Top Idol Performances: #35-31

Included in this update: four winners and 3 white guys with guitars. And yes, all three white guys with guitars are winners. Because I love myself a good WGWG performance. Of course, while four of these performances are all probably remembered to a degree, I always need to include that one long-forgotten performance. Or else I just wouldn’t be me, y’know?

35. David Cook – “Always Be My Baby” (Mariah Carey) (Season 7, Top 7 Mariah Carey Night)

After a couple weeks of ludicrously nonsensical accusations that David was stealing his arrangements from other sources, Cook shut up naysayers with a unique, haunting rearrangement of Mariah Carey’s effervescent pop tune, “Always Be My Baby.” In place of Mariah’s whimsical, light vocal delivery, Cook substituted a somber, weighty interpretation that built upon his image as the cool, moody rocker of the group. His voice came together with an increasingly frantic string section for a hugely effective climax. In a lot of ways, Cook paved the road for the plethora of retooled top 40 songs that followed in future seasons.

34. George Huff – “Take Me To The Pilot” (Elton John) (Season 3, Top 9 Elton John Night)

Season Three was really all about the women; between the acclaimed divas to the maligned teens, the men were largely an after thought. (How times have changed, huh?) The one guy worth talking about, though, was George Huff. He brought his trademark energy and enthusiasm to Elton John night by keeping everything light and upbeat. George’s ear-to-ear smile made it impossible not to get swept up in the infectious joyfulness of it all. Sometimes all a great Idol performance needs is a little fun, and this one had it in spades.

33. Lee DeWyze – “Treat Her Like A Lady” (Cornelius Brothers) (Season 9, Top 10 R&B Soul Night)

I malign Phil Dweezy fairly often, I’ll admit. He was not my cuppa and his win still baffles me a bit. But despite all that, I still think Lee gave the best single performance in a desolate Season Nine with his surprisingly deft interpretation of “Treat Her Like A Lady.” Above all, while Lee’s voice was uneven throughout much of the season, it was strong and on point during R&B/Soul night. The arrangement was smart and varied, he pulled and pushed at all the right parts to create a coherent, yet dynamic performance. I’ll admit it, Lee got everything right with this one.

32. Kris Allen – “She Works Hard For The Money” (Donna Summer) (Season 8, Top 7 Disco Night)


It’s generally not a good sign when a contestant expresses frustration at the theme of the week, as Kris Allen did in his pre-performance interview with Seacrest before “She Works Hard For The Money.” And as simplistic as his reasoning was for picking the song, it proved to be perfect logic: just pick a song that tells a story and then tell it. He distilled all the beats and instruments in the original down to a guitar and some simple percussion to highlight the song’s surprisingly strong melody & lyrics. Visually, it was nothing more than a jam session between a few friends, but that only added to the performance’s charm. It was a rare moment of pure, honest musicality that the bigger Idol stage tends to shy away from.

31. Fantasia Barrino – “I Believe” (Fantasia) (Season 3, Top 2 Coronation Song)

“I Believe” isn’t the greatest song ever, but it’s miles more effective than any of the other 9 coronation songs. (Thank you, Tamyra Gray.) That already put Fantasia ahead of the curve when comparing coronation song performances, but alone wouldn’t be nearly enough to land her a spot on this list. Fantasia was polarizing – both her voice and performing style were 100% raw. Every time Fantasia went on stage, she gave it everything she had. So she was the perfect winner to reel in all the sap and cheese in “I Believe” and turn it into real emotion. She wasn’t afraid to get a little ugly and, because of that, was able to actually sell lines like: “I believe in the impossible / if I reach deep within my heart / overcome any obstacle / won’t let this dream fall apart.” And y’know, when a performance gets taken to church? Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to bring out a gospel choir.
<< #40-36

#30-26

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2 Responses to “Top Idol Performances: #35-31”


  1. 1 TB March 7, 2012 at 6:04 am

    So just out of curiosity, will there be season 10 performances here? Because I don’t know if I can enter a top 20 (ok top 10…top 5?) without Haley Reinhart’s House Of The Rising Sun. This is an awesome list so far though!

    • 2 jaytak March 7, 2012 at 7:24 am

      Thanks for the compliment. Sadly, no there are no Season 10 performances on this list right now. I originally put it together while S10 was still airing and have just been very slow to get it going.

      I plan on updating it with S10/S11 performances after the end of the current season, and Haley’s HOTRS is sure to make it. (And that certainly won’t be Haley’s only entry.)


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