American Idol: 30 Best Performances of All Time

American Idol reaches its milestone 500th episode tonight, and whether you’ve been a faithful viewer for all 13 seasons — or merely rocked out to Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry on the radio — chances are Fox’s reality singing competition has had at least a little impact on your life.

RELATED | May Sweeps Scorecard 2014: Deaths, Weddings, Births, Sex, Resurrections, Firings and More!

In honor of getting halfway to 1,000, I’ve jumped off the Idol diving board and into the deep end of the musical memory pool to come up with a countdown of the 30 Best Performances in franchise history — and video links to each and every one of ’em! You’ll note some of my rankings differ from years past — it’s an Idoloonie’s prerogative to change his mind, after all — and that a few incredible contestants just missed making the cut. (Kree, Carly, Tamyra, Katelyn and LaKisha, y’all came sooo close.)

PHOTOS | Fall TV Preview: Your Guide to What’s New!

For the record, 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 yes, if I had another 24 hours, I’d probably make further tweaks, substitutions and self-flagellations.

But much like the Idol journey itself, there comes a time you have to put your pencil down, show your cards and hope that J.Lo won’t start her critique with “Baby…”

So click through my picks below, then tell me where I got it right, where I royally messed up, whom I unforgivably snubbed and for which contestants I chose the wrong performance. And for all my Idol news, recaps, commentary and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. ChellemaBelle says:

    The list is pretty good, but I think “Slow Ride” Adam/Allison should have been on there somewhere…

  2. I think we’re finally getting to that point in Idol history where I can think of so many performances that belong in a “top 30” list.

  3. Amber says:

    No one from Season 12 should be on this list IMO Every part of last season was awful

    • noa says:

      overall the season was awful, but there were several great performances- mostly from the top 2 who can easily and proudly stand beside any top 2 in Idol history (singing and performance level-wise).

    • Kate says:

      I don’t mean to get hyperbolic, but Amber, you’re insane. Candice Glover was a revelation. Sublime. And Kree, though she didn’t make this list, was wonderful too, as were a few of the other girls. It was a season of low lows but high highs too.

      • Amber says:

        Its fine if you think that. But I think every performance last year was horrible

        • Luiz says:

          Sorry, you’re just wrong. The season probably rubbed you the wrong way (and I don’t blame you, it was a horrible season!), but there’s no way anybody can deny that Lovesong deserved to make at least Top 5 in this list.

        • Bunny says:

          I totally agree. The season was so bad that I stopped watching religiously for the first time. This year I just stopped. (Not in my order) Daughtry, Aiken, Lambert, Clarkson, Underwood, Hudson and a couple of others set the standard. Now we hear the judges.

          • Jo March says:

            If you stopped watching regularly (I guess that’s what you mean by “religiously”) during season 12 how to you know there were no outstanding performances? You have a right to your own opinions but not your own facts.

          • While I agree with most every selection…..if you take voice and stage presence along with ability to work the crowd…..Adam Lambert has not been touched in any season. Season 8 we would have friends from the East Coast call and say….Wait till you see what Adam Lambert sings tonight. I quit watching when he lost to whats his name…..

        • will says:

          You are objectively wrong. Attaching “I think” to something wrong doesn’t mean you can claim it’s just an opinion and be done with it.

        • Phil says:

          There were many reasons to hate season 12 (awful judging, weak overall field of candidates, intentional gaming to ensure women were finalists, etc.) but Amber, you are wrong to say every performance was awful. Candice and Kree gave some outstanding performances – and I do mean outstanding. Too bad these performances got lost in all the negative buzz about the show itself.

      • OhMy says:

        Yea, no.

    • Angus says:

      This is Michaels list, based on his personal taste. Any one of us could come up with such a list. I would be interested in the lists of any of the posters here.

      • Mercedes S. says:

        Michael’s love for Jena Irene knows no bounds… I would have out Blue Eyed Lie before anything Jena did, and I would have included Adam’s “Ring of Fire”. And where was Hollie?

      • Danny says:

        Angus- I’m with ya. I’d like to know other posters top 10’s or whatever they decide. My #1 is clear cut. Paint it Black by Siobhan. After that my list would change every week. Some good choices on Micheal’s list, but I loved Carly Smithson’s Jesus Christ, Super Star too. I tend to go for the rocker chicks or rockers to begin with.
        I wish there was a way to make this a sticky type post where it stayed on top. I would like to be able to come back every few weeks or what have ya and see what people added to it.

    • Erika says:

      Lovesong was absolutely, 100% perfect. Season doesn’t matter.

