Top 10 American Idol Performances of All-Time

The Very Best Individual Moments

Twelve seasons of American Idol, the world's biggest talent show, have produced such top pop stars as Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, and Carrie Underwood. It has also generated amazing individual performances that will be remembered whether the singer ultimately won the contest or not. These 10 American Idol moments are a combination of tremendous talent, showmanship and creativity.

10
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Phillip Phillips - "Home"

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The performance of what will ultimately become the first single by an American Idol winner is rarely one of the best performances of the season.  However, when season 11 winner Phillip Phillips first performed the song "Home," everyone sensed a bit of magic.  The song eventually became the bestselling coronation song ever by an American Idol winner.

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09
of 10

Haley Reinhart - "I (Who Have Nothing)"

Haley Reinhart
Haley Reinhart. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Haley Reinhart was battling to make it to the final three in season 10 of American Idol. Guest mentor Lady Gaga suggested she get a little "psycho" and throw a little Edith Piaf into her performance by taking a dramatic breath. The advice worked and Haley Reinhart turned what can sometimes sound like a creaky old-fashioned song into perhaps the most dramatic moment of the season.

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08
of 10

Clay Aiken - "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

Clay Aiken
Clay Aiken. Photo by Michel Boutefeu / Getty Images

It still seems a wonder of nature that such a voice comes out of the wispy body of Clay Aiken. In an interview with People magazine, season two runner-up Aiken said "I looked like Opie." This performance of the Simon & Garfunkel classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water" proves looks can indeed be deceiving.

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07
of 10

Kelly Clarkson - "Stuff Like That There"

Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson. Photo by Mark Mainz / Getty Images

During season one we knew that Kelly Clarkson could deliver soul. She had performed multiple Aretha Franklin classics. Then she took the stage in a black and white polka dot dress and delivered this big band tune that gave us a good long look at the versatile artist we would all soon get to know a lot better.

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06
of 10

Constantine Maroulis - "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Constantine Maroulis
Constantine Maroulis. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Constantine Maroulis, along with Bo Bice, was one of season four's two rockers among the finalists. While he ultimately only finished sixth, this performance of Queen's classic "Bohemian Rhapsody" connected instantly with the audiences and judges alike. This performance can still produce chills.

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05
of 10

Adam Lambert - "Mad World"

Adam Lambert
Adam Lambert. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

It was already well established that Adam Lambert knew his way around a flamboyant high energy performance in season eight when he changed things around. Tears for Fears' classic "Mad World" was the vehicle for dropping the tempo while not losing an ounce of drama. This was one of the most outstanding examples of an American Idol contestant proving their range to any skeptics at home.

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04
of 10

Jennifer Hudson - "Weekend In New England"

Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

With hindsight, it seems unbelievable that Academy Award and Grammy Award winner Jennifer Hudson only finished seventh in American Idol's third season. This performance is the one that ultimately resulted in Hudson's elimination. However, it is a re-interpretation of the Barry Manilow classic that finds a soulfulness missing in the original hit recording. Jennifer Hudson performed it with Barry Manilow himself at this year's pre-Grammy party honoring Clive Davis.

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03
of 10

Chris Daughtry - "Walk the Line"

Chris Daughtry
Chris Daughtry. Photo by Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images

Before putting together his multi-platinum group Daughtry, Chris Daughtry finished in fourth place during season five of American Idol. He stunned the judges and viewers with this dark, somber rendition of Johnny Cash's classic "Walk the Line." Later revelations that his interpretation was taken from an earlier recording by the rock group Live did not diminish the long-term impact of this performance giving us a glimpse of the future star Chris Daughtry would become.

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02
of 10

Elliott Yamin - "A Song For You"

Elliott Yamin
Elliott Yamin. Photo by Vince Bucci / Getty Images

Elliott Yamin seemed one of the most unlikely of American Idol contenders. However, on the night he performed Donny Hathaway's signature song "A Song For You," Yamin proved he could hold his own with any American Idol contestants past, present, or future. Simon Cowell referred to the performance as a "vocal masterclass."

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01
of 10

Fantasia Barrino - "Summertime"

Fantasia
Fantasia. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Fantasia Barrino's performance of "Summertime" from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess during season three of American Idol is still in a class by itself. Fantasia's involvement with the song left her literally in tears. Ultimately, she won the competition and this performance proved American Idol could produce riveting television.

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Lamb, Bill. "Top 10 American Idol Performances of All-Time." ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/top-american-idol-performances-of-all-time-3244594. Lamb, Bill. (2016, August 22). Top 10 American Idol Performances of All-Time. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/top-american-idol-performances-of-all-time-3244594 Lamb, Bill. "Top 10 American Idol Performances of All-Time." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-american-idol-performances-of-all-time-3244594 (accessed December 11, 2017).