The Best American Idol Performances of All Time

Four of the best performances American Idol has ever seen. Where will they be on the list?

Four of the best performances American Idol has ever seen. Where will they be on the list?


This list was never about me.

When I started it back in 2014, I wanted to put together a comprehensive list of the 30 best performances in American Idol history but I wanted it to be different. Whenever you read these lists, they’re usually followed by some BS two-sentence explanation. Then if you follow that writer on Twitter, you discover they’re a huge fan of specific Idol artists, something they fail to let anyone know. It’s crazy because people take these lists as gospel.

I wanted this to be different.

This site’s goal has always been to write about American Idol for what it is – a competition. The singing is terrific, but what performance means is just as important to judging a performance as a vocal. There are plenty of performances on here that don’t match up vocally with songs ranked behind it, but if you sing something that helps you survive or wins you the show, it’s going to be ranked ahead of something that was simply show-stopping good.

With the list finally done, I do need to note a couple things:
1) The No. 30 selection doesn’t deserve to be there but I put it there because it was simply one of the most awesomely hilarious but serious things to ever happen on American Idol.
2) I didn’t include anything from Season 14. At the end of the upcoming season I’ll sit down and take Season 14 and 15 into account and see how the list looks then.

So here they are. These are the 30 Best Performances in American Idol history. The list was compiled by listening to hundreds of performances, both when they happened and by countless YouTube and Google searches. I found a lot of “Best Performances” lists in written and video form that gave me “nominees” and when I had a list of about 80, I took out the easy choices and then went on a binge of listening, then listing pros and cons. It was a huge pain, but it was fun.

Below is the list. To read why they’re ranked where they are, click the selection. There’s an extensive write-up for each one. If you think I’m a moron, feel free to tell me – but don’t do it until after you read why a song was ranked in a certain spot.

No. 30, Norman Gentle

No. 30, Norman Gentle

No. 30Norman Gentle, “I Am Telling You,” Season 8
No. 29Jacob Lusk, “You’re All I Need To Get By,” Season 10
No. 28Michael Lynche, “This Woman’s Work,” Season 9
No. 27Elise Testone, “Whole Lotta Love,” Season 11
No. 26Haley Reinhart, “Benny and the Jets,” Season 10
No. 25Pia Toscano, “I’ll Stand By You,” Season 10
No. 24Joshua Ledet, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” Season 11
No. 23Bo Bice, “In A Dream,” Season 4
No. 22Michael Johns, “It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right,” Season 7
No. 21Crystal Bowersox, “People Get Ready,” Season 9
No. 20Clay Aiken, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Season 2

Fantasia

Fantasia

No. 19Candice Glover, “Lovesong,” Season 12
No. 18Haley Reinhart, “House of the Rising Sun,” Season 10
No. 17Phillip Phillips, “Home,” Season 11
No. 16Blake Lewis, “You Give Love A Bad Name,” Season 6
No. 15Casey James, “Jealous Guy,” Season 9
No. 14Jena Irene, “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” Season 13
No. 13Jason Castro/Lee DeWyze, “Hallelujah,” Seasons 7/9
No. 12David Cook, “Billie Jean,” Season 7
No. 11Fantasia, “Summertime,” Season 3

The lights didn't shine on Lambert, but they didn't need.

The lights didn’t shine on Lambert, but they didn’t need to.

No. 10Crystal Bowersox & Lee DeWyze, “Falling Slowly,” Season 9
No. 9Kris Allen, “Heartless,” Season 8
No. 8Kelly Clarkson, “A Moment Like This,” Season 1
No. 7Carrie Underwood, “Alone,” Season 4
No. 6Jordin Sparks, “I (Who Have Nothing),” Season 6
No. 5Adam Lambert, “Mad World,” Season 8
No. 4David Cook, “Always Be My Baby,” Season 7
No. 3Phillip Phillips, “We’ve Got Tonight,” Season 11
No. 2Kelly Clarkson, “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,” Season 1
No. 1Adam Lambert, “Tracks of My Tears,” Season 8

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