    • deedee says:

      Amber, you’re just bitter that Michael didn’t choose your “My Funny Valentine”. ;)
      Seriously, though, I’m in complete shock that Candice Glover overtook the perennially-revered, Idol-Sacred-Cow, “Summertime” by Fantasia Barrino. Really, really shocked.

    • Danny says:

      @Amber- I totally agree. This year alone Jena, Caleb, and Jessica each had a bunch of songs by themselves that were as good as anything last year. My #1 song last year would have been by Janelle, not Candice.

      Then again, that’s the fun of these lists. My #1 All Time (Siobhan’s Paint It Black) didn’t even make his top 30. Haley would have been in there a bunch of times. Allison a few more. It’s fun seeing what other people have on their best of all time, even if it doesn’t match up with what I think.

    • connie says:

      I agree. I didn’t like last season at all. It was really boring. After Charlie left, the only thing interesting was Nicki’s drama. Not saying I liked her, mind you.

    • Daenarys T. says:

      Season 12 was awful? Seriously what was worst than season 13? Candice,Kree,Amber and Angie we’re all amazing. So many exciting performances!

  4. Adam says:

    Candice Glover’s “Lovesong” — done in the identical style of Adele’s cover — is the greatest Idol performance of all time? It shouldn’t even be in the top 100.

  5. CTZ says:

    I think you have to increase your selections to the top 50 best songs. There are so many other great performances out there.

  6. Jeremy says:

    I agree with most of it but why isnt Angie (last season) on here.

  7. BrewsterFly says:

    Katherine McPhee’s Over The Rainbow!! I love that performance.

  8. UGH says:

    I’m sorry Slezak, but every time you bring up Haley Reinhart, I take you less and less seriously. You’re out of your mind putting Bennie & The Jets at 6. That girl is terrible and grating, and the only reason she hasn’t been completely forgotten is because you keep reminding us of her existence,

    • Kim Moores says:

      You must be under the delusion that people in the comments wouldn’t simply mention her themselves.
      She’s an astounding talent, you just don’t like her. Bennie and the Jets is well placed…if not placed too low.

      • Angus says:

        Haley is talented and cool. However, I was never “astounded.” Words like “astounded” are reserved for the Kelly Clarksons of this world.

        • Kim Moores says:

          I enjoyed Haley as much as I enjoyed Kelly on the show. So astounding is the right word as far as I’m concerned.

          • Danny says:

            I didn’t watch in Kelly’s year. I started in Season 4. IMO Haley’s the best ever contestant. While Siobhan would have my #1 all time song, Haley would be the one with the most in my top 30.

          • JASon says:

            Not only was Haley one of the best contestants ever she also released the best post idol album ever.

        • tealeaves says:

          @Angus, were you “astounded” by Kelly Clarkson while she was on the show? If she had never sold much of anything after the show would you still, 14 years later, refer to her as an “astounding” contestant? I am curious. I did not watch the first season live and I have always heard that Justin was TCO that season.

    • Cip says:

      tUGh is right! Thank you!!! I was sick of hearing about her then and still am! I never understood the fascination there.

    • Lauren says:

      Really? Cause I think I would put it even higher. I think I would have it at number 2 and Kris Allen’s “Heartless” at number one.

    • Angus says:

      Not to mention strident, harsh sounding Kendra Chantelle, who couldn’t even make the top 10.

    • JayNC says:

      I absolutely remember her and have bought her music.

    • noa says:

      i think she was the best thing about season 10, and i love her album. she also had one of the best improvement arcs in idol history. so, maybe she’s just someone YOU (and probably others) don’t like and not just some obsession Slezak has…

    • AlyB says:

      For me, Haley ties Adam as my favorite Idol ever. She’s the only one whose entire collection of recordings I’ve purchased. So no, she will never be forgotten.

      • Danny says:

        Aly- I love these split agreements. I agree with Haley at 1. Adam would be top 15-20 or so for me though. Mad World rocked, but he also had some disasters. Season 8 was great. That year I had it Allison, Matt, Kris, Adam. I also like Lil Rounds and Danny a lot. I know Danny was in the minority on this site. If it didn’t feel like they over played his wife’s tragedy, I think he would have been received better. (ok, and his botching of Dream On- but I think by that time people were feeling like he was pimping his wife too much already)

    • peb says:

      Just before the start of this season Haley had 8 of the top 10 “American Idol” downloads on iTunes, and still has 3 of the top 10 with the season underway. She is the most versitle vocalist ever on Idol…with Kelly Clarkson being the best.

    • Kaikenna says:

      Yes I don’t understand the fascination action with her. Th wonky people who love her are Slezak and the idoloonies. I wouldn’t even put her on the list. So tired of hearing about her.

