turned everything around for Haley and let her continue to wow us with future performances.

    • Brigette says:

      Agreed. Not to mention this was the turning point performance for her. Everyone stopped and was like, “OH. She’s really, really good.”

    • I’d say that it’s hard for me to pick which or the two I like more. Hope all Haliens are purchasing her new record “LISTEN UP”!

  4. JustMe says:

    only 1 Haley??? c’mom michael

  5. nich says:

    I would have taken out that awful Blake version of “You Give Love a Bad Name” and that way Michael Johns abd “It’s So Wrong But It’s So Right”, sexiest and smoothiest thing ever on Idol.

    “Walk The Line” represented Chris Daughtry better than “Hemorrhage”.

    Haley is fun and all but way too high.

  6. Heidi says:

    That’s a pretty darn good list! I would have a hard time choosing the 25 best so kudos to you for trying.

  7. TMW says:

    I personally would have reversed Kelly’s “Stuff Like That There” and Fantasia’s “Summertime.” I’ll never forget how totally out of left field “Stuff Like That There” was, which made it all the more stunning.

  8. Jill says:

    Um dont agree with some of these selections e.g. Haley Reinhart being in the top 10.

    • BTG says:

      I totally agree. I think she was overhyped.

      • bwatt27 says:

        overhyped? seriously, no.

      • Tom22 says:

        Yeah, why would Slash and Myles Kennedy choose ther to perform their one and only number in front of a room of other huge icons stars like Stevie Wonder and Lenny Kravitz and yada yada.

        They let her sing half the song, start it off and sung in harmory together… guess it was just to show off her nice thighs to Stevie Wonder.

        (yeah.. I’m kidding… you might not appreciate what musicians see in her but thats fine … bit of a stretch between saying you don’t like her and that she’s there because she’s hyped )

      • Lily says:

        Overhyped is right. She’s only so high on this list because she’s a recent contestant. She’d never have made the live rounds against the caliber of Seasons 1 and 2’s contestants.

        • mark says:

          you’re joking, right? The high caliber of Season 1 and 2 contestants? Seasons that included: Ejay Day, AJ Gil, Nikki McKibbin, Ryan Starr, Jim Verreros, Julia DeMato, Carmen Rassmussen, Corey Clarke, Ricky Smith, Vanessa Olivarez, Charles Grigsby. Haley would’ve been in the final 2 or 3 of each of those seasons.

      • Kimberwyn says:

        Couldn’t agree more, probably the most overhyped contestant next to Adam Lambert. None of her performances deserve to be in the top 25.

    • JustMe says:

      really??? some of like this post where haley have 3 spots

  9. Lori says:

    Personally I thought “Billie Jean” was better than “Always Be My Baby”, but I loved all of David Cook’s performances.

  10. Jon says:

    I think Bobby McGee isn’t even Crystal’s best performance (not even 2nd or 3rd best IMO). I would have picked Up to The Mountain or Long As I Can See The Light. But nice list all the same. One list I really would like to see from you is Top 25 Best Contestants. :)

    • Leena says:

      I miss Crystal!

    • nodak says:

      Crystal Bowersox is awesome- I wish we could see more of her!

    • TheBeach says:

      Completely agree that it should have been “Up to the Mountain”…simply amazing.

    • Tom22 says:

      I think Crystal is seriously underated too.. I’d put all three of them on a top list.. but yeah I ‘d have to have a 50 top performances list and ranking those 50 in any order would be a fools errand for me. I’d put Lee Dwyzes the boxer on the list too.. maybe even a short list because that was an Iconic song in american history and I think he peformed it more true to its meaning than even the great Simon and Garfunkel team that created it… they just didn’t connect to being a city kid boxer.

    • Tahoe Mike says:

      My favorite was Long As I Can See The Light.

    • Jon says:

      Crystal IS so underappreciated. I kinda wish she was on a “good” season, because people always dismiss season 9 as a joke, when it had one of the most talented contestants ever (Crystal). Her Idol run was really excellent, great performance after great performance after great performance.

  11. erf says:

    COMPLETELY agree with the top 4 performances, though I’d put them in a different order. Really liked this. Though for this season, I’d include “Voclano” over “And I Am Telling You.” Also, I thought you said Skylar’s “Show Must Go On” was the performance of the season? I prefer “Stay With Me” anyway.

