Top Idol Performances: #75-71

In honor of James Durbin’s (slightly) shocking elimination, it’s time for a round of performances with a few contestants who many would say also left too early. Well, some contestants who left early and maybe one or two who made it all the way to the end. Close enough? (Okay, so this isn’t in honor of James Durbin at all, but it seemed like a decent tie in when the list of performances includes fellow 4th placers Chris Daughtry and Allison Iraheta, along with early frontrunner Mandisa.)

75. Mandisa – “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” (Dinah Washington) (Season 5, Top 11 1950s)

Before Mandisa was a decently-established gospel recording artist, she was a reality TV contestant who ignited controversy with some potentially homophobic remarks! Err, I mean, she was a frontrunner on American Idol. (As I didn’t watch Season 5 during its original airing, this is actually the one Idol “scandal” I know nothing about. So I’m not in the know for once. I feel so ashamed of myself.) Well, at the very least, Mandisa had generated early buzz for her more-than-capable set of bring-the-house-down pipes. She put them to good use on her appropriately sassy rendition of Dinah Washington’s version of “I Don’t Hurt Anymore.” As a happy consumer of any sort of old school R&B, I thoroughly enjoyed every little tinge of retrosoul thrown in. It was my personal favorite of the night. (I only mention this because, well, I might have a performance from the same night ranked higher. Um. And that performance might show up very soon. One of many cases where external factors [contestant, season, etc] altered the list.)

74. Clay Aiken – “Solitaire” (The Carpenters) (Season 2, Top 5 Neil Sedaka)

Clay Aiken standing still, bathed in dramatic, but not distracting, lighting and singing a sweeping ballad. I don’t think you can get much more classic Idol than this.

73. Chris Daughtry – “I Walk The Line” (Johnny Cash) (Season 5, Top 11 1950s)

While “Solitaire” might represent classic Idol, “I Walk The Line” represents the new era of Idol: an era in which song arrangement and artistic identity has become just as important as vocal ability and emotional connection. With this era came a new brand of controversy as well. Cover-gate. Before shades of wait, didn’t Dilana do this?, it still wasn’t as good as The Fray’s…, and stop stealing from Doxology/Whitesnake/Chris Cornell! were encroaching upon the Idolsphere, the arrangement theft accusation du jour was Daughtry’s “I Walk The Line.” Luckily for Chris, this meant that “I Walk The Line” was a good performance – as nobody ever gets up-in-arms over a terrible performance, stolen arrangement or otherwise. It represented his future style well. (A style with which he has sold over 5.5 million albums.) (In case you were curious, yes, Daughtry did go on to credit the alt-rock band Live with the arrangement.)

72. Carrie Underwood – “Independence Day” (Martina McBride) (Season 4, Top 10 1990s)

Because apparently I’m all about transitions and continuity in this blog, let’s talk a little bit more about contestants representing their future style well. If anyone can make a case against Kelly Clarkson as the most successful Idol alum, it’s Carrie Underwood. And she’s built up that résumé entirely on country music (well, maybe a tinge of pop-leaning country). A week after Season Four’s eventual run-away winner stepped out of her box with her now-signature Heart number, she colored inside the lines of “Independence Day” to show off an entirely different side: mainly, $$$. Carrie Underwood has a fantastic voice and can sell a country song with the best of ’em.

71. Allison Iraheta – “Cry Baby” (Janis Joplin) (Season 8, Top 4 Rock)

Keeping with the theme of contestants rocking out their chosen genre, it’s time for Season Eight’s resident rocker chick on, well, Rock Week. It rocked enough to land here at #71. That said, I’m going to take this space to gush effusively over a performance that wasn’t eligible to be ranked on this list, but if so would’ve easily been in the top 5. Yeah, I’m talking about Allison’s exit performance of “Cry Baby”. Elimination emotions either push contestants to incoherent gasps or give contestants that extra edge of passion. Allison took the latter route. It was emotionally powerful. It was vocally powerful. It was moving and wonderful and amazing and impassioned and memorable and, well, bittersweet as it was her last hurrah. I mean. She had a tear running down her face! Her adorable family was head-banging and singing along with her! You’d have to be some kind of cold-hearted monster to not love it. (I mean, I love it and I think I pretty much set the standard for heartless jerk.) Allison! Why did you have to get eliminated? Why?

And that’s it till next time, when I will undoubtedly serve as head cheerleader for a contestant from Season 8. (I have no idea if this is actually true, but it’s pretty much a given from here on out.)

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