With this year's finale right around the corner, it's time to rank the Ten Best 'Top 3' Performances of all time. This is a round that has produced some of the most memorable performances in Idol history. Interestingly, while four of the five winners have a performance that made the list, the top 4 spots are actually taken by runners-up.
Reminder: This year's performances are not eligible for the Ten Best lists.
Here we go...
1. Katharine McPhee, "Over the Rainbow"
When it was first announced that Simon Cowell had chosen this song for Katharine to sing, I'm sure there was a lot of eye-rolling going on around the country (my own eyes included). But when she appeared on screen, looking gorgeous as she draped herself across the floor, and started singing the rarely-sung opening a capella, all doubts immediately vanished. Rarely have a song and singer merged so beautifully on the Idol stage, as Katharine gave an emotional, moving, incredibly well-sung and interpreted performance. This is one of the most dazzling performances in Idol history.
2. Bo Bice, "In a Dream"
There has been a lot of talk about all of the risks Blake Lewis has taken this season, but one of the biggest risks in Idol history came when Bo Bice elected to sing, completely a capella, the little-known song "In a Dream." Not only did he sound great, and do something that no performer had done before him (or, for that matter, since), he reminded us what the Idol competition is all about -- pure voice. They start their Idol experience by singing a capella in front of the judges, and Bo completed the circle by doing the same thing in the Top 3. Totally balls-y and totally fantastic.
3. Diana Degarmo, "Don't Cry Out Loud"
Who would have thought that a treacly 70's ballad by Melissa Machester could have such life in 2004? Diana's style may not have been to everyone's liking, but as her voice soared on the choruses of this tune ("Don't cry out looooooooooooooooud") it became impossible for even her biggest detractors to acknowledge how much talent this teenager had.
4. Clay Aiken, "Unchained Melody"
We've heard many times throughout the seasons that this is Simon Cowell's favorite song, but of all the contestants who have attempted to do it justice, Clay is the only one who has succeeded (Kellie Pickler's Season 5 rendition ranks as one of the very worst). Although we hardly needed another reminder, this performance confirmed that Clay's voice was truly magical.
5. Kelly Clarkson, "Without You"
This is probably one of the most challenging songs ever tackled on the Idol stage, and Kelly managed to make Mariah Carey's rendition look practically irrelevant after wrapping her golden voice around the tune. Somehow she managed to step it up even further on her results show performance of the song -- in fact, if I could have included Kelly's results show performance on this list it probably would have grabbed the #1 spot. It was readily apparent by this point in Season 1 that Ms. C could do no wrong.
6. Kimberley Locke, "Inseparable"
Kimberley didn't have a chance in hell at making the finals in Season 2, but it didn't stop her from performing her heart out. All three of her performances that evening were fantastic, but best of all was this Toni Braxton number, which perfectly suited K-Lo's rich, sultry tones. She wasn't going to go any futher in the competition, but she certainly left the viewers with a good taste in their mouths.
7. Taylor Hicks, "Try a Little Tenderness"
Once Chris Daughtry had gotten the boot back in Season 5 it was pretty clear Taylor was going to take the title, and he made further strides at securing his claim to the top spot with this spirited performance. It was just the trick to get his "Soul Patrol" all fired up, and may have even gained him a new fans in the process. The question is -- where did all those fans go?
8. Carrie Underwood, "Making Love Out of Nothing At All"
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Carrie Underwood + 80's power ballad = sheer bliss. While this performance didn't have quite the punch of her earlier triumph "Alone," wailing the Air Supply tune helped her show she could do more than sing contemporary country tunes.
9. Elliott Yamin, "I Believe to My Soul"
The true sign of a great Idol performance is when a contestant can sing an unknown song and really make it work. Elliott accomplished this feat with his final performance of the season, taking the little known tune and using a combination of soulful vocal licks and his undeniably likeable personality to hit this one completely out of the ballpark. He may not have made it to the finals, but he's a winner in my book.
10. Ruben Studdard, "Smile"
I thought it was a strange song choice back in Season 2, but in retrospect this was a perfect choice for the Velvet Teddy Bear. It was his smile, after all, that had first endeared him to the audience, and singing the Charlie Chaplin number reminded viewers just why they fell in love with him in the first place.
Carrie Underwood, "Cryin'"
Clay Aiken, "Mack the Knife"
Fantasia, "A Fool in Love"
Fantasia, "Chain of Fools"
Justin Guarini, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down"
Justin Guarini, "Let's Stay Together"
Kelly Clarkson, "Think Twice"
Kimberley Locke, "Band of Gold"
Ruben Studdard, "If Ever You're In My Arms Again"
Vonzell Solomon, "On the Radio"
Read more American Idol Best-Of Lists