Top Idol Performances: #85-81

Over at TVLine, Michael Slezak is undertaking a similar task. And well, I thought I’d compare what he came up with for the top Idol performances versus what I came up with.

  • 44 of Slezak’s 64 appear on this list
  • Only 30 appear in the actual top 64 of this list
  • 4 performances in my top 10 are nowhere on Slezak’s list
  • Vote for Michael Johns

85. Allison Iraheta – “Alone” (Heart) (Season 8, Semifinals Group 2)

Before Allison got in to her first performance, I was expecting it to be a complete, utter trainwreck. She received very little screentime previously, so my assumption was that she was fodder, only there to ensure that the producer-predetermined final 12 would get voted through. Then she gave an awkward, nervous, and slightly loopy pre-performance interview to Ryan Seacrest while wearing a glorified trash bag. To top it all off, she was going to sing “Alone”, the song that had become synonymous with Carrie Underwood’s run on the show. Of course, then she actually started to sing. Right from the first smoke-toned note, all that adolescent nervousness was replaced by smooth confidence as she took control of the small stage. And where Carrie had aced the song with an impressive vocal, Allison brought an authentic rock edge and boundless energy. It was the first breath of fresh air (though, not the last) in a season that, otherwise, seemed to be entirely scripted.

84. Anwar Robinson – “What A Wonderful World” (Louis Armstrong) (Season 4, Top 16 Guys)

I’m used to giving contestants all sorts of praise for showing restraint or stripping down a song, but this is American Idol after all, and every now and then blowing a song up is equally effective. Anwar showed his skills as a music teacher by building up “What A Wonderful World” to an Idol-appropriate, big band arrangement. He started with all the soft intimacy of the original but slowly built up throughout the entire song to a few sweeping glory notes. It was like Idol 101 in Moment Creating. The best part of the whole performance, though? Anwar was wearing a top which had no capacity to be unbuttoned!

83. Jordin Sparks – “A Broken Wing” (Martina McBride) (Season 6, Top 7 Country)

Jordin Sparks was the first she’s-only-seventeen! contestant to completely work. She managed to come across as a normal, bubbly teenager in interviews but was still capable of really digging into the emotion of her songs. Taking the advice of mentor and original artist, Martina McBride, she planted her feet to the ground and impressed with some seriously expressive eyebrow movements. Not even her shower-curtain-as-wardrobe could detract from her powerful voice. (Also, Jordin’s people? Take note. This is what this girl does best. Give her a song with some melody, not that recent garbage tuneless single of hers.)

82. Kris Allen – “To Make You Feel My Love” (Garth Brooks) (Season 8, Top 11 Grand Ole Opry)

(Disclaimer: I’m well aware that Bob Dylan wrote the song, but Garth Brooks’ cover is the reason it was eligible for Opry night.) So it’s a well-documented fact that I’m an obsessive Kris Allen fan. I initially didn’t have this performance in the top 100 because Kris is already very well represented on the list and one more seemed like overkill. But ultimately, I decided to run with my biased self and let my stan-flag fly. Everything about the performance is just too sweet and intimate and heartfelt to leave off. Kris also took not playing to the cameras to a new extreme; half the time it appeared as though he was intentionally avoiding them. It just added to the tender-dawg-ness of the moment. (Does that make any sense? No, it doesn’t. But that’s what happens when I start lifting lines from Randy’s critiques.) This was the first time most people took Kris seriously and it helped solidify his role as sensitive, acoustic pop crooner. (And let’s face it, if you don’t have a carefully constructed and well-defined role on Idol, you’re not gonna last very long.)

81. Siobhan Magnus – “Paint It, Black” (Rolling Stones) (Season 9, Top 12 Rolling Stones)

Alright, so I’m just going to address the extremely ugly glory note in the song right off the bat. Yes, it was extremely ugly. Yes, Siobhan looked a little possessed. But it somehow fit with the anguish of the song. Siobhan had a knack for the dramatic and she pumped up the theatrics to eleven on this one. Her voice and arrangements might have failed later on in attempting Shania or Mariah, but in this one everything worked towards a delightfully haunting and unsettling atmosphere. At the very least, it was an extremely memorable moment in a season that ended up being nearly devoid of excitement or risk.

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