Yep, it's time again to take a glance backward into Idol history, to choose the Ten Best 'Top 7' performances of all time. This list is dominated by women, although two rockin' men manage to sneak on. In addition only two winners appear on the list, with two famously evicted-before-their-time contestants grab the top two spots.
(As a reminder, performances from the current season are not eligible for on any of these Ten Best lists)
Ten Best Top 8 Performances of All Time
Ranking the 8th PLace Finishers
Ranking the 9th Place Finishers
Ten Best Top 9 Performances of All Time
Ranking the 10th Place Finishers
Ten Best Top 10 Performances of All Time
Ten Best Top 11 Performances of All Time
Ten Best First Finals Performances
Ten Best Semifinals Performances of All Time
1. Jennifer Hudson, "Weekend in New England"
It would have been a travesty if Jennifer Hudson had been voted off after any of her performances on American Idol, but it was particularly devastating that she got the boot after this showstopper, which, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the best performances ever seen on AI. It was here that we got a glimpse of what we would later see in droves in Dreamgirls -- that soaring voice and that ability to take a song and infuse it with such emotion that it, as guest coach Barry Manilow said, transcends "to another level." Simply magnificent.
2. Tamyra Gray, "If I Were Your Woman"
As I wrote in my post Is Sanjaya (Gulp) The Second Coming of Tamyra Gray, Tamyra, better than any contestant before or after, totally threw herself into that week's theme, embracing not just the music but the style as well. For 70's week, she appeared resplendant in an afro, long flowy skirt, and barefoot, to blow away the judges and audience with this Gladys Knight hit. One of Tamyra's best performances.
3. Vonzell Solomon, "I'm Every Woman"
Baby V was in the shadows of Carrie, Bo, and Constantine up until this point, but when she unleashed her inner diva on this Chaka Khan classic, she made sure she was in the shadows no longer. Hitting some of the highest notes that have ever been sung on the show, Vonzell announced she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.
4. Kimberley Locke, "New York State of Mind"
Kimberley had stuggled mightily the first few weeks of the competition to get into the good graces of the audience, but when she wrapped her golden vocals around the Billy Joel gem, giving the song a sultry, jazzy spin, she sewed up their love and affection once and for all.
5. Christina Christian, "Ain't No Sunshine"
Sometimes a song and performer meet and magic can happen. Christina certainly wasn't Season 1's strongest vocalist, but when she used her smoldering good looks and pleasent-enough vocals on this Bill Wither's tune, the result was, indeed, somewhat magical.
6. Bo Bice, "Vehicle"
Bo + classic rock = great performance. That formula worked several times for Season 4's rocker, and this may have been the best combination of the two. This performance was so good, it ended up the B-side of his single (featuring Richie Sambora on guitar).
7. Katharine McPhee, "Someone to Watch Over Me"
As far as I'm concerned, Katharine never sounds better than when she is singing standards ("Come Rain or Come Shine," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") and her performance of this Ella Fitgerald gem is no exception. Looking magnificent and sounding just as good, this is Katharine in her true element.
8. Fantasia, "It's A Miracle"
'Tasia goes to church! This is one of the strangest performances ever seen on Idol (with cut-aways to Fantasia's mother and daughter watching from backstage), but there is no denying the sheer force of energy and passion this girl can bring to a song. I loved it.
9. Chris Daughtry, "It's A Wonderful World"
Proving he was capable of showing a softer side, Chris wrapped his vocals around the tender song, providing an unexpectedly moving musical moment from the rocker. True, he didn't smile much, but he did show he's capable of more than just rockin' out.
10. Kelly Clarkson, "Don't Play That Song"
Even though I had never heard this song, Kelly sold it, riffing like crazy toward the end. Definitely not Ms. C's strongest performance of the competition, but it proved she could sing anything and make it work.