    • noa says:

      i also thought he liked Vienna more than a whole lotta love. Michael is confusing… :) anyway, i also liked Stay With Me better.

  12. JustMe says:

    and i who have nothing by haley must replace jordin’s

  13. Matt Webb Mitovich says:

    So glad to see Blake Lewis on here. I remember when he unleashed “Bad Name” on that stage, and you could feel the whole country go, “Whoa.”

    • Nicole says:

      I feel the same way. This is totally lame, but I remember standing up and cheering after Blake finished his “You Give Love A Bad Name” performance. It was just so completely original and exciting, like nothing ever seen on the Idol stage before, or since. Love him!

  14. Templar says:

    My top 3 is:
    Adam Mad World
    David C Music of the Night
    Siobhan Across the Universe

  15. Frozen says:

    Blake, Kris and Haley should have been lower and I think Jessica deserves a higher spot.

  16. Beth T says:

    I have never understood the fascination with Fantasia’s “Summertime” performance. It was a great performance – but #1 of all time on Idol? Not for me. Kelly’s “Stuff Like That There” is probably still my all-time fave. I’d put a lot of your other top 25 ahead of Summertime. (e.g. Mad World, House of the Rising Sun, A Song For You, Solitaire, Hemmorhage, In a Dream) I guess it just has to do with musical preferances…As a whole, that’s a good list. :)

    • aljal says:

      I posted a similar comment downthread about how tired I am of “Summertime” being touted (mostly by the honorable Mr. Slezak) as the best Idol performance ever. Never got the Fantasia hype then, still don’t get it now.

    • Vivi says:

      I always thought that Michael’s obsession with that song was just weird. I kept thinking, Lawd! I don’t remember hyperventilating about this performance like he did (and still does!). But the other day, I decided to watch the performance.

      And it’s pretty freakin’ epic. She did a marvelous job. It was passionate yet sincere. She felt the words. The audience was captivated. I now understand his obsession.

      It wouldn’t be my #1 choice on a Top 25 list but it is up for discussion.

    • tarasa says:

      DITTO to almost whole post

    • Tom22 says:

      me too on thinking summer time is only so so…. i posted elaborately below.. not only lost most of the Gershwin haunting minor chords and too thin of a voice to really get the viceral quality of the song even for a pop cover of the operatic masterpiece.

    • WishesRandyCouldn'tSpeak says:

      I remember Simon Cowell’s interview with Oprah last year – he also listed Fantasia’s Summertime as his favorite/the best performance on Idol.

    • IMHO, Fantasia’s performance of Summertime was the best and most soulful performance of that song that I’ve ever heard and I’ve heard a lot of them.

  17. justin says:

    kris allen won me over at falling slowly.
    i missed carly smithson in this shindig.

    • nich says:

      Yes Carly should have been up there too.

    • Leila says:

      I agree, Falling Slowly was his best performance on the show.

    • noa says:

      she’s in my list, a few posts down!

    • I Heart Slezak says:

      To Make You Feel My Love was my favorite Kris Allen performance. That was the one that made me stop and go — whoa. This kid isn’t just cannon fodder. To me that was where his momentum shifted, and as great as Falling Slowly and Heartless were, I would have chosen this one. I also would’ve dumped Blake and added Carly’s Blackbird.

  18. aljal says:

    Slezak, I love ya, but I knew before I even started looking at the slide show that “Summertime” would be No. 1. I beg of you to rethink your stance of always declaring this the best Idol performance ever!

  19. EPaw says:

    I would put Haley’s “Bennie and the Jets” above her “House of the Rising Sun” performance. The way the judges treated her still burns.

    This is a great list. Even though I could manage some minor quibbles about order, the song list is pretty much on point.

    WTG, Slezak!

    • Snsetblaze says:

      The judges treated her the exact same way they treated Elise and then hollie

      • Tom22 says:

        I didn’t even listen to the Judges this season.. love my DVR…. (tried here and there especially for the first few weeks but … I don’t know what I’d do either.. you got 30 seconds to say something clever that will go wwell on live TV and not be too harsh while trying to describe something thats just missing artistically – translating sound to words… its a tough thing to do well but I suppose they could comment more on what they heard the week before rather than the perforamance of the given night)

        Why they over praised some and came up with akwardly put reasons for others I don’t know. I’m sick of song choice discussions but I don’t mind when they talk about not beleiving they made the message of the song theirs… an that comment should have applied to almost all the Singers everynight this season… great voices but few and far between really making it sound like they were connected to the lyrics.

