American Idol Best Performances

American Idol Farewell Week: The 30 Best Performances of All Time!

Hush, Idoloonie, don’t you cry-y-y-y.

Oh yes, I have spent the last week (OK, actually the last 15 years) reviewing, rewinding and re-listening to the greatest performances in American Idol history — and the time has come to count down the definitive Top 30.

It’s an impossible task, if I’m being honest. How do you separate raw, gut-busting emotion from pure, mind-blowing perfection? How do you leave out Pia Toscano and David Archuleta and Carly Smithson and Kree Harrison and Trenyce (oh, Trenyce!) and Sarina Joi-Crowe? How do you not wind up weeping into your YouTube and wondering if maybe the good folks at Fox are pulling our collective leg, that next January they’ll give us a Season 16 with fresh themes, invested mentors and the Banned Songs List we’ve been dreaming of since Season 5 or 6.

The aforementioned fantasy is against all odds. Take a look at me now. There’s just an empty space. (See what I did there?)

What is not empty is my gallery of the 30 Best American Idol Performances of All-Time. You may rage against my egregious snubs, quibble with my rankings, or send a strongly worded tweet to my Reality Check co-host Melinda Doolittle asking her to set me straight. (And you’d probably be right.)

But you can’t say the 30 performances I’ve recognized didn’t please the ears, stir the soul or earn their place in the gallery inside The House That Kelly Clarkson Built.

Click through my picks below, dab your eyes with a tissue, and hit the comments to tell me what I got right, where I went wrong and which performances should’ve made the final cut. It’s been great, these contestants have been great, and you’ve been great, too.