    • HTGR says:

      And I guess that is why a jazz great, after randomly hearing her once in his club, invited her on the spot to sing at Carnegie Hall with him? Why almost all of the former Idol greats from Adam to Kelly were telling people to vote for her her season? Why she was invited to sing at Ali’s birthday bash, the only unknown invited, the others legends. Why she became the first Idol to be invited to Lollapalooza? Why even some of the reviewers who often sneer at realty tv singing contestants rated her album with really high marks?

    • HTGR says:

      I think UGH spells out my name is Randy Jackson.

    • marg says:

      ugh, you crazy

  9. becky says:

    I didn’t watch every season, but glad to see Blake Lewis’s You Give Love a Bad Name, and although I LOVED Mad World, I think Adam Lambert could have been at #1 with A Change is Gonna Come. IMO, that was so far above anything else ever on Idol….

  10. Noah says:

    Slezak has always been so bias towards the big, voice girl singers. He doesn’t have a clue to what is current and relevant.

    • Lizabeth says:

      I disagree. I think Slezak knows what is current and relevant but knows that the auto-tuned pop starlets of today probably wouldn’t make the live voting rounds on most of these competition shows. Unfortunately, quality (for the most part) does not play a big part of our pop music world right now, especially where female vocalists are concerned.

    • will says:

      Key point: you said “current and relevant” instead of “good”

  11. Amie says:

    I was doing good with your list till we got to the very top. Fantasia’s Summertime was painful to me. Hated Adam Lambert’s Mad World, too. And Candice Glover’s Lovesong as No. 1? Yeah, no. This kind of thing is always subjective, so everyone’s list is different.

  12. Kim Moores says:

    Thoroughly disagree with the number 1 spot.
    Otherwise I’d rather this list be expanded because 30 isn’t enough to cover and I don’t believe these are the exact best 30 performances since the show began.

  13. Muriel says:

    I love Candice but no to her being nr 1. Fantasia belongs there! Also.. No more Casey James with Jealous Man makes me sad!

  14. Penny says:

    I loved Casey James singing Jealous Man and Lakisha Jones This Ain’t a Love Song.

  15. duranmom says:

    The whole list could have been made up of David Cook and Kris Allen songs and I would have been happy. Yes, I like a WGWG. ;)

    • casey says:

      I completely agree! David and Kris are my two favorite winners. A list of only their songs (and a few from Haley) would have worked for me.

      • tealeaves says:

        @Casey I agree with that. David Cook, Haley Reinhart, and Kris Allen would all have multiple entries in my Top 30. They all had great vocals, interesting arrangements, creativity and versatility. T

    • gsob822 says:

      Considering how many songs David Cook “made his own”, I am surprised that more of his numbers didn’t make the list. How can you forget Billie Jean, Hello, and others. And his version of Music of the Night was haunting. I am surprised with Michael. He always seemed to be Cook’s #1 fan. How fickle he has become!

  16. steamy says:

    IMO Candice is good but I don’t think she connects with the audience. In another season she would not have made past the semis.

    • Angus says:

      Candice was always a much bigger deal in the minds of Idol bloggers than she ever was in reality.

    • Timmah says:

      In fact, in another season she *didn’t* make it past the semis :).

    • Joe says:

      Candice connected with Slezak (and me) and this is his list. Just because everyone in the middle of country hates African American female vocalists for their “hollerating” on these shows doesn’t mean they’re right. They’re entitled to their opinion but they’re clearly wrong.

      • JayNC says:

        Oh please! Race is not an issue and neither is middle America. Shame on you for going there.

        • Joe says:

          I feel no shame. You watch enough of these shows and you realize African American women with major pipes threaten the audience. It’s why that guy Jake is in the top 2 of The Voice and not Sisaundra. You want to pretend that plays no part in it? Go right ahead. But you watch enough of these shows and read enough comments and you can see through it. African American women are always accused of screeching and screaming their way through the songs unless they are folksy/twee like Majesty.

          • JayNC says:

            Uh, ok. I guess that explains why 3 black women have won AI?

          • Danny says:

            Joe- I’m gonna disagree with ya. I enjoyed Sisaundra. Candice was ok, but more like the best of a bad lot. I actually would have had Janelle as the best of that bad lot, but the point is the same. Any non-connection to Sisaundra was because of the format of the Voice. That show doesn’t really allow ya to connect to anyone.

      • Angus says:

        I loved Amber. She was one of the best voices in Idol history. Nice try.

      • Timmah says:

        It has nothing to do with her race. There’s just nothing original or distinctive about her voice or style.

