American Idol 2022: Top 15 AWESOME Season 20 Performances

(ABC/Eric McCandless) LUKE BRYAN, KATY PERRY, LIONEL RICHIE

American Idol 2022 will reveal its Top 20 on Sunday (April 17) in what will be its last remaining taped competition episode.  On Monday (April 18) the show reveals the Top 14 contestants LIVE.

But before the live competition begins, here is a compilation of 15 of my favorite Top 14  performances from season 20 so far. Performances included on this list are ones that brought me back to watch again and again.  In other words, this is not a list composed of the 15 best vocal performances, but rather, the 15 performances that have stood out to me. No contestant is on here more than once as I wanted to showcase this season’s talent as much as possible. I decided to showcase some from each round, and rather than ranking them, I made some small comments and put each one into the round’s category. Hope you enjoy this list as we get ready for the live shows! 

The Auditions:

Cadence Baker – “I’m Your Baby Tonight”

(ABC/Eric McCandless) CADENCE BAKER

This is the best audition of the season. It’s not perfect vocally. She even goes flat a few times, but her tonal quality is flat-out outstanding in this audition. Her tone gave shades of soulful pop songstresses Tori Kelly and Alessia Cara. And on top of that, her dad’s guitar accompaniment set the vibe for her jazzy stripped back Whitney cover. I got chills. It set the foundation for Cadence’s deep run in the competition. Katy Perry said that most people that take on the song, she would tell them “see yourself for the door” but Cadence’s rendition was “amazing.” Luke Bryan called her potential top 10. – Watch Video

Elli Rowe – “Give You Blue”

 (ABC/Eric McCandless) ELLI ROWE

I’m a sucker for understated, artistic performances. It’s why I loved singers like Ashley Hess and Julia Gargano during their Idol runs. Elli Rowe gave the most underrated audition of the season. For that reason, I was super upset and frustrated that she got no airtime in Hollywood. She sang Allen Stone’s (who just received the jury vote on American Song Contest) “Give You Blue.” From the first note, her artistry and musical talent oozed out. Every note was intentional without overdoing it. This performance was perfection topped off with an ache and a gorgeous falsetto. Lionel gave one of the most powerful quotes of the season saying, “you are the poster child of the phrase: melody is king, and when simplicity is infused in that, you have a magical substance.” Watch Video

Sage – Untitled Original

(ABC/Eric McCandless) SAGE

I debated on what Sage performance I should include. It was between this or her showstopper, “I Hate This.” Her audition had a little bit more to work with, and even though it was montaged, this was the best vocal out of any audition this season. Her tone was like butter and had so much emotion packed in it. It was a bit 70s and was so refreshing. I’m a sucker for throwbacks, and I hope that we get to see more of Sage as an artist. Katy Perry compared her to Diana Krall and Joss Stone. – Watch Video

Morgan Gruber – “Can’t Be Loved”

(ABC/Eric McCandless) MORGAN GRUBER

My self-proclaimed “most-robbed contestant of Season 20”, Morgan Gruber sang this gritty Elle King number for her audition. I almost chose her performance “Anyone.” but it was so short that I decided to choose her audition. The Fombell, Pennsylvania teen’s quivery vibrato and maturity made her a standout all season. This audition was raspy and full of raw talent. Katy Perry even said after her genre challenge, “I don’t know why she isn’t sitting up there,” pointing to the balcony where the platinum ticket holders sat. Oddly enough, her showstopper wasn’t aired after glowing reception from the judges in her audition and all the Hollywood rounds. – Watch Video

Genre Challenge

Fritz Hager – “Unsteady”

(ABC/Eric McCandless) FRITZ HAGER

Fritz gave a ho-hum audition. It was previewed, but it received a no from Luke and at times it was a bit shaky vocally. His first impression in Hollywood week remains his best vocal to date. He’s given emotive performances since, but this is the performance of his that I keep coming back to. His take on the X Ambassadors hit was so dynamic and showed off his range. He arranged it in a way that displayed that he was one to watch out for. He has built off this performance and turned into a front-runner in this competition. The judges looked wowed with Katy saying, “Wow, that was a big surprise”. – Watch Video

Mike Parker – “Burning House”

(ABC/Eric McCandless) MIKE PARKER

Mike Parker is a singer that Luke has pushed to be country. I personally don’t see him as a country singer, but “Burning House” is a great country song by Cam, and I was 100% open to him taking it and flipping it into a more soulful number. He noted prior to taking the stage that this performance was for his mom who has cancer. Mike’s low notes are gorgeous, and his tone is rich like John Legend. In this performance, he displayed his range by hitting several low notes which built up into a showstopping high note followed by a riff that got both Luke and Lionel Richie to stand with the whole auditorium standing by the end. If you want chills down your spine, look at this performance! – Watch Video

Nicolina Bozzo – “Everything I Wanted”

(ABC/Eric McCandless) NICOLINA

I’ve written about this before. Nicolina is by far the most pushed contestant this year. It’s probably because she has been the most consistent performer this season. She’s a dynamic performer, and like Grace Kinstler, she really goes for it, meaning that at times she misses notes, but people don’t really notice because her range and vocal talent are insane! Looking at all her performances, this was her cleanest performance and possibly the best performance of Hollywood week. It displayed her artistic qualities, building a Billie Eilish song that is typically very quiet into a tour de force with both big notes, well-executed riffs and runs, and emotive and intentional vocal cracks. This is still one of my favorites and it had the whole auditorium standing! – Watch Video

