Tonight is the Idol finale performance show! As we anticipate Jessica and Phillip taking the stage, let’s look back at the 25 best performances of American Idol 2012, shall we?
25. Stay With Me – Skylar Laine – On Top 24 night, Skylar emerged as a female frontrunner with her dynamic performance of “Stay With Me.” Skylar’s performance was a breath of fresh air on a night of poor vocals and big ballads. “Stay With Me” was the first memorable time Skylar’s unlimited energy and pep were shown to American, and we were all left to wonder if a country star could win Idol two years in a row.
24. Rolling In the Deep – Hollie Cavanagh – I know we were all tired of the Adele songs on Idol, but RITD was the standout Adele performance of the season. Taking on Adele’s biggest hit, Hollie proved that her voice was absolutely incredible. Rolling In the Deep was a hit when Hollie needed it most, and inspired viewers that this underdog was still very much so in the running for the title.
23. River Deep Mountain High – Hollie Cavanagh – River Deep Mountain High gave Hollie the momentum to reach fourth place on Idol. She smiled, moved, interacted, and NONE of it felt robotic. Her big ol’ voice filled the Idol stage and she absolutely nailed the performance. Standing ovations haven’t exactly been sacred this season, but Randy and Steven were right on by giving Hollie one after this song.
22. No One – Elise Testone – No One was probably the most underrated performance on Idol this year. On a week where Elise was basically doomed to go home, she pulled out this haunting and emotional performance. If you don’t have a vivid memory of this performance, watch it back. Elise absolutely killed it. Goosebumps.
21. My All – Jessica Sanchez – JLo’s choice of My All for Jessica was sort of a weird one. If not done correctly, My All could have been a total snooze fest with a strained vocal. However, even with a sore throat Jessica was able to fully deliver a stunningly beautiful rendition of this song. Jessica doesn’t need background singers or staging or crazy lights. Though some may argue it was “just another ballad,” Jessica absolutely knocked it out of the park. I just used the word haunting above, but haunting is the perfect word for this performance.
20. Piano Man – Colton Dixon – Colton shined the most at the piano. I know he liked a lot of the flashy things (capes and piano standing), but he was most in his element at the piano. The little nuances in his voice showed the slightest imperfection which made for an even more believable and relatable performance. This arrangement was executed excellently.
19. The Climb – Hollie Cavanagh – Hollie earned her first Standing O with The Climb. This song choice was perfect for showing the kind of music Hollie might be successful with in the future. Nerves seemed to vanish for Hollie on this song, and she just sang without thinking. Her tone was shining throughout the entire song, and the emotional connection was there. Hollie believed every word she sang. Her sing-out of the Climb was even better than her performance when Hollie didn’t have to worry about being judged or criticized.
18. We’ve Got Tonight – Phillip Phillips – We’ve Got Tonight was very good. Definitely one of Phillip’s best performances on the Idol stage. Top 3 was an overall great night for Phil, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had the highest number of votes by a landslide. Phillip’s biggest criticism has been his voice, and he performed this song with a slightly extended range and minimal hiccups. This is the type of intimate performance that drives one straight for the title.
17. Love the Way You Lie – Colton Dixon – Colton once again nailed this intimate piano performance. Colton pulled me in for the first time with this performance, and I think it’s definitely one of the best we’ve seen this season. He had his strongest vocal here and slowly built up beautiful moments throughout the entire song. At least for me, Colton was sailing towards the finale with this song, his best of the season.
16. Somebody That I Used To Know – Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips – Elise and Phillip KILLED this song. Absolute destroyed it. This was the single best duet of the entire season, and I was trying to keep solo performances only in this post. Whereas the Jessica-Joshua duet was full of vocal craziness, Somebody That I Used To Know slid right into Elise’s (Phillips too, though he denied it) wheelhouse. The simplicity of this song really made it shine. Elise sounded phenomenal and Phillip’s gravelly voice made for an incredible and memorable performance.
15. Reflection – Hollie Cavanagh – Despite Hollie’s lack of airtime this season, Reflection was great that it left many Idol viewers predicting Hollie would take second place behind Jessica Sanchez. It was a battle between the two strong female voices from the start. Hollie was confident yet restrained and hit home with a beautiful and pitch-perfect rendition of Reflection.
14. Bleeding Love – Hollie Cavanagh – This was Hollie’s strongest performance on Idol, I believe. She pops up a bit on this list, but not really in the best positions. Bleeding Love was that moment that we were all waiting for. Hollie looked stunning and delivered an emotion-charged power performance of Bleeding Love. I didn’t, and will not, understand Jimmy bashing the performance. Hollie’s performance was chilling and goosebump-worthy. Her tone was as bright as shining glass, and she remained in control of her voice the entire time.
13. And I Am Telling You – Jessica Sanchez – Jessica has had how many overall poor weeks? Not many at all. Perhaps losing prestige to Skylar and Hollie’s growth arcs, Jessica pulled out one of the hardest songs to sing – And I Am Telling You. Covered by tons of artists, Jessica made this performance special by standing in one place. The restraint she had on stage against the intensely burning passion she had inside of her allowed for one of the best performances on Idol this season. Oh, and she was vocally spot-on once again. Anyone who criticized any lack of emotion from Jessica this season needs to watch how Jessica executed And I Am Telling You.
12. Ready for Love – Joshua Ledet – Joshua got a lot of Standing O’s. Waaaay too many. But Ready for Love was incredible and deserved every second of that standing ovation. Joshua’s biggest criticism wash is oversinging. However, Ready for Love showed a softer side. Joshua didn’t have to wail through this song to have a major moment. I remember being entranced throughout this performance. This was genuinely a performance I didn’t want to end, and one of the most underrated performances of the season (like No One).