      • HTGR says:

        I loved Jordin Sparks, even Fantasia on the show, Sisaundra, Sasha Allen, Amanda Brown to just start to toss out a few names. Candice had a very good voice, but I wasn’t crazy about how she added over the top runs in places that just killed things and I have to say I even preferred Angie over her, by the end, overall, by a little. Did you hear the Star Bangled banner at the All-Star game from Candice? Because it was pretty amazing for the first few bars and then it became the national anthem of some country I’ve never even heard of she re-did the melody so much, added so much nonsense all over the place. I mean Mariah Cariah adds a bit too much nonsense for my taste too even, but at least she does it in artistic ways that don’t kill emotional momentum just as it has built and so on and it still sounds with her crazy voice, great.

        • HTGR says:

          And her voice wasn’t distinctive in tone or crazy, crazy like a Mariah Carey or Ann Wilson or Whitney Houston. She was very good but

    • Danny says:

      I agree. She was decent, but not great. If she had made it past the cuts in Season 11 she would have been shooting for 8th place. She’s lucky they waited a year. Someone had to win Season 12. My choice would have been Janelle, but I’d be saying the same thing about Janelle had she made the cuts in Season 11. She’d be shooting for 8th place too.

      People think about Candice’s top 4 performance or what have ya and compare it to Elise or someone and say Candice was better. Last year I watched most of the weeks of Season 11 along with Season 12. Meaning top 10 week in Season 12 I’d watch top 10 week of Season 11 too.

      While the themes didn’t line up to well, my feeling is Candice (or anyone from Season 12) would have been gone by 8th place had they competed in Season 11. A few of them tried out the year before and got cut. Candice, Amber, and Janelle if I’m remembering it right. Those cuts were correct IMO.

  17. Danielle Notaro says:

    C’mon man..Elliott killed w/some Stevie Wonder too!

  18. JKR says:

    Carrie Underwood’s Alone at #16? Really? Not for a second. Oh, and Candice at #1? This list is whack!

  19. Sara says:

    *Sigh* I’ll never understand the hoopla surrounding Fantasia. I wanted to cut off my ears every time I heard her sing or talk.

  20. Kaba says:

    Am I the only one who likes Haley’s “I Who Have Nothing” infinitely more than Candice’s?
    Surprised HOTRS isn’t in that list either.

    • Max says:

      I guess it’s one per contestant as always. Knowing Michael, he would probably put HOTRS and Benny and the Jets on the Top 10 (agree with the first, not too much with the second).
      What Is and What Should Never Be>Benny and the Jets (though not the exit performance, which is in my Top 5 ever), and I Who Have Nothing is in my Top 50

      • Kaba says:

        What Is and What Should Never Be didn’t do enough for me personally. Was gutted to see her fall…it was like some evil force was practically trying to throw her under the bus mid song.

    • Danny says:

      Kaba- Agree that Haley had the best IWHN. Jordan next, Candice 3rd. My list would have had a lot of Haley songs. I’m thinking he limited it to one per contestant.

  21. Kate says:

    This list is solid. Of course we’d all do it a little differently, but there have been so many great performances. If this was extended to top 40, I’d have liked to see Scotty’s “Gone,” Haley’s “You & I,” Kree’s “Up to the Mountain,” Clay’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Allison/Adam’s “Slow Ride,” David Cook’s “Hello,” and probably several others I can’t think of at the moment.

  22. lynn says:

    I think Haley’s performance should have been “House of The Rising Sun” …and I think it should have been higher. :P

    And I’m not sure Jessica deserves her spot. I really liked her voice, but her performances just weren’t as captivating as some others. But overall, pretty good list.

    • Max says:

      Which Jessica? (Meuse, most likely)

    • Diane says:

      I agree with you on HOTRS being Haley’s best performance but Benny was kind of a game changer for her so I understand it being there. I’m not sure if you mean Sanchez or Meuse for the Jessica but actually Blue Eyed Lie is my favorite performance this season so far so I have no issue with it being there! I don’t even remember Sanchez’s song so I need to go watch it again.

  23. ginaM says:

    Glad David Cook is on list, but Hello and Billie Jean were better moments.

    • JayNC says:

      Yeah, I always thought Billie Jean was his best performance.

      • Stormy says:

        I liked his “Music of the Night” best of all his performances.

      • Kaikenna says:

        Billie Jean was epic! And Jessica Sanchez should have been higher. If it was non completion she had a couple duets that we’re awesome. Knew You Were Waiting with Joshua Ledet and of course her duet with Jennifer Holiday in the finale! We doesn’t t get enough credit!

        • will says:

          Jessica had so many great performances! Stuttering, I Will Always Love You, The Prayer, and Sweet Dream stick out most in my mind.

