Top Idol Performances: #40-36

I don’t think any of the semi-finals performances from this season will be making their way into the top 100 list here, but at least they showed some promise. I mean, at least a few of them were undeniably better than hilarious joke performances like a 9th placer wearing a coat cape and singing Sisqo, right? WRONG. Horrifyingly wrong, actually. So wrong that I think I just need to get on with #40.

40. Nikko Smith – “Incomplete” (Sisqo) (Season 4, Top 11 Billboard #1 Hits Night)

Nikko Smith might not be the best remembered Idol contestant ever, but he’s the best example of a contemporary R&B male the show has ever had. After originally being cut in the last round of the semifinals, Nikko Smith was added back to the show after Mario Vazquez dropped out of the show. He then rocked a fedora and draped a coat over his shoulders and didn’t end up with something totally laughable. With buttery smooth vocal and the vocal conviction of a non-damaged R. Kelly, Nikko carved out his territory as a modern R&B artist.

39. Siobhan Magnus – “House Of The Rising Sun” (The Animals) (Season 9, Top 16 Girls)

Siobhan is best remembered for her polarizing ability to screech ridiculous notes. Though for my money, her strongest performance came when she dialed everything back in the last round of the semifinals to create an appropriately haunting atmosphere for “House Of The Rising Sun.” Her a cappella open was clear and pitch-perfect in a fashion that was all too rare during Season Nine’s live shows. Siobhan definitely was an odd personality on the show and managed to pair that up with the perfect song in this performance.

38. Blake Lewis – “Time Of The Season” (The Zombies) (Season 6, Top 11 British Invasion Night)

While definitely not the most gifted vocalist in Season Six, Blake Lewis was far and away the most creative entertainer. For the unusually innovative British Invasion theme week, Blake barely tweaked “Time Of The Season” with an updated drum machine and horns for a fresh, but recognizable spin. In typical Blake Lewis-fashion, he also added a short beat-boxing breakdown which gave the performance an edge over his stand-and-belt competition. Though, he was definitely overshadowed by one stand-and-belter that night…

37. Jordin Sparks – “I (Who Have Nothing)” (Tom Jones) (Season 6, Top 11 British Invasion Night)

Ah yes, while Blake Lewis was busy beat-boxing and moon-walking on his creative path to the finals, Jordin Sparks was throwing herself into emotionally weighty ballads on her victory march. And her best effort also came on British Invasion night with a powerful “I (Who Have Nothing).” Jordin’s ability to convey emotion with her voice is stellar – perhaps only outmatched by her ability to convey emotion with her eyebrows. It was hard not to get wrapped up in the story of desperation she sold so effectively doing nothing more than standing and belting.

36. Bo Bice – “In A Dream” (Badlands) (Season 4, Top 3 Idol’s Choice)

Though, if you really want to talk utilizing simplicity for maximum effect, you don’t need to look any further than Bo Bice’s iconic “In A Dream.” In eleven seasons, it’s the only time someone has braved an entire performance completely a cappella and is an event that can’t be replicated. At the time, even moderate arrangement tweaks were unheard of on the Idol stage, so when Bo completely stripped the song down, it appeared to be innovation beyond comprehension. And with no music to fall back on, Bo was taking a risk by having nothing to hide any vocal imperfections. But that risk paid off in a big way, as he ended up giving what many still consider the best Idol performance ever.
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