Why I Love American Idol, Top 13 Favorite Performances (VIDEO)

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Contributor, Adam Samuel, shares his personal story on how he came to love American Idol. He also shares his Top 13 favorite performances…

By the way, I’m still looking for individual contributions. Tell us your Idol story! Also, will take submissions for lists, favs, etcetera. Contact us at the link in the header

This coming season will be American Idol’s last. Personally, over the years since I’ve started watching Idol, I’ve developed a special bond with the show, and I have to say, it is going to be really hard for me to have to say goodbye. I have a very interesting and unique story that bizarrely brought me to watching Idol, and while I started a lot later than probably everyone who will be reading this, I have become a super dedicated fan of this very (very) cheesy show. That said, in this editorial, I would like to share my personal story as to how I discovered this show, and why I truly fell in love with it. Saying goodbye to Idol will be hard, but I feel that if I can get this story out, I will in a way prepare myself for when that time comes. Oh, and at the end, stick around for my personal top 13 favorite Idol performances.

Rewind to 2010. I was in high school doing my first year, and I was at that stage where I was asking myself all those important questions teenagers are thinking about:

What’s my purpose?

How do I get that girl to notice me?

Why does it feel so right when I dress up as Batman?

You get the picture.

Anyway, for as long as I can remember, I have always sucked at mathematics. Because I had this problem, I used to have study groups with friends. Granted, while they usually never helped, I really loved to feel a part of things, and I really wanted to belong. High school was rough for me, not because I was really bullied or anything, but I really struggled (and still do) making friends. I was always that kid in the corner alone wishing someone would come and talk to me, and while no one ever came, during these study groups, I felt that fulfillment of camaraderie that I so desired. I went through high school with basically no real friends, and while there were those one or two people that I was friendly with, none of them were what I could call a real friend.

Anyway, it was the night before a particularly nasty math test, and I was beginning to panic. The day before, a study group hadn’t left me feeling really prepared, but luckily a classmate of mine, lets call her Jess, and I had made plans to study over the phone that night. It was late at night (we did things late in high school) when I called her to start studying. She told me she needed another half hour to finish this show she was watching, and out of boredom and curiosity, I asked which show. She said she was watching American Idol and just had to finish watching a few last performances then we could study away.

At this point in my life, I only had the most peripheral idea of what American Idol was. I mean, I had heard about it in passing, but for me, my knowledge only extended to the point that I knew Simon Cowell was a mean judge. I hadn’t even heard of Carrie Underwood or Jennifer Hudson, but I did know David Cook, as I really enjoyed his song “Time Of My Life”, which my sister was always listening to. When Jess told me she needed some time to finish the show, I figured for once in my life I might as well tune in for the 20 or so minutes and see what all the hype was about. Everyone said Simon could be funny when he got extra cruel, so why not see him in action? I’ll never forget, by the time I got to a TV and figured out which channel it was on, the first performance I ever saw was Lee DeWyze singing “Lips Of An Angel.” I loved that Hinder song.

After that short 10 or so minutes of watching that episode, I instantly became hooked. While I inevitably ended up failing that math test the next day (and many math tests after that), me and Jess really bonded over the show to the point that I was more enthusiastic about it then she was! In my high school, I never knew it before, but it turns out there was a very strong American Idol fan-group, and in the end, it was because of my love for the show that I ended up making some great friends in the group. For once, I had really great friends!

As the American Idol seasons continued, I started watching other shows that people in my group were watching. This inevitably led me to falling in love with The Voice and America’s Got Talent, and soon watching those shows became something I increasingly looked forward to. Unfortunately, after Idol’s ratings started to fall, so to did the members of friends I had in my group. It turns out, these shows were really the glue that keep us together, and as they started to lose interest in them, soon after our friendships faded.

However, my Idol fandom was still going strong. Eventually, I discovered sites like the one you are reading right now, and became really into the fan community of Idol. While I don’t really have many friends left from high school, the greatest show ever brought me to Twitter, where I made such awesome friends of many of you! Inevitably, one day, while I was on Twitter conversing with some friends about something, I managed to volunteer to write here for MJ’s covering The Voice! Getting to combine writing and the shows I love was a dream come true, and it has been a great ride writing here ever since.

So that really is my story. If Jess wasn’t watching Idol that night and got me interested in watching it, I probably would be a pretty miserable kid now. I’m so thankful everyday not really for these competition shows, but really for the awesome people they introduced to me. For that alone, I am forever thankful.

Anyway, I know most of you probably just came here for my top 13 favorite performances, so let’s move on to those. For me, I started watching Idol in its’ 9th season, and while I know most of the iconic performances that happened before (Kelly Clarkson’s Stuff Like That There,  David Cook’s Billie Jean, Adam Lambert’s Mad Word, etc), I still have yet to go back and really watch those old seasons (I am saving watching those for when Idol ends). That said, in my top 13 performance list, I have only chosen performances that I have watched live. Keep in mind also while reading my list that these are my personal favorite performances; they are not the best sung performances, and most are not performances that people will probably ever rank in their personal top 13. However, these are the 13 performances that have stuck with me and made me really love the show.

Adam’s Top 13 Favorite Performances (From the Idol Seasons I Watched)

13- Colton Dixon: Piano Man, by Billy Joel- This song for Colton just made sense. When I heard it was Billy Joel week, my first though was that Colton had to do this song. Colton and Hollie were my ideal top 2, and while in the beginning weeks I though Hollie would outlast him, this was the moment when I thought Colton had pulled ahead and could win. While all of that went to hell top 7 weeks (BOTH my favs in the bottom 2… ugh) I still look back at this being his defining moment. In my favorite season of Idol, Colton and Hollie hold special places in my heart and this as one of the reasons why.