    • Jenny says:

      Of the three I thought Always Be My Baby was my favorite. But the other two are just as amazing and should be on the list.

    • tealeaves says:

      David Cook should have been in the top 3 with something. Based on vocals. Based on water cooler moments. Based on creativity. Based on memorable performances that stand the test of time. I feel like he is harmed in rankings like this because he has several songs to choose from. There isn’t just one defining song that won him the title. IMO Billie Jean and Always Be My Baby, at a minimum, should have both made this list. I’d have put Billie Jean in the top 3.

  24. Lking says:

    I would put Adams A Change Is Gonna Come at number 1. I am not into big voice gospel type singers, so Candance as no. 1 a big miss. I agree Slezaks OTT adoration of Hailey has become tiresome. I think adding Jessuca to this list nice, but I can’t take Jena at all. I think Cakeb has had better performances.

  25. Trina says:

    Chris Daughtry – Suspicious Minds…..the song that sent him home was my favorite of that season. I had to take a long break and skip a few seasons before I could watch again

  26. Mary says:

    I give you credit because truthfully It is tough to narrow down to just 30 after several years.
    I agree with most of them, maybe not the order but at this stage doesn’t matter. I am glad to see the girls from this year on your list.

  27. Timmah says:

    Jessica Sanchez is way too low on this list, and she had much better performances than AIATYING.

  28. There is no way that Joshua LEDET is not one of the top singers that ever has been on AI. Got more standing ovations than anybody ever. All Of HIS Songs Were great, but none better than it’s a man,s, man’s world.

    • Cip says:

      I love Joshue Ledet too. He stands out (along with Kris Allen) as my favorite idol of all time. I would have put his version of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” and Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” in my top 10 too. The funny thing was that he appeared to have no idea of just how crazy good he was.

  29. Diz says:

    I’ve watched every episode & I don’t remember a lot of these people. Therefore, I have no idea how they could make the list when I don’t even remember them.

    • Kate says:

      Talk to your doctor about your memory troubles. Everyone on this list went far in their respective seasons. There is no one obscure on this list except for Kendra Chantelle who didn’t make the final group.

      • Kate says:

        (BTW I realize that could sound a little nasty but I didn’t mean it that way. If you truly have watched every episode, it’s troubling that you wouldn’t remember these people, most of whom finished in the finals of their seasons or won.)

  30. Larc says:

    Interesting list, but unrealistic since nobody has more than one song. Some additional performances by those who are listed beat less distinctive entries on the list hands down. Where are Clay Aiken’s “Build Me Up, Buttercup,” David Cook’s “Billie Jean” and Adam Lambert’s “Tracks of My Tears” for instance?

    • Stormy says:

      Or Clay’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Adam’s “I’m Feeling Good”, and Cookie’s “Music of the Night”. Not to mention Siobhan Magnus’ “Across The Universe”.

      • TrickyGreyArea says:

        Adam’s studio version of “Feeling Good” is one of my favorite vocal performances by anyone period, but I wouldn’t rate the TV version as highly. The epic one-two punch of “Ring of Fire” and “Tracks of My Tears” deserves a shout-out, though. And I would definitely put “Bridge Over Troubled Water” over “Solitaire” for Clay.

  31. Kaba says:

    My all time favorite performance will forever be Allen on Heartless
    Acoustic Kanye? Genius.

    • Leigh says:

      Of all the comments on here, this one is the truest. That performance won him the title. It was incredible.

  32. Aprilcot says:

    So disagree with Jessica and especially Jena being on this list. I loved Jessica, but she doesn’t hold a candle to a lot of other contestants. The whole time Jena was performing, I kept thinking “This is *awful*, but I’m sure tomorrow everyone is going to try and convince me that it was a ‘moment.'” I think Allison’s Cry Baby should have made the list, as well as Katherine McPhee’s Over the Rainbow and Phillip Phillips’s Volcano.

    • Ryan says:

      I completely agree on Philip Philip’s Volcano. I still go back and listen to his version from time to time, and I feel like it’s the more iconic Philips song from his season. It’s easily the performance of his that made me a fan.

  33. Joe says:

    Skylar makes Meuse look like a corpse. Stay With Me will always be one of my favorites. And Melinda’s My Funny Valentine deserves to be in the top 5, probably top 3 all time for me with Lovesong and Mad World.

    • Steph says:

      And Meuse makes J-Lo sound like a printer out of toner. What’s your point?