        • Listening to AI on an online stream that skips the commercials and lets you skip the judges’ comments is the most satisfying way to listen. One can also skip performances like I did with most of Philip’s this season and most, if not all, of Scotty’s last season. Doesn’t waste time on inane BS. If only they would let the contestants sing more and the judges talk less, AI would be a much better show by far! If Randy Jackson had any intelligence and self-awareness, he would resign as an Idol judge and stay in the background forever– never uttering another public comment on anything!

    • Tom22 says:

      Its funny I absolutely love every thing Haley sings.. i had all of her peformances on my iphone preordered her album (got it) but couldn’t wait and listiend to the 90 second snippets dozens of times.. I listened to her jazz club performance in N.O with Irvin Mayfield maybe 100 times…

      …but, of all her songs.. the House of the Rising sun was my least favorite of hers and I never play it and skip over it if it comes on shuffle. I don’t think any of it relates to Haley or Haley to it… not that she didn’t try but without a real dark side to ones demeanor acting in a dark way isn’t going to come across genuinely …. and the song makes no sense without dark undertones. Haley is my favorite idol ever and I’ve never been so excited about an artist.. I just didn’t like her on that song.

      • ejones says:

        The couple of lines in HORS starting ‘Oh mother……’ are the greatest bars of any song ever. The way she pulled back from a strong beginning to the quieter, typically Haley, melody of those lines, surprising and absolutely incredible.

        Whereas Haley was hardly ever allowed more than 2 minutes for a song, this season they have stretched the timings to as long as 3 and a half minutes, big advantage.

  20. Belle says:

    I would definitely replace Jessica’s And I’m Telling You with LaKisha’s…hers was so much better. I thought Jessica’s was just a bunch of unpleasant screaming.

    Remove Archie’s Imagine…gag me. Replace it with Tamyra’s House is Not a Home.

    I would keep Blake’s You give love a bad name because it was polarizing at the time & it got him into the finale but move it down to #24.

    Change Kelly’s selection to Natural Woman…both performances were fantastic though…and make it #1…make Fantasia’s #2.

    • john says:

      Definitely agree with you on LaKisha’s And I am Telling You over Jessica’s. It was the only time I cried while watching this show. With Jessica’s, I didn’t feel the emotional build-up of the song. It just seemed like a rapid fire sampling of all the big notes. If Michael really feels the need to put her in the mix, I would take her “Stuttering” performance over anything else. It was the only time I really felt that she made any magic.

    • Flex Wheeler says:

      Yes, Lakisha’s version would be in my top 5, maybe even top 3 of all time. Watch it back to back with Jessica’s and it’s superior. However the versions are very different. Lakisha’s version was probably half as long as Jessica’s.

      • Flex Wheeler says:

        Sorry meant to say that Lakisha’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is in my top 5 Idol performances of all time. I’m worried that Jennifer Holliday has killed that song for me though, after the Idol finale.

  21. Theresa says:

    Glad to see Bo Bice on the list (my favorite Idol contestant ever)

  22. RTW says:

    For me, the pinnacle of AI best performances will and forever belong to Haley Reinhart’s House of the Rising Sun. It wasn’t just the performance, but everything surrounding it: the neglect for being in the bottom three week after week, the nonsensical criticism that was given to her just before, the vulnerable a capella opening where you could hear a pin drop, the moody setting and the single bar stool as a prop, the straining and desperation wail from the Haley at the end, the subtle musical tendencies that made every word believable, and to close the show on that note when the stakes were so very, very high. It was Haley’s defining moment that ended her early years and early AI performances as an amateur to the coming-of-age as a young woman with a great career ahead of her. For a moment, it made everyone stop and remember that American Idol was originally about giving that unknown someone a once in a lifetime opportunity to become a big star. There have been great performances by Adam, Fantasia and Kelly, but Haley’s was a personal transformation that shook America.

  23. jeff says:

    Siobhan Magnus deserves a spot on this list

  24. chivern says:

    Love Kelly Clarkson, but Fantasia’s “Summertime” was far and away the most memorable performance I’ve seen on Idol. Archuletta’s “Imagine” was pretty fantastic too–I would have moved that up a bit. And Kris Allen’s Heartless was a great choice from a performer who was solid all season long.

