Top Idol Performances: #50-46

We’re finally in the top half of this list! That’s right, baby, top 50, which means if I had made this list a top 50 like I initially planned, I’d be done by now. Damn my misplaced ambition, crippling indecisiveness and paralyzing laziness. Damn it to hell. Anyway, here’s a grab bag set of performances from the very well remembered to the certainly forgotten:

50. Crystal Bowersox – “People Get Ready” (The Impressions) (Season 9, Top 7 Idol Gives Back Night)

Crystal Bowersox was the lone dependable contestant in Season 9. Every week you could count on her to deliver a strong, well-sung performance. And while that put her leaps and bounds ahead of her competition, it also meant that she often struggled to create performances that surprised people. For me, her clear standout performance, “People Get Ready,” excelled because of and despite its adherence to some Idol-tested cliches. The theme was inspirational songs, she gave a perfect a cappella intro, brought a personal item (her bong-masquerading-as-mic-stand) and to top it all off, broke down into tears at the end! It had all the ingredients of a trite mess, but Crystal kept it believable and ended up with a stirring, memorable performance.

49. Brooke White – “You’re So Vain” (Carly Simon) (Season 7, Top 20 Girls)

The current Idol dogma is that every song must be reworked drastically and singing a song as written reveals a lack of “artistry.” One of the first contestants in this rearrangement revolution was Brooke White, with her mellow folk pop vibe. While Brooke wasn’t afraid of flipping a song on its head, one of her best performances simply involved picking the perfect song. Her rendition of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” never strayed very far from the original, but it still told America everything they needed to know about Brooke as an artist. She was in her element and it helped show off all her talents.

48. Tamyra Gray – “And I Am Telling You” (Jennifer Holliday) (Season 1, Semifinals Group 1)

Before Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar and every diva-in-training was trying to take on “And I Am Telling You” at the Idol auditions, Tamyra Gray blazed through it on the comically tiny Season 1 semifinals stage. With limited room and only a piano for backup, she managed to inject heaps of attitude and personality while keeping up with all the taxing vocal demands of the song. It was the performance that cemented her position as early frontrunner in the inaugural season.

47. Chikezie Eze – “She’s A Woman” (The Beatles) (Season 7, Top 12 Lennon-McCartney Night)

Attempting a total retool of a Beatles song does not always yield positive results. Kristy Lee Cook proved that an hour after Chikezie brought down the house with a supremely entertaining, bluegrass-infused version of “She’s A Woman.” Where Kristy’s arrangement floundered in a cacophonous mess of a hyperactive string section and warbling vocals, Chikezie’s stayed smart in its blues rock sensibility. And really, if you ignore the Carlton Banks inspired wardrobe, Chikezie did everything right.

46. Adam Lambert – “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin) (Season 8, Top 4 Rock Night)

Adam Lambert was one of the most polished performers that the Idol stage has ever seen. In eleven seasons, no one has put together excellent vocal ability with a flair for the dramatic quite like he was able to time after time. This mixture of elements was most brilliantly displayed during rock week, where he opened the show with an undeniably stimulating cover of Led Zeppelin. It was two minutes of Adam navigating through vocal hoops and putting on one hell of a rock show that ended with a trademark wail that he pulled off so well. Of course, what makes Adam’s rock week showing so amazing is that he would go on to outdo himself later in the night.

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