12- Angie Miller: You Set Me Free, by Angie Miller- The top 5 were the only good thing about season 12. I really think that with all the drama between the judges, season 12 was what really killed Idol. With the producer manipulation and deck stacking of weak boys, the girls were destined to rule the season and Angie was one of the stars. This performance was when everyone became an Angie fan back in the day, but looking back it is still as good as it was listening to it the first time. While Candice deserved to win, I still felt so crushed for Angie when she was cut.

11- James Durbin: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, by Carole King- James was the season’s rocker, but ironically enough his best performance was the one where he wasn’t screaming the entire time. This one was mesmerizing and believable. I still love going back and re-watching it.

10- Siobhan Magnus: Paint It Black, by The Rolling Stones- Not many people talk about her nowadays, but during the season 9 days Siobhan and Lee were my favorites. Siobhan has an incredible voice and this performance was something else. I really really really really loved this performance. Shame she didn’t make top 5…

9- Jessica Sanchez and Jennifer Holiday: And I Am Telling You, from Dreamgirls- The one bad thing about this performance is it ruined anyone else singing this song for me. I could share a few expletives to share how I felt, but the way that Mrs. Holiday pulled something out of Jessica just brought this performance to another level. Oh, and Jennifer’s facial expressions were hilarious and amazing.

8- Sarina Joi Crowe: Mama Knows Best, by Jessie J- Every time I think of Sarina now, I always feel a sad pang at how early she left. She is up there with Pia for the contestants I feel were most robbed. Anyway, after championing Sarina for a few seasons, it was so surreal to finally see her get her moment to shine. Mama Knows Best was like the climax of a great novel, that moment when it all comes together and all that you have been waiting for is finally realized. Seeing Sarina on the Idol stage after so many years felt so right and it just sucks that she left so early. (sorry for the bad quality video, it was the only one I could find)

7- Elise Testone: Whole Lotta Love, by Led Zepplin- Season 11, by far is my favorite Idol season. Each singer in that top 7 was phenomenal and I wouldn’t have minded seeing any of them winning. Among the 7, was ELISE FREAKING TESTONE! Season 11 had incredible performance after the next, but this one was just something else. She sickens me in the best way possible with how good she is. I just can’t get enough of Elise’s voice and I can’t really put into words how amazing this cover was.

6- Haley Reinhart: Benny And The Jets, by Elton John- Ok, time for a confession. While watching Idol season 10, I for some reason hated Haley. I was a huge James and Casey stan and when they went home while Haley stayed infuriated me. I remember ranting to my friends about how she was annoying and just a growler. When Idol ended and there was that long break until the next season, I went back and started re-watching old Haley performances. With time, I realized how incredibly stupid I was and soon I began to really appreciate Haley. Eventually, I became the huge stan of hers I am today and of her performances, Benny and The Jets is my favorite. I especially loved her swan song rendition of it when she thanked the judges. Haley exited like a boss and with all she has done post-Idol, she definitely earned my respect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBbSvcJdGO4

5- Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox: Falling Slowly, from Once- My favorite performance of season 9. Looking back at this season, I would personally rank it as one of the weaker ones, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have some good performances in there. Of all the performances that year, this is the one that just mesmerized me and truly got me hooked on music. I will admit, watching season 9, I was a total Lee stan (oh how dumb I was back then), but even now I look back and this performance is the one that brings me right back to those years when I had my close Idol friends. For me, there was just a certain magic in this performance that really resonated with me.

4- Nick Fradiani: Beautiful Life, by Nick Fradiani- For those of you who read my AGT articles, you know how crushed I was when Beach Avenue was cut by Howie Mandel. You can imagine my shock when I found out the lead singer had made it to the top 48 of Idol. From there on, Nick was my favorite guy of the season and this performance brought me back to that first audition on AGT with the song “Coming Your Way.” Nick is a phenomenal performer, and of the winners since the season I started watching this show, I’d rank him as my personal favorite.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UUjdkRyE88

3- Hollie Cavanagh: The Climb, by Miley Cyrus- For a while, Hollie Cavanagh was my favorite Idol contestant ever. When she first tried out in season 10, I said to myself “she is one to watch”. When she triumphantly returned next season, she instantly became my favorite, and when she did “ The Climb”, it was like she had come full circle from when she crumbled in her first audition. Hollie forever holds a special place in my idol heart for being my first real favorite whose journey I have watched in its entirety.

2- JAX: White Flag, by Dido- Me and JAX go way back. Last fall, for the first time ever, I took the reigns at trying to find out who was going to make it onto the show before Hollywood Week was even filmed. My searches led me quickly to a vine, where 4 girls all said one word of the classic saying “This is American Idol.” On the word, “American”, there was a girl with blond hair, a backwards baseball cap and what I thought was an “X” tattoo by her eye. Someone had responded to the vine saying something simple like “JAX!” One thing led to the other and soon JAX was my favorite. I even suggested her #JAXPack fanbase name! In the end, JAX went much further then I ever thought when I saw that simple vine, but now I can say she has become my favorite Idol contestant ever. White Flag was my favorite moment of hers, so here it sits at the top 2. As much as JAX is my favorite Idol contestant though, the number one performance spot has to go to…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDiAVBw0nQE

Jena Irene: I Can’t Help Falling In Love, by Elvis Presley- JAX, Hollie and Jena; they are my all time favorite three idol contestants. As much as I love them all, when Jena sang this song (and also Creep!) I cried, and ever since this has been my favorite Idol performance ever. I just keep coming back to this cover, and each time it hits me the same way. There is nothing you can say that will convince me that she did not win season 13.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed my editorial!

About Adam Samuel 151 Articles
Contributing Writer/Researcher at mjsbigblog.com I'm a typical college student balancing a journalism major with my love for reality singing shows.