      • Joe says:

        J. Lo makes J. Lo sound like a printer out of toner…and she was never a contestant. My point is Meuse had a sleepy run to the top 4 and no matter how much people can try to rally around her, she’s about as interesting to watch as C-Span

    • will says:

      I would have given Skylar Gunpowder and Lead instead of Stay With Me. Given that I actually still remember the former.

  34. Max says:

    Did you learn nothing from last year? Don’t do these lists until the end of the season, because there might be a Candice Glover I (Who Have Nothing)-level performance before the balloons fall (as Randy exits from the show forever).
    House of the Rising Sun>Benny and the Jets (both are amazing).
    Oh, and will you be making one of these for The Voice, or are there not enough worthy performances yet?

    • Kim Moores says:

      I’m fairly certain there are 30 performances from the Voice that deserve a list.
      I can name 3 from the current season already. Including blind auditions.

    • will says:

      This is especially relevant in light of Jena’s Creep tonight. It was a showstopper in every way.

  35. noa says:

    i have an important test tomorrow, so this is the perfect time to spend 30 minutes making my own list! a few notes:

    1. like Slezak (though he hasn’t mentioned it this time), i will only give one spot for each contestant (otherwise my list will be 50% Elise Testone and the rest Elliott Yamin, Melinda Doolittle and Carly Smithson).
    2. i started watching in season 3 (so no S1 and S2 on my list).
    3. this year i stopped paying attention around top 12 week (except for some recaps and of course Reality Check), so you won’t be seeing any S13 on my list either.
    4. i think this year’s list is different than last year’s.
    5. i only counted 26 contestants i truly loved even one one of their performances. i loved many more, but from the same contestants.
    6. only places 1-4 are actually in order. the rest aren’t really ranked.

    here goes:

    1. Elise Testone- Vienna
    2. Elliott Yamin- Moody’s Mood for Love
    3. Melinda Doolittle- My Funny Valentine
    4. Adam Lambert – Mad world
    5. Carly Smithson – Here You Come
    6. Bo Bice- Whipping Post
    7. Allison Iraheta- I can’t make you love me
    8. Lisa Leuschner – Sweet Thing
    9. Phillip Phillips – Volcano
    10. Haley Reinhart – Bennie and the Jets
    11. Jessica Sanchez – Stuttering
    12. David Cook – Billie Jean
    13. Carrie Underwood – Alone
    14. Kree Harrison – Don’t Play That Song
    15. Fantasia Barrino – Summertime
    16. Taylor Hicks – You Send Me
    17. Crystal Bowersox- Up to the Mountain
    18. Candice Glover- Lovesong
    19. Blake Lewis – You Give Love a Bad Name
    20. Kris Allen – Ain’t No Sunshine
    21. Diana Degarmo – Don’t Cry Out Loud
    22. Chris Daughtry- Hemorrhage (In My Hands)
    23. Matt Giraud- So Small
    24. Elise Testone- Bold As Love (yeah, had to put her here twice…)
    26. Jennifer Hudson – Circle Of Life
    27. Jordin Sparks- I Who Have Nothing

    • Timmah says:

      I like your list a lot better. Here You Come Again is definitely top 10 for me, and completely missing from Slezak’s list. Stuttering is a good choice for Jessica too, of course you could also throw IWALY up there.

      • noa says:

        look, Jessica always sang well. however, choosing IWALY seemed so obvious to me. and Stuttering was a song she LOVED and connected to and that was missing for me ith Jessica sometimes, as much as i was impressed with her abilities. also, it was an original choice and modern. so i give her lots of imaginary points for that. loved S11 the most anyway.

    • Rachel says:

      THANK YOU for remembering Diana Digarmo’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud”! I will never forget that performance. It still gives me chills if I pull it up on YouTube.

    • wendie says:

      When I saw Michael’s list, I said I’d substitute Elliot’s Moody’s Mood for Love. I had never heard that song before and it made me sit up and take notice of him for the first time. Really showcased what a world class voice he had. I ended up singing it for weeks and downloaded that short clip to play over and over.

    • Free Bird says:

      YES! This list is awesome. Elliott Yamin FTW. Best technical singer on idol.
      I miss him. And his mother.
      Other than the songs on this list, I’d like:
      Kree Harrison – Up the Mountain, Crying, Stars
      Kris Allen – Ain’t No Sunshine, Falling Slowly
      Basically all of the top 10 from season 8 (Danny Gokey, anyone?), but thank you for remembering Matt Giraud and his beautiful falsetto
      David Cook – Hello
      Alex Preston – Fairy tales

      Am I the only one who thinks Chris Daughtry’s Walk the Line was top 30 performances worthy?