Duet Round

Betty Maxwell & Kelsie Dolin – “Just Give Me A Reason”

I had a tough time choosing which Kelsie Dolin performance to include. I want to be honest and say that Kelsie’s vocals were not the best of the season, but there is something about her tone that is authentic and real that makes her truly stand out. She is the epitome of American Idol. Had she been a bit more seasoned, she could have stayed longer. This was a beautiful moment in Hollywood. Former Miss America, Betty Maxwell showed her heart and brought out the confidence in Kelsie for one of the better duets of Hollywood week. Betty had grace and power on stage and Kelsie brought purity and made me feel the lyrics. Both sailed through with the judges and the entire crowd smiling and standing! Hollywood week can be harsh, but this was a nice break from that. – Watch Video

Showstoppers

Noah Thompson – “Stay”

American Idol 2022 Showstopper Noah Thompson
(ABC/Eric McCandless) NOAH THOMPSON

This performance was featured in a previous article, but I wanted to highlight it again. Noah delivered one of the top showstoppers by taking an unexpected turn. He covered a soulful pop ballad and turned it into a country ditty. It was extremely successful and was the first moment that revealed Noah’s true vocal talent. He truly shined on this one and the judges loved his risk-taking so much that they sent him through to the top 24. – Watch Video

Lady K – “I’d Rather Go Blind”

(ABC/Eric McCandless) LADY K

I don’t always like attempts at classic singers like Etta James because most singers don’t have the pure talent and emotion to take them on and truly embody them. Lady K is up there with an elite group of singers, which this performance illustrated. After her audition, I yearned to hear more of Lady K, and after not seeing her the first few rounds of Hollywood, she snuck up and surprised us all with this soulful and nuanced performance. This was my favorite showstopper of all showstoppers. She somehow can throw so many runs in there yet manage to nail nearly every one. Lionel felt a connection since they share a hometown of Tuskegee, Alabama. – Watch Video

HunterGirl – “Girl Going Nowhere”

 (ABC/Eric McCandless) HUNTERGIRL

HunterGirl has been solid throughout the competition, but this performance displayed star quality through her pure country storytelling. Hunter chose to sing a masterpiece from one of country music’s most talented singer-songwriters, Ashley McBryde, which shows her instinct for good storytelling. Out of all the singers, this felt the most like a concert performance. Her showstopper was a display of her ability to cut through vocally. Her voice soared throughout the entire performance. Luke exclaimed during her performance, “she is the best country singer I’ve heard”. – Watch Video

Top 24 in Hawaii

Emyrson Flora – “Angels Like You”

(ABC/Kent Phillips) EMYRSON FLORA

I wrote about breakout star of the top 24 and youngest singer in the competition, 16 year old Emyrson before. But this is the performance I’ve repeated the most. Her vocal rawness had star written all over it. She connected to the song, and her unique tone shined in all ways possible. The vocal wasn’t perfect, but her exceptional talent including angelic low notes and powerful raspy belts were on display. Katy even saw a possible American Idol winner in her after this performance. – Watch Video

Leah Marlene – “Call Me”

(ABC/Karen Neal) LEAH MARLENE

This was my favorite complete performance of the Top 24. It started slow and moody and built up with Leah chanting “1,2, 3″ and then bursting with energy. Her soaring high notes gave me Ann Wilson vibes (lead singer of Heart), and were utter perfection. Leah has the vocal agility of singers like Tori Kelly and Catie Turner with a bit of an indie/soft alt rock twist. She knows how to arrange a song and this performance has me even more excited about what she’s capable of. Katy called her entire vibe, “just a bunch of fun.” She’s unpredictable, and I can’t wait for her to take some songs on that may be out of her wheelhouse. – Watch Video

Jacob Moran – “In My Blood”

(ABC/Karen Neal) JACOB MORAN

From a pure vocal standpoint, Jacob gave the best vocal performance of the top 24. The comeback kid chose a song that suited him and was one that he could build. He stripped back the beginning, hitting some beautiful runs in the opening verse before letting his voice soar on the chorus. It was the type of performance that stops you and compels you to listen. After some misses in Hollywood, Jacob established himself once again as a front runner with this Shawn Mendes cover. His range is seriously impressive! He got a standing ovation from all 3 coaches. – Watch Video

Katyrah Love – “Blame It On The Boogie”

(ABC/Karen Neal) KATYRAH LOVE

To wrap the list up, I chose Katyrah’s Top 24 performance. First of all, I hated the song choice, so for her to land on the list is impressive. She did nearly everything right on the song, and her energy was infectious. She made a bad song choice work and turned in one of the best top 24 performances. From the high notes, to her stage presence, and the little breakdown, this performance was nearly perfect. It received a standing ovation from all 3 judges, and Katy said, “we know you can sing! We know you can sing girl,” when critiquing her. She added that she appreciated how Katyrah took the judges notes from Showstoppers, calling the performance both natural and tasteful. – Watch Video

About Blake Busch 129 Articles
I am currently a Marketing and Data Analytics student at Drake University. My favorite shows to follow are American Idol and The Voice. I also love crime thrillers, Top Chef, and Masterchef. My hobbies include cooking, baking, playing basketball, and watching sports.