American Idol Top 30 Performance Of All Time: No. 8, Kelly Clarkson, “A Moment Like This”
Do you remember where you were when Kelly Clarkson was crowned in Season 1 of American Idol? I do.
College. My roommates, me, our girlfriends – some of whom are wives now, some of whom aren’t around at all, all crowded in our living room to watch the finale of a show all of us watched and none of us admitted we watched. The Season 1 finale was a TV moment and anyone who was old enough to watch it pretty much was.
Clarkson vs. Justin Guarini. At the time, it seemed close. No one really had any idea who was going to win.
Watching it back, it wasn’t really a contest.
It was a bloodbath.
You cannot find a bad Clarkson performance from Season 1. It’s not that Fox or American Idol made copyright claims and got them booted from YouTube; they just don’t exist. She had some truly big moments (including one that will appear a few spots up the list) but her moment, the one when America was watching Kelly Clarkson before she was Kelly Clarkson, is one that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Plus, if you’re singing the first championship song from a show that is still running 13 years later, that counts for something. Not putting Clarkson’s winning version of “A Moment Like This” inside the Top 10 would be a classic overthinking move and thinking is something we try to avoid at Dudes Review Idol.
THE SITUATION: The previous night Clarkson bludgeoned Justin Guarini on national television. The one thing I remember from the floppy ‘fro’d one in Season 1 was his rendition of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and re-watching it, it wasn’t really that good.
Your winner was decided weeks earlier, but they went through the charade of the whole season anyone and pretended like there was a chance Clarkson was going to lose. On finale night, Guarini and Clarkson sang what would be their debut single: “A Moment Like This,” which was so bubblegum pop it tasted like watermelon.
So you were picking between one of two contestants. You could pick this one:
Or this one.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you Clarkson’s version blew me away. She sounded nervous, but it didn’t matter. She was going to win Idol, even if she didn’t know it. I mean, did you actually listen to Guarini? Could you imagine hearing that at every wedding from 2002-2008 or so?
So the next night, they announce her name and it’s time to perform, live.
Kelly Clarkson, waitress, just became Kelly Clarkson, American Idol. How’s that for pressure?
HIGHLIGHTS: Seconds into the performance the question isn’t how’s she going to sing; it’s if she’s going to sing at all.
I don’t think anyone would have been offended if Clarkson went up there and babbled her way through the song. This was a life-changing moment. No one really had a grasp of what Idol could do for someone’s career and at this point, sky was the limit (and in this case, actually reached).
After a minor misstep, she gets back to it but she looks like someone in a hostage video. She’s singing, but there ain’t no one there. You can tell she put it on automatic and is just singing, because the only thing in her head is “HOLY CRAP I JUST WON.”
As she moves on, she starts singing and enjoying the moment. That’s when the song takes off. She grabs some fans hands and you can hear the emotion. She looks out to the crowd and catches a glimpse of, I’m assuming, her parents, and loses it momentarily, before getting it back on track.
After apologizing for losing it – HOW DARE YOU LOSE IT – Clarkson turns it on. This is the voice that won the show. This is maybe the best voice in the history of American Idol and it’s so natural and pure.
Clarkson closes looking upward. She’s not thanking a higher power. She’s doing everything possible to avoid looking at her family because that would be instant waterworks. She wants to show everyone she earned this.
And cue the single-greatest sung line in the history of the show.
Clarkson belts out “Oh, I can’t believe/It’s happening to me” and it’s instant chills. Instant. We wouldn’t here a finale song anywhere near this good until Phillip Phillips, both because of how well this was written and how damn well it was performed.
WHY IT’S HERE: So when this list was originally created and I started pumping out the recaps of the Top 30, this was No. 2. After getting to the Top 8, I wanted to re-listen to all the performances to make sure I would feel good about the order.
Vocally, this was the worst of the eight. It says a lot for the performances that rank ahead of Clarkson (including herself), but to put this at No. 2 wouldn’t be right.
Now the argument could be made for dropping it to the teens. She didn’t nail the song. It’s pure emotion and that, more than the vocals, are what make it so great. When you add the historic nature of the performance, it’s Top 10 and putting it at eight just feels right.
PREVIOUSLY: No. 9: Kris Allen, “Heartless”
NEXT UP: Maybe the most iconic performance in Idol history