11. Dance With My Father – Jessica Sanchez – I haven’t really been a big fan of any cover of Dance With My Father. I find they are all oversang and pale in vocal comparison. However, Jessica’s performance is the BEST cover of Dance With My Father that I have ever heard. She looked beautiful in a yellow dress, and the wind machine added instead of took away from her performance. Her vibrato and pitch were both flawless, and Jessica brought out the story of her father being away at war. The emotion Jessica added was the cherry on top of this show-stopper.
10. U Got It Bad – Phillip Phillips – Phillip choosing this Usher song was GENIUS. Absolutely, positively genius. By changing up the song, Phillip made it tailor-fit to all of his strongest performing assets. I think this was Phillip’s first genuine moment, and a performance that for once and for all put him on top of Colton Dixon, whom he had been batting for the top male all season. The guitar and rearrangement brought Idol viewers memories of the great David Cook and Kris Allen, which probably didn’t hurt Phillip at all in the longrun. Just when viewers were losing interest, Phillip snatched them back, and more, with U Got It Bad.
9. Volcano – Phillip Phillips – Volcano was another genius choice by Phillip. He sounded amazing and proved to America that there was a voice behind the artist. An extremely intimate performance by Phillip had dark lighting and a distant background singer made for one of the best moments of the season. This performance was chilling and gave an indication as to what direction Phil can take post-Idol. Volcano may have been the beginning of Phillip’s winning arc on Idol.
8. It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World – Joshua Ledet – WOWOWOW! This performance was really something special. I’m not one for the oversinging and unnecessary antics, but Joshua got me with this one. Speechless. Perfection. If Joshua hadn’t had another moment like with this song to share the glory, this would be even closer to the top.
7. Wind Beneath My Wings – Skylar Laine – This was one of my personal favorites of the entire season. Skylar sounded her absolute best with this performance. The usually gritty and energetic performance donned a gorgeous dress and didn’t move for this incredible ballad. However, all of the energy was still there, only perfectly transferred to a ballad. Skylar’s nasally tone worked wonders with this song. The high notes she hit soared higher than anyone else had managed to pull out in weeks. There were no vocal issues, and I challenge anyone to not have an emotional connection to Skylar’s performance. Some of you might disagree with me putting Wind Beneath My Wings, but I think it was sheer beauty and one of the greatest Idol performances in seasons.
6. I Will Always Love You – Jessica Sanchez – You knew it coming, but you probably expected it higher. Am I right? This season was one of amazing performances, and Jessica’s IWALY was absolutely exquisite. Everything from pitch to vibrato to breathing techniques to belting were right on point. After an amazing Top 24 performance, Jessica solidified herself as not only the girl to beat, but also the ONE to beat in Season 11. It may not have been the BEST Idol performance ever, like Jimmy said, but it was pretty darn close. IWALY had America wondering not only if a girl could finally win Idol, but if Jessica was the one that could fill Whitney’s shoes as the world’s top resident diva.
5. Everybody Has A Dream – Jessica Sanchez – Everybody Has A Dream was THE most underrated performance of the season. The song was perfect for Jessica as it told all about her own dream to someday be a star and how hard she’s worked all her life to achieve where she is. Getting a bit emotional, when the big part of the song came, Jessica built up to it perfectly and the notes she hit then were instantaneous goosebump moments. Flawless, flawless, flawless. If you’re going to watch back any performance from this season, make it this one.
4. When A Man Loves A Woman – Joshua Ledet – The Top 10 songs on this list are all in stiff competition. WAMLAW was Joshua’s first moment, and the momentum he achieved from this performance kept him going all the way to the Top 3. Joshua was overpraised this season, but there was nothing that the judges could do to praise this performance to the degree it should have been. Joshua did insanely unthinkable…things…with his voice here. I don’t even know what to call them and I’ve been surrounded with music all my life. Incredible, Joshua. Bravo to you!
3. Whole Lotta Love – Elise Testone – Who could possibly live up to Adam Lambert’s performance of this Led Zeppelin smash? Queen Elise of course! Sorry if you disagree with me here, but Elise’s performance topped Adam’s for me. She was completely in her element with a song that is extremely hard to sing. She moved and danced around. There was drama, passion, excitement, (appropriate!) shouting, and overall total superstar potential. This performance came really close to topping anything from Season 11. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bottom 3 Elise won the entire night with this incredible performance, vocally and performance-wise.
2. Sweet Dreams – Jessica Sanchez – There’s not much to say here. Sweet Dreams was perfect. It was arranged divinely, and Jessica sang it brilliantly. We were all anticipating the day Jessica did Beyonce, and she trumped anyone’s already sky-high expectations of her. The mystery and drama Jessica brought with the turned-around power ballad made this the season’s biggest standout of the live shows. JLo, Randy, and Steven should all be arrested for not standing up for this performance. There’s never perfection, but this was probably as close to it as you’ll get.
1. The Prayer – Jessica Sanchez – The Prayer was the best performance on Idol this season. Hands down we’ve seen incredible performances all season, but this one just trumps most things I’ve seen in Idol’s 11 years. Performed as Jessica’s “Sing For Your Life” last song in Vegas, Jessica, who had received virtually no screen time before this moment, became the American Idol frontrunner. You know this was a mind-blowing performance when a fairly unknown girl goes from Idol obscurity to the Idol frontrunner with about two minutes of singing. Vibrato was Jessica’s greatest weapon here-I’ve never heard it used better. There’s nothing left to say about this one-beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
Honorable mentions: Vienna (Elise Testone), A Change is Gonna Come (Joshua Ledet), All the Man that I Need (Hollie Cavanagh), The Show Must Go On (Skylar Laine), and I Believe In You and Me (Erika van Pelt)
There you have it! Thoughts?