      • noa says:

        of course, one of the rules for building my list was one performance per contestant. otherwise i’d add some of the ones you mentioned (except for Gokey because… just no).
        also, Kree’s Stars was fantastic, but wasn’t in a live show. my favorite Kree performance was Evidence, but it wasn’t “eligible” for the list :)

  36. cathyk says:

    Can’t even begin to believe that none of Scotty’s performances are one here,,,,AMAZED,,,Where Were you When The World Stopped Turning,,,She Believes in Me,,,,etc………The best Idol ever,,,,he’ll be here long after any of the ones on this list….

    • JayNC says:

      Interesting perspective cathyk but I doubt he will ever reach the level of Carrie or Kelly. Scotty always seemed rather generic to me, much like Dexter this season. Something about him personally I think attracted a lot of people and made them vote for him. I wonder how far he would have gotten this season what with the vote limits.

  37. Lynn says:

    Adam Lambert- Mad World will always be #1 for me.

  38. Thilia says:

    Mikey likes it! But meh, for the rest of us it is a pretty bland bowl full of songs.

  39. Agent Smith says:

    In checking DIGITAL song sales only, for Idol alum, here are the wiki figures for some of those who are NOT in the top 30 for sales —we all have our own opinions and remember what we liked the most ———— this is what the download music buyer said—

    31 Danny Gokey 8 (3rd) 211,000[5]
    32 Allison Iraheta 8 (4th) 161,000[5]
    33 Colton Dixon 11 (7th) 134,000a
    34 William Hung 3 (auditioner) 127,000[5]
    35 Diana DeGarmo 3 (2nd) 119,000[5]d
    36 Haley Reinhart 10 (3rd) 94,000a
    37 Pia Toscano 10 (9th) 65,000a
    38 Chris Medina 10 (Hollywood) 61,000a
    39 Candice Glover 12 (1st) 48,000a
    40 Kristy Lee Cook 7 (7th) 45,000a
    41 Jessica Sanchez 11 (2nd) 39,000a
    42 James Durbin 10 (4th) 37,000a
    43 Stefano Langone 10 (7th) 28,000a

    • noa says:

      but this is for the music they made AFTER the show, right? he’s ranking performances on Idol, not best selling albums.

  40. Agent Smith says:

    Here’s the TOP 12 in digital sales as of last wiki.

    Rank Artist Season Total
    1 Kelly Clarkson 1 (1st) 30,158,000[1]c
    2 Carrie Underwood 4 (1st) 29,623,000[1]c
    3 Daughtry 5 (4th) 13,720,000[1]c
    4 Jordin Sparks 6 (1st) 10,585,000[1]c
    5 Phillip Phillips 11 (1st) 7,472,000[1]c
    6 Adam Lambert 8 (2nd) 5,235,000[1]c
    7 David Cook 7 (1st) 4,571,000[1]c
    8 Kellie Pickler 5 (6th) 4,189,000[1]c
    9 David Archuleta 7 (2nd) 3,497,000[1]c
    10 Kris Allen 8 (1st) 3,317,000[1]c
    11 Scotty McCreery 10 (1st) 2,738,000[1]c
    12 Jennifer Hudson 3 (7th) 2,605,000[1]c

    • tealeaves says:

      @Agent_Smith thanks for this info!
      One thing to keep in mind is that for earlier seasons the performance songs were not allowed to chart on iTunes and the sales for those songs were never published unless they sold enough to appear on a billboard chart. For instance, the week David Cook won in season 7 he set a Billboard chart record by having 11 songs debut on the Billboard 100 in 1 week. He sold over 1 million singles in one week. Most of the sales from that week are included in his total sales figures only because they were made public when the songs charted. But we have no idea how many singles he had already sold during the course of the season because those numbers were never published. David Archuleta also charted that same week so those weekly numbers would have been published. But no other sales from that season or earlier seasons would be reflected in the artist’s digital download numbers. Not unless they sold enough in an individual week to chart on Billboard somewhere, and if the numbers where then published by someone outside of Idol.
      I don’t remember what season they started allowing the AI performance songs to show in the iTunes ranking.

  41. Kinghesh says:

    Where’s JENA’s Creep. I thought it was better than the Elvis cover.

  42. Axel says:

    My top 10 ( but I did not see all seasons and I am a Glambert)
    10. Paint it black (Siobhan Magnus)
    9. It’s a man man’s world (Joshua Ledet)
    8. I who have nothing (Jordin Sparks)
    7. You gave love a bad name (Blake Lewis)
    6. Lovesong (Candice Glover)
    5. Billy Jean (David Cook)
    4. Over the rainbow ( Katherine Mc Phee)
    3. A whole new world (Ruben Studdard)
    2. Heartless (Kris Allen)
    1. A change is gonna come ( Adam Lambert)

    • ohreli says:

      I was just about to leave a post that I would add Siobhan’s Paint it Black and Cook’s Billy Jean. Definitely second those choices. I dont think I have ever watched a clip over and over (in one sitting!) as much as I did Paint it Black!

