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.

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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.)

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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!