Top Idol Performances: #55-51

I’m bringing this list back! No one can ever claim I’m a quitter. (They can however, claim I practice necromancy.) The computer I kept the original list on died a while back and I was far too lazy to recreate the entire thing. But I have now recreated it and I think it’s mostly faithful to the original. There are probably a few changes, but no one will ever know about those except for me. On with the list! (And um, what probably will seem to be extremely wacky placings to others.)

55. Ruben Studdard – “Superstar” (The Carpenters) (Season 2, Semifinals Group 2)

Velvet Teddy Bear made his name on silky smooth vocals and sort of terrifying amounts of sweat. Both of those trademark qualities were in full effect during his first live performance. I still compare anyone who touches “Superstar” on the show to this perfectly delicate rendition and everyone else always looks worse for it. Ruben was definitely a no frills kind of guy (I think he might pass out if he did anything close to working the stage) but it worked for him. His disarming earnestness was enough to captivate America.

54. Katelyn Epperly – “The Scientist” (Coldplay) (Season 9, Top 20 Girls)

I need to get my obligatory KATELYN :( out of the way. Alright, Katelyn is the last of the semifinalist casualties to make this list. Before America got everything wrong and eliminated her right before the finals in favor of vocal superstars such as Paige Miles, Katie Stevens and Lacey Brown, she gave us this absolutely stunning rendition of “The Scientist.” It never picked up past a crawl but that only helped build an intimate atmosphere and feed into the ethereal quality of the entire thing. The pure white piano was just the cherry on top of an already immaculate, yearning performance.

53. Jasmine Trias – “Inseparable” (Natalie Cole) (Season 3, Top 12 Soul Night)

So now everyone knows my hints of including Jasmine Trias on a non-ironic “best of” list were not simply empty threats. Jasmine Trias wasn’t always an Idol punchline, Vote For The Worst poster girl. At one point, she actually seemed like a legitimate contender to succeed Ruben Studdard and be saddled with “I Believe.” While her voice couldn’t compare to the raw power of her competition, she hit all the right marks in an understated take on “Inseparable” and emoted in a way that would elude her for the rest of the competition.

52. Kris Allen – “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers) (Season 8, Top 9 Top Downloads Night)

Season 8 of American Idol delivered pretty consistently. However, the Top 9 fumbled big time when faced with the extremely vague non-theme of “Top iTunes Downloads.” After a night of poor song choices and misguided arrangements, Kris took his one producer-granted pimp slot and delivered a refreshingly current take on Bill Withers’ soul classic. His crashing piano arrangement added much needed dynamic to bring the song into the modern music scene. If he hadn’t recreated and improved upon this arrangement a few weeks later, this gem would have sailed into the top 20 of the list.

51. Jennifer Hudson – “Weekend In New England” (Barry Manilow) (Season 3, Top 7 Barry Manilow Night)

I was not Jennifer Hudson’s biggest fan during her run on Idol. She was prone to oversinging and hadn’t learned how to control her monster of a voice. However, she was getting better control every week and showed that off during Barry Manilow week. As always, her voice lifted the song to that send-chills-down-your-spine level that she’s now known for. So of course, just as she found her footing, America tossed her to the wayside and she became the most robbed contestant ever, having her Idol life cut short before the likes of John Stevens and Jasmine Trias.
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