  25. EmM says:

    Kat McPhee’s “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” or “Over the Rainbow”

  26. memphis805 says:

    My top 3,

    Josh Ledet (Man’s world)
    Adam Lambert

  27. Jessica should definitely be ranked higher! I mean, Blake over Jessica?? Really?! A voice like hers does not come across Idol all the time. I’d actually put her “I Will Always Love You” AND “AIATY” in the Top 10 performances of all time.

  28. Vivi says:

    While clicking the gallery pictures, with each selected performance popping up, I immediately get chills. This is a superb list, Michael. Superb. Granted, the placement is kinda off (for me, to you…?) but hey, it’s not MY ranking. It’s yours.

  29. buffy522 says:

    Excellent effort Slezak on a daunting quest! Just interesting that one of the people in the finals tonight does not have any songs on the list! And it’s just. And some people (probably since they made at least top 3) have more in my mind. I just wish Idol would have been 2 hours all along so that we would have more music from some of these greats (okay, especially Adam Lambert)!

  30. Lupelu says:

    My personal favorite AI performance is Tamyra Gray’s ” A House is Not a Home”. She should have been in the final with Kelly.

  31. Loved the choices (except your #1 pick), but definitely would have put It’s All Wrong, But It’s Alright in my Top 20. For me (for you), it’s in my Top 10, but I used to listen to Michael Johns when he played the local Atlanta scene so I’m biased. Agree that I would have used Bennie and the Jets over HOTRS for Haley. Totally agree with your choice for Crystal. Also missing was Kat’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow (sorry KL, not as good)… the reprise weakens it I guess. Over the summer, you should do a Top 25 Hollywood week performance ranking.

  32. jasin says:

    I’d add Nikki McKibbens Black Velvet to this list. She was underrated by most fans.

    • Christine says:

      Are you kidding me? She was just AWFUL! Rewatching her performances makes me wonder how the hell she even made the finals, let alone third place!

  33. Leena says:

    I’m a little hesitant to say it BUT I kinda-sorta-maybe think Hollie’s Bleeding Love should have been #25. I don’t know what it is, but it gives me freaking chills when I listen to it! Emotional, gorgeous & way better than the original. Other than that I’d say this is a great list!

  34. D says:

    Definitely agree!!! Would have loved to see Latoya London’s rendition of DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE in the mix.

  35. noa says:

    ok, Slezak. i will play by your rules. one song per contestant, only live ones from performance nights. this is my list:
    1. Vienna- Elise Testone.
    2. Moody’s Mood For Love- Elliott Yamin
    3. My Funny Valentine- Melinda Doolittle
    4. Mad World- Adam Lambert
    5. Bennie And The Jets- Haley Reinhart
    6. In A Dream- Bo Bice
    7. I Can’t Make You Love Me- Allison Iraheta
    8. Summertime- Fantasia Barrino
    9. Crazy on You- Carly Smithson
    10. Me and Bobby McGee- Crystal Bowersox
    11. Heartless- Kris Allen
    12. You Give Love a Bad Name- Blake Lewis
    13. Alone- Carrie Underwood
    14. I (Who Have Nothing)- Jordin Sparks
    15. You Send Me- Taylor Hicks
    16. Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?- Chris Daughtry
    17. Billie Jean- David Cook
    18. Imagine- David Archuleta
    19. Circle of Life- Jennifer Hudson
    20. Hallelujah- Jason Castro
    21. All I Do- Paris Bennett
    22. Sweet Thing- Lisa Leuschner (weird choice, i know. but i just remember this being the first Idol performance i’ve seen and really liked.)
    23. Over the Rainbow- Katharine McPhee
    24. So Small- Matt Giraud
    25. Volcano- Phillip Phillips

    2 very important points i need to make:
    1. i’ve never seen seasons 1 and 2. so they haven’t made the list.
    2. i’m only committed to the order of no. 1-4. all the others can move up or down. i just had a tough time thinking of the list (when you limit it to one song per singer!! so hard), that i don’t feel like thinking about the order. but the first 4 are in their correct places.

    now scream at me! i dare ya! :)

    • MA says:


      • noa says:

        MA- you rock. you made it to my top 5 people i will miss once this season is over. you know, if we’re ranking everything.

        • MA says:

          You too! I’ll try to find you on Twitter. I think I know you’re handle. I almost never tweet, though. Just spy.