  43. Agent Smith says:

    yes, Billy Jean (David Cook) was super.

  44. BroadwayBaby says:

    Watched a few of the clips and you know how many times the camera panned to the judges? ZERO! Zero times.

    • Agent Smith says:

      Little ways to influence the viewer. Pan to the Judges, or to someone in the audience that adds-to, or detracts from the image of the performer or performance itself.

      Ever notice that for one of the now eliminated female performers, that the camera would constantly zoom way-in on her eyes, so the Judges could see if they could critique that there wasn’t enough “emotion” in her eyes that fit the song??

    • Danny says:

      Yea, for whatever reason this year they think we want to see the judges all the time. Basically it’s some guy from Sweden who thinks all Americans like Lopez, not knowing what most of us really think about her.

  45. NEMO says:

    David Cook’s performance of The World I Know in the finale was maybe my most memorable TV moment ever, let alone Idol performances. A moment of breathtaking bravery AND artistry.

  46. Paul says:

    LaKisha Jones – Thats Not a Love Song should be on this lis!

  47. Marla says:

    I haven’t watched all the seasons but I an tell you I’d put Jason Castro’s Hallelujah, Clay Aiken’s Solitaire way above where you rated them Michael. Additionally I’d put Kris Allen’s Heartless also further up than a few of those songs and I’d add Clay Aiken’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and Kris Allen’s Ain’t No Sunshine, along with Jason Castro’s Over The Rainbow to that list.

  48. Cirse says:

    MY BB ALLISON I WILL ALWAYS CAPSLOCK FOR YOU. I can’t listen to season 8 performances by any of the contestants without getting all misty-eyed. Not a dud in the whole bunch imo. Oh, the days before the judge panel became a game of musical chairs, before the show became a huge promotional tool for every other Fox flop, and Idol was still producing an acceptable ratio of talent to cannon fodder. Is it weird that I am kinda nostalgic for even Danny Gokey’s bizarre awkwardness?


    • scream on says:

      lol o lawd why you bring him up. took me years to eradicate his aerosmith shriek out of my nightmares.

    • tealeaves says:

      lol @Cirse! season 8 was one of the last seasons before “superstar” judges jumped on the bandwagon of this show to sell themselves and their own music.

    • Free Bird says:

      Tvline should create a like button for comments. Like, like, like, a million likes for this!

  49. davey says:

    I don’t this Jena Irene or Jessica Meuse belong on a top Idol performance list. Sorry.

  50. Karen says:

    Top 10 with the same rules applied (only started watching from season 5):
    10: Melinda Doolittle: Nutbush City Limits
    9: Alex Preston – Say Something
    8: David Cook: Always Be My Baby
    7: Phillip Phillips – Volcano (backup choice: Home)
    6:Jordin Sparks – I Who Have Nothing
    5: Michael Johns: It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right
    4: Kris Allen – Heartless (backup choices: She Works Hard for the Money & Falling Slowly)
    3: Elliott Yamin – A Song For You
    2: Blake Lewis- You Give Love A Bad Name (backup choice: Time of the Season)
    1: Adam Lambert – Mad World (Backup choices: Tracks of My Tears & Whole Lotta Love)

    • Jill Moya says:


      • Kaba says:

        I’ve never seen someone so hellbent on attacking contestants physical appearance as you are.
        It only makes me imagine what kind of American Horror Story you must look like.

        • Jill Moya says:


          I look just the opposite of what you think, first of all! Second, what I said was true…why complain! Don’t be so sensitive…Life is too darn short! Maybe I should lie…ALEX IS WONDERFUL. SUCH A SMOOTH SINGER AND WONDERFULL DRESSER….HE IS, HE IS HE IS! AND HE’S SO HANDSOME, HE’S A CHICK MAGNET! HAPPY??????????????????

          • Kaba says:

            I’ll believe it when I see it. Otherwise, I’ll just laugh a lot.
            Now, I believe you have me mistaken for someone who’s upset.
            I’m perplexed really. I don’t need you to go about claiming Alex is some chick magnet.
            It’s just intriguing how hellbent you are on making a mockery out of his looks..Jess’s too. I’m sure there were others, but those two obviously stood out.
            You just look silly.

          • Michael Johns says:

            Classic Jill!

      • TAG says:

        We’re obviously not so “hung up” on the almighty appearance in our region where Alex hails from. Pity for you.