The Ashley’s Top 10 Favorite ‘American Idol’ Performances Ever

There have been some great performances since American Idol premiered in 2002. With the 14th season of the show premiering tonight, The Ashley decided to look back at the previous seasons and pick her favorite 10 performances of all time. Surprisingly, most of the standout performances have been from contestants that didn’t win.

Here, The Ashley breaks down her Top 10 favorite performances from the last 13 years of the show.

Don’t agree with The Ashley’s list below? Did she forget your favorite performance? Let her know by leaving a comment below!

On with the show!

10. David Cook “Always Be My Baby”
April 15, 2008

Sure most people will hype up David’s unique versions of Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello,” or his take on “Billie Jean” (both very good) but The Ashley put this song in the 10 spot due to the fact that it takes big cajones for a guy to sing a song originally performed by a woman, especially if that woman is Mariah Carey! David’s version of “Always Be My Baby” turned the mid-1990s sappy pop song into an amazingly catchy rock ‘n’ roll tune that could play on the radio today and be a huge hit. It started a little shaky, but by the end, David had worked it out.

9. Andrew Garcia “Straight Up”
Hollywood Week, 2010

Andrew’s version of Paula Abdul’s hit “Straight Up” came as a surprise to everyone, especially the judges during Hollywood Week in 2010. Although he had stood out with some of his other songs, he basically sprinted to the head of the pack after this song. His slowed-down, super smooth version of the Paula dance hit was a great success. Unfortunately, it set such a high standard that everything Andrew did afterward was constantly compared to it by the judges and America. Although he never had another amazingly great moment while on Idol, he will forever be remembered for giving one of the best auditions ever. You’ve got to feel bad for the guy that had to follow Andrew after this!

8. Haley Reinhart “Benny & the Jets”
March 30, 2011 & March 9, 2011

Haley’s choice on Elton John week was so suited for her voice that it sounded like it was written for her. Her jazzy, spunky performance left the media who had been cheering for her to go home each week, speechless. Haley, we never knew you had it in you. (Well, The Ashley did!)

7. Brooke White “Let it Be”
March 11, 2008

Brooke sang this Beatles classic during Season 7 with such beautiful tenderness that it had to make this list. You could just tell that Brooke was pouring her heart and soul into that performance. She actually looked like she was going to break down in tears during the song. She was voted off way too soon!

6. Crystal Bowersox “Up to the Mountain”
Finale Week, 2009

Crystal and Lee DeWyze were going head to head the night before the 2010 finale to see who would be crowned American Idol the next day. Lee and Crystal were neck and neck until Crystal’s final song, “Up to the Mountain.” The lyrics and tone of the song fit Crystal so perfectly that it seemed inevitable that she would be named the winner. (She was robbed, of course.) The next day, she revealed that she had broken up with her boyfriend, Tony, right before the performance, which is probably what stemmed the “fire in her belly” as Kara called it. Simon Cowell’s very last critique on the show was for this song. He told Crystal “that was outstanding.”

5. Katharine McPhee “Come Rain or Come Shine”
March 21, 2006

Sure, Katharine’s more popular songs were “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Who Wants to Live Forever” but The Ashley feels like this sexy, sultry performance has been overlooked. Katharine pretty much gave a flawless performance every week but was robbed in the end by Taylor Hicks. Her version during 1950s week proved how strong her voice actually was. The Ashley has always felt she was one of the most overlooked American Idols.

4. Jordin Sparks “I (Who Have Nothing)”
March 20, 2007

This was the performance that made everyone realize that Jordin was a true contender to win Season 6. Despite her obviously strong voice, she didn’t really stand out from the pack, and was almost certain to be voted off prematurely because of this. Her performance of Shirley Bassey’s “I (Who Have Nothing)” made everyone in America finally notice Jordin. This was the performance that made Blake Lewis (who up until that point had been the favorite and probably thought he had it in the bag) crap himself.

3. Lee DeWyze & Crystal Bowersox “Falling Slowly”
May 11, 2010

Lee and Crystal joined forces during Top 4 night to give this stunning performance of “Falling Slowly.” Kris Allen had done a wonderful job with this song the season before, making it a risky choice for Lee and Crystal; however, it ended up being one of the most talked about performances of Season 9. Both are powerful singers on their own, but together they were dynamite!

2. Clay Aiken “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Finale Week, 2003

Clay’s take on this classic song the night before the Season 2 finale rivaled the original version, as well as Elvis Presley’s. Clay demonstrated his amazing voice control and delivery during this performance, causing Simon to tell him that his performance could win him the competition.

TIE 1. Adam Lambert “A Change is Gonna Come”
Finale Week, 2009

The Ashley saved the best for last, kiddies! Although it was hard to narrow it down and pick the best performances, The Ashley finally decided on this one, due to Adam’s amazing vocal control, and those out-of-the-world notes he hit! Many have tried, but nobody else on ‘Idol’ has ever come close to hitting those notes. If ever a man sang the beJesus out of a song, this is it.

1. Carrie Underwood “Alone”
March 22, 2005

Carrie gave an outstanding performance of Heart’s “Alone” during Season 4. Due to the amazing vocal display, The Ashley will forgive the curly teased bangs and leather jacket ensemble. Many ‘Idols’ since Carrie have attempted to sing this song and failed miserably. (The one exception is Alison Iraheta, who did a pretty good job). Carrie nailed it. Many people don’t realize how hard of a song that is to sing, but Carrie made it look easy! Take note, future ‘Idol’ ladies, this is how you sing this song. Actually, you shouldn’t even try it. Simon told Carrie after this performance that she would not only win the show but would go on to sell more records that any other Idol. Um…yeah, he pretty much called it.

Some things to note: The Ashley did not watch Season 1 of American Idol, therefore did not include any of those performances. She also did not watch Season 13 but then again…who did?!

Honorable Mentions go to Jennifer Hudson for “Circle of Life” and Fantasia for “Summertime” and Phillip Phillips’ “Home.”

5 Responses


  1. I just clicked to read the article to see if Chris Daughtry would be on this list. I agree with “hmm” this list ISN’T complete without Chris!


  2. This list isn’t complete without a performance from Chris Daughtry.. The finals of season 5 should have come down to him & Katharine. Daughtry (musically) is the most successful non-winner in idol history, he deserves a spot on this list!


  3. This is really the first season of American Idol that I have watched so I’m not an “experienced Idol fan”.. so I only have two performances for this season. I vote that Haley’s song by Adele, Rolling In The Deep, was EPIC, just like the song you picked for her, it sounded like the song was made for her. And my last vote would be for James’ song by Muse, Uprising. It was also EPIC. I never was much of a James fan before this song. But he rocked that song out of the water. I loved his song better then my two favorites, Scotty and Lauren, whose songs I cant even remember. I even made my boyfriend listen to it. =]

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