American Idol Top 30 Performances of All Time: No. 7, Carrie Underwood, “Alone”
Quick – name the night Carrie Underwood became famous.
Anyone who’s watched American Idol or knows anything about the country music superstar knows the exact night Underwood because famous is the night when she decided to stop doing country and sing a rock song on the most popular TV show in the country.
Take a look through the Google machine for Carrie Underwood’s Idol moments. You know what gets mentioned every time? The night she sang Heart’s “Alone.” I figured she’d have at least two or three Top 30 performances – I mean Haley Reinhart did and she didn’t even win – but if you go back and watch, this is the song that made her. It’s the “moment” that every judge begs the contestants to go and chase every year.
Putting this list together, this song was as high as third and as low as off the list. That’s right – I nearly dropped it because “Alone” has been done so many times it’s almost cliché.
But when you listen to this and compare it to the others, it all makes sense.
After all, this is the moment Carrie Underwood became a superstar.
THE SITUATION: Underwood was the first legitimate country singer to take on Idol. This was right as country music – not real country, more of the pop and bro country that we hear today – was starting to go super mainstream and Underwood was right there to be that girl on Idol.
It was clear she was one of the favorites on the show. After hearing her in auditions, Hollywood and the semifinals there was no doubt the talent was there, but Underwood didn’t stray from that country line. There’s a good chance she could have kept going country hit after country and still won the show. It might have annoyed the judges, but this was when Idol was still a singing show and with that voice, she could have grinded out a win.
Instead, performing in the Top 11 for “Billboard Number Ones” week, she won the damn thing right there.
HIGHLIGHTS: Coming out of the No. 2 spot – which is baffling because it seems most big performances get slated last; whether it’s on purpose or not, whenever there’s a monster performance it’s had the knack to be at the end of the show – Underwood played the part perfectly.
She fully admits she’s “breaking out of her shell” by doing the 80s rock song, then takes it a step further by showing up in 80s regalia – teased hair, leather jacket, smokes in her sleeve (I may have made that one up).
The song is perfect from the start. Perfect. Just listen. It takes about three seconds for Carrie Underwood to turn Alone from a Heart and Ann Wilson song to a Carrie Underwood song.
She carries the start of the song perfectly, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. Most of the contestants who have sung “Alone” do a fine job at the start. That’s the easy part. The chorus isn’t.
After the drums hit, Underwood launches into “til now” and it’s lights out. It’s instant chills through the chorus (or bridge. Whatever it’s called. This is Dudes Review Idol, not “Music Guy Reviews Idol”). She doesn’t overdo the song; she sings it.
Most who have done it since Underwood are terrified of that chorus. It’s not easy to sing and as far as I’m concerned, two have ever done it well – Ann Wilson and Carrie Underwood. That’s it.
So normally I avoid judges’ comments on these things, but you cannot ignore Simon Cowell on this performance when he delivers the most famous critique in Idol history (that countdown is not coming).
“Carrie, you’re not the girl to beat, you’re the person to beat,” he says, confidently. “I will make a prediction: not only will you win this show, you will sell more records than any other previous Idol winner.”
It’s tough to tell if that was Simon peacocking for the cameras because that was one hell of a prediction because of how well Kelly Clarkson had done commercially. Either way, it was a ballsy call – and it’s even better because it turned out to be true.
WHY IT’S HERE: It’s really the first song in Idol history where someone performed it and everyone consciously agreed “well, no one should ever sing that again because everyone else is going to sound like a wet fart in comparison.”
It’s been performed five times in live competition since Underwood (strangely enough, twice during “The Year I Was Born” round) and none are close to being on the same planet as Underwood. Don’t believe me?
WHO: Gina Glocksen
WHEN: Season 5, Top 20
SHE FINISHED: Top 9
SCORE: Two Underwoods
WHO: Ramiele Malubay
WHEN: Season 7, Top 10
SHE FINISHED: Top 9
SCORE: One Underwoo
WHO: Allison Iraheta
WHEN: Season 8, Top 36
SHE FINISHED: Top 4
SCORE: Three-and-a-half Underwoods
WHO: Jacob Lusk
WHEN: Season 12
HE FINISHED: Top 5
SCORE: One Underwood (But an A for originality)
It should be noted Season 12’s Paul Jolley sang it as part of his “Victory Song” but this version really deserves mention, because this might be the best of the group. From Season 7 Hollywood Week, Carly Smithson.
Anyway, if we’ve learned anything from Underwood’s performance, it’s no one on American Idol should ever, ever, ever sing ‘Alone’ again.
PREVIOUSLY: No. 8, Kelly Clarkson, “A Moment Like This”
NEXT UP: The song that sparked a contestant to a title