Thursday, April 21, 2011

American Idol: Best Performances of the Past 10 Seasons

"American Idol" is a junk-food show. I know it's not good for me, and a lot of the time I don't even enjoy it, but I can't help but coming back to it, week after week.

There's something uplifting about the idea of talented kids getting a shot at stardom. It speaks to the classic American dream that drives many of us - success, fame, money, power. Yes, most of the contestants from AI are back to normal after their fifteen minutes is up, but even some of the losers of the competition have gone on to have extremely successful careers due in large part to the exposure they got from Idol.

This season has been hit or miss, with a very talented group who has been (a bit boringly) consistent. No Sanjayas this time around, hanging around on the basis of their train-wreck potential. There is real talent in the group that's left, and the judges have found little to criticize. That's one of the weak points of this season, for me - while I've mostly enjoyed Tyler and Lopez and even occasionally Randy as judges, they seem to be there primarily to lavish praise on even the most generic performances.

As I watched last night's top 7 perform, I couldn't help but think that there really hasn't been a star-making moment this year yet. Each of the top group has had some good performances, and some of them have even been great performances, but unlike past seasons, I have yet to hear a performance that makes go, "Wow. That kid deserves to be a star."

So I thought I'd present some of my personal "star moments" from the past seasons. I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with me on which ones made the cut, but these are seven of my favorites, the ones that I've gone back and watched again and again even after the season was over.

#5: Blake Edwards, "You Give Love a Bad Name"
Blake may not have been the best traditional singer on the show, but he knew how to mix things up and keep it unique and interesting. This performance was unexpected, fun and different.

#4: Elliott Yamin, "Moody's Mood for Love"
It took me a few weeks to get into Elliott. He was a funny-looking guy, but when he opened his mouth, all of that melted away into an absolutely gorgeous voice. This was the first moment I realized that. One of the few Idols I've bought music from post-show.

#3: Clay Aiken,
Definitely another case of a big, amazing voice in what could be considered a funny-looking guy. He may have gotten a tad creepier since his season ended, but man, what a voice.

#2: Fantasia Barrino, "Summertime"
What I liked about Fantasia, even though I didn't always love her, was that she really poured herself fully into every performance. This is a fantastic example of that.

#1: Kelly Clarkson, "Stuff Like That There"
The first Idol is still the best, IMHO. This perky, upbeat performance could have been overly cutesy or silly in someone else's hands, but Kelly knocked it out of the water. This was the song that made me think she should win the first season.

Honorable mentions: Adam Lambert's "Mad World," Jennifer Hudson's "Circle of Life," Tamyra Gray's "A House is Not a Home."

I'm sure I've forgotten a few other favorites here. But these are at least a few of the moments that have kept me coming back to Idol. I hope to see another one in the next few weeks from what's left of this year's contestants.

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