          • noa says:

            i’m so much better on facebook, but i do tweet sometimes. mostly to Elise and Annie Barrett these days. (it’s @noanaaman)

          • Kitty says:

            noa, I found you! With both my personal Twitter and my musician Twitter. And when I saw that Queen Elise has actually replied to you, I started sputtering while trying not to release the string of profanities that formed in my head. (Because I’ve been tweeting her for months and nothing, so I’m very jealous.) But my personal Twitter is @KittyCEA and my musician Twitter is @KittyActually.

          • noa says:

            followed and followed! did you see how many times she has replied to me? and retweeted and favored?? (sorry, i’m being mean… :)) very proud of that! when Elise and I are best friends (i’m sure this will happen soon enough) i’ll make sure she replies to you as well! hey, maybe it’s just a matter of quantity… if you see how many times i’ve tweeted her (well, it’s embarrassing, but it gets results.)…

    • macy says:

      I like your list! If you get a chance, go to Youtube for some great Season 1 and 2 performances — if you’ve never seen those seasons you are in for a real treat. I would suggest: Season 1: Kelly Clarkston (Stuff Like That There, Natural Woman), Tamyra Gray (A Fool in Love, Minnie the Moocher, A House is Not a Home), Justin Guarini (Get Here); Season 2: Ruben Studdard (Kiss and Say Goodbye), Clay Aiken (Solitaire, Bridge Over Troubled Water). NOTE: I’m not saying all of these belong in the Top 25, I’m just saying these are some great highlights from those two seasons that you missed.

      • noa says:

        thanks for the tip! i saw some Kelly and Clay performances over the years (natural woman for sure, don’t know about the other one). i will look for everything you wrote.

        • macy says:

          Thanks Noa! Let me know what you think. :o)

          • noa says:

            ok, these are my thoughts so far (i’m supposed to write a paper so this is the perfect time to go on youtube and do everything but, right?):
            1. from what i’ve seen of Kelly so far, i actually like walk on by the most. i never heard about it before. natural woman was great, but i hate that high note that everyone liked.
            2. it’s weird to watch these performances after seeing seasons 7-11. Idol is very different these days. much more about vocals than song choices and rearrangements.
            3. Clay Aiken. ah. i don’t know…

    • Marie says:

      not sure how you have completely left off Joshua Ledet from your list. I can think of 3 of his performances that could have been in the top 25 performances of all time

      • noa says:

        mmm… because i don’t really like him? ;) i get why others do, but i just don’t see myself ever watching his performances again. he deserved to be in the top 3 and he is very talented, but i just didn’t enjoy him like others did. did you like my list besides that?

        • Marie says:

          I like the fact you have Taylor Hicks on the list. He, like Joshua, was certainly a dynamic performer. Still think you need to have Josh on the list :)

          • noa says:

            yeah, Elliott was my favorite that year, but Taylor had some great ones that i watched again since then. You Send Me was amazing.
            i will never include Joshua. sorry :) to me, S11 is all Elise. and i LOVED Volcano, so it there too. but if i was adding more than one performance for each contestant- Elise would get 2 more spots for WLL and Bold As Love (with Bold as love way higher the WLL).

    • DZ says:

      Finally somebody who loves Elliott’s “Moody’s Mood for Love” as much as I did. I was washing dishes during that episode of Idol and when he started singing, I literally walked out of the kitchen with my hands wet and soapy, mouth open, staring at the TV!!!

      • noa says:

        it’s one of the only ones i can’t stop watching over and over for years now. just amazing. i love Elliott!

    • Judy says:

      List should definately have Joshua Ledet’s Its a man world in at least the top 5….stop playing people…

  36. cami says:

    You seriously have Joshua at #3? Seriously? It invalidates the list.

    • CC says:

      YES!!! I know Sleasak has a thing for Joshua, and …whatever, but to put him above Adam’s performance, or Archuleta’s, or Cook’s, or…I just don’t get it.

    • Kimberwyn says:

      IA, it should’ve been #1.

    • Judy says:

      People just hate on Joshua for some strange reason. Not all of us like the same type of music but he should definately be in the top 3. Not only does he have the performance but his singing is incredible. Stop hating!!

