As we finish up the first week of this year's American Idol 7's Semifinal round, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at what I see as the Top 10 Semifinal performances through the years.
A couple of notes on this list:
-This year's performances are not included
-Starting in Season 4, the format changed from voting contestants into the Top 12 to eliminating the lowest polling contestants from the competition, so Season 4 and 5 contestants had 3 Semifinal performance, versus just 1 for contestants from Seasons 1-3.
And, the list...
1. Latoya London, "All By Myself" (Season 3)
I can still remember the moment when I literally fell off my bed as Latoya hit the impossibly high note in Eric Carmen's ballad. "Anymooooooooooooooooooooore" -- Jaw. On. Floor. Aside from Kelly Clarkson's first performance in the Top 10, this may be the most surprising performance I have ever seen on the show, made all the more so because we had not seen Latoya onscreen for even one minute leading up to the semifinals. Her personality ultimately ended up disappointing me later in the competition, but her vocal work in her first performance is truly unforgettable.
2. Melinda Doolittle, "My Funny Valentine" (Season 6)
Talk about a class act! Melinda showed what a pro she is, effortlessy giving this classic her own bluesy, soulful spin. Every note in this rendition was letter-perfect, and she couldn't have come off more humble or likable. If she ever gets around to making a CD (come on, where's the Melinda record deal announcement??), this is what the music should sound like.
3. Kelly Clarkson, "Respect" (Season 1)
I know, I know, how could I not put Ms. Kelly at number 1, especially when this was the very first the audience was seeing of the sassy Texan? Her vocal work and irrepressible personality were astoundingly clear as she wailed the Aretha classic, all the while missing which camera she was supposed to be looking into. (If you can get your hands on this performance, it really is a must watch, as Kelly adorably, and consistently, is looking anywhere but where the camera is). Coming into this week, Justin was the one to watch. At the end of the week, it was Kelly people were talking about.
4. Chris Daughtry, "Hemmorage" (Season 5)
If Bo Bice started the rock trend on American Idol, Chris Daughtry hammered it home. After a solid cover of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" in the first week of the semifinals, Daughtry stepped it up about 8 notches on this Fuel song, transporting himself and the viewers to the middle of a slammin' rock concert. Bice may have been credible within the world of AI, but Daughtry took it to another level. It's no wonder he's had such a successful post-show transition into the rock music world.
5. Clay Aiken, "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" (Season 2)
His initial audition was shocking for the discrepancy between the way he looked and sounded, and his semifinal performance of the Journey classic "Open Arms" was great, but it was his stunning Wildcard rendition of the Elton John tune that really put Clay Aiken on the map. Standing tall in the center of the stage, looking confident but not cocky, he saaaaaaaaang his way into the hearts of millions. This was the moment, I believe, that Clay Nation really began to take shape.
6. Fantasia, "Something to Talk About" (Season 3)
That voice. Those lips. That sassy personality. Ms. 'Tasia announced her presence to the world as the final performer of week 1's semifinals in Season 3, and never looked back. Flawless.
7. LaKisha Jones, "And I Am Telling You" (Season 6)
Taking on the Dreamgirls classic just a month after Jennifer Hudson had been awarded the Oscar for singing the same song, LaKisha fearlessly tore into this tune, making it clear she was a force to be reckoned with. The power of this performance, however, may have been her ultimate downfall -- she may simply have peaked too soon. Still, one of the most passionate performances the semifinal round has ever seen.
8. Kimberley Locke, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" (Season 2)
Sure, she sang this song in her initial audition, and by the time she reprised the performance in the second week of semifinals (which also featured Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken) there was already some "Rainbow" fatigue, but her controlled and beautiful rendition of the Judy Garland chestnut made clear Season 2 wasn't just going to be a boy's race to the finish.
9. Bo Bice, "Whipping Post" (Season 4)
Until Bo Bice picked up that mike stand and went to town on the Allman Brothers Band tune, the closest thing AI had to a rocker was Justin Guarini (and that ain't too close). With this performance Bice, who had received very little screen time coming into the semifinals in favor of fellow "rocker" Constantine Maroulis, established himself as a showman, a vocal talent, and the "credible rocker" of Season 4.
10. Katharine McPhee, "Since I Fell For You" (Season 5)
Although she was dressed rather plainly in jeans and a top for her first Semifinal appearance, the effortless way Katharine handled the runs on this Barbra Streisand tune made it clear she was gonna be a contender.
Blake Lewis, "Somewhere Only We Know" (Season 6)
Chris Richardson, "Geek in the Pink" (Season 6)
Melinda Doolittle. "Woman" (Season 6)
EJ Day, "I'll Be" (Season 1)
Jennifer Hudson, "Imagine" (Season 3)
Tamyra Gray, "And I Am Telling You" (Season 1)
Ruben Studdard, "Superstar" (Season 2)
Ace Young, "Father Figure" (Season 5)
Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Did I miss something? Let me know.