  37. The #1 is Kelly Clarkson’s version of Natural Woman.

  38. Karen says:

    Good choices, but not exactly the order I would put them in. But hey, we shouldn’t agree on anything.
    I would love to see another list where it was exit performances, group numbers, hollywood week performances etc. (though I would eliminate auditions here, because there a millions of lists over the best auditions). And I would love to nominate Kris and Adam’s ‘We are the Champions’…. fave idol moment of all time

    • Lisa (@KittyKay3) says:

      We Are The Champions was the best idol moment EVER IMO. The joy and friendship between Kris and Adam just radiated. Season 8 should have ended there. Season 8 is still my favorite season, ending with Queen performance would have made it perfection!

    • TheBeach says:

      If we were allowed to do this I would definitely have to add Haley and Casey’s “Moanin’ “

  39. Diana says:

    I would’ve put Skylar’s Wind Beneath My Wings as her best performance and Michael John’s cover of Dolly Parton was definitely one of the best ever on Idol.

  40. Static says:

    I liked Elise’s Vienna a lot better than Whole Lotta Love, but both were amazing and pretty darn close if you ask me. I only started watching from Season 11 so there’s not much that I can say on something that involved 10 seasons that I didn’t watch.

    • TheBeach says:

      I’m with you on “Vienna”. I loved Elise’s live performance on “Whole Lotta Love” but it didn’t translate as well in the studio version. “Vienna” was great on both.

  41. bamabunny says:

    Would have replaced Haley’s selection with “What Is and What Should Never Be” and Cook’s with “Billie Jean” (and moved it up higher). Also, too bad you couldn’t include duet performances…my personal favorite performances from Allison Iraheta and Kendra Chantelle were respectively “Slow Ride” (with Adam Lambert) and “Blackbird” (with Paul MacDonald).

  42. Carly says:

    Constantine Maroulis…..Bohemian Rhapsody, anyone?

  43. bfly says:

    Totally missing is Kat McPhee’s Over the Rainbow!! That was stunning! Clay’s Solitaire should be much higher on the list and I would lose Jessica’s And I am Telling You.

  44. MissK says:

    I’d replace Jessica’s “And I’m Telling You” with LaKisha’s from season 6. That performance was incredible. It’s way too overlooked on lists of best Idol performances, in my opinion.

  45. MA says:

    Not a bad list, Michael. I would’ve put Elise and Haley higher would’ve chosen “Vienna” for Elise. I love that song so much, she did it so well, and I’m still thrilled she chose it for this show. Also, it was kinda cheeky (whether she planned it that way or not) because it’s all about telling a bunch of kids to step off. (Nicely and poetically, of course.)

    • noa says:

      ha! i haven’t thought about the lyrics that way. i really liked when she sang “i’ve paid my dues” in the queen medley. she sure has.

      • MA says:

        Yah, I liked that bit too. I also found “Bold As Love” cheeky, since she’d been given that ridiculous critique the week before about how she needed a better emotional connection to the music and “Bold As Love” personifies emotions as colors. But I don’t know how much leeway they have to change songs from week to week. For all I know, they pick at the beginning and it just worked out that way. Still loved it, though.

    • MA says:

      *higher AND. Dang.

  46. Jennifer says:

    Overall the list is good. I think David Cook’s should have been Billie Jean and I think Imagine and even Whole Lotta Love were better than his performance. I also think Benny and the Jets for Haley would have been better and it would have been first or second on my list. I never understood Summertime or Fantasia in general. I think she gets too much hype. I would not have put Man’s World that high on the list, maybe top 10. I think Volcano from Phillip should have showed up somewhere on there and also McPhee.

  47. scorpo says:

    I will never forget watching Fantasia sing Summertime. All the air had been sucked out of the room and I felt as if I was watching someone sing for the first time ever. Truly magical.

  48. Your Mom's Uncle says:

    Jordin’s I (Who Have Nothing) should have been #1. I’ve never gotten chills from an AI performance before or since that. It was amazing.

  49. Mari says:

    a lot of AMAZING songs missing and WRONG ORDER on so many of them…… oh well… everyone has their own music opinions……

  50. Annastacii says:

    Great list, but I would have also added Lee DeWyze’s version of hallelujah…. Chilling!

    • Lisa (@KittyKay3) says:

      Jason Castro had already had a moment with Hallelujah. Lee’s was good but not as good as Jasons. The same with Matt Giruard and Funny Valentine. It might have been a moment had Melinda not done it better a couple of seasons before.

    • Meghan says:

      I think Lee’s version is way underrated. It still holds up to this day. I actually like it better than Jason Castro’s.