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Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Top 10 American Idol Alums

Between writing about my major commitment to American Idol yesterday and Hollywood Week finally arriving on the show's current season, I couldn't help but reminisce over the best and worst moments of the previous ten years. Join me for a stroll down memory lane as I go through my list of favorite contestants (in reverse order, just to amp up the drama)- but you'll have to check back tomorrow to find out who truly makes my blood boil.

#7-10: Jon Peter Lewis, Jason Castro, Siobhan Magnus & Stefano Langone
I started with a clear cut Top 6, but since Top 10 has a nicer ring to it, I expanded my list to include these four singers (and that's why their names don't get to be in a larger font like the rest of my list- that, and so they would fit cleanly on one line). My honorable mentions, in no particular order amongst themselves, were my sentimental favorites during their respective seasons. They each stood out to me for very different reasons: JPL for his charming personality and awkward dancing during Season 3; Jason Castro and his guitar (or ukelele) during Season 7, particularly his performances of "Hallelujah" and "Over the Rainbow"; the quirky Siobhan for her weirdness, the only remotely interesting part of Season 9. As for Season 10's Stefano, while I was automatically inclined to root for the Seattle-area native (for the record: hometown status is not enough to win me over- SPOILER ALERT- you will not find Blake Lewis or Sanjaya Malakar on this list), it was really his earnest singing that won me over.

#6: Allison Iraheta
I bought the Season 8's fourth-place finisher's debut album. Did anybody else? I'm guessing not. Her album didn't seem to get much support, which blows my mind because I swear to you, it deserved to get some attention. Check out the teenage rocker singing "I Can't Make You Love Me" on the show or even better, her own "Don't Waste the Pretty" (featuring Orianthi on guitar). And one more because I can't help myself: her duet with another contestant on my list is one of my all-time favorite performances on the American Idol stage.

#5: Haley Reinhart
I knew I loved Haley from the first time we heard her sing on Season 10- that raspy voice, that tone, that growwwl! She kept landing in the dreaded Bottom 3 until America finally caught on to her brilliance after she unleashed her rendition of "Bennie and the Jets," eventually coming in at third place. Picking a favorite performance is difficult, but if you'll only watch one video, I beg you to press play below and enjoy "House of the Rising Sun."



#4: David Cook 
Season 7 champ David Cook was a game-changer for American Idol by really being the first to reinvent just about every song he chose to perform. I was a fan of his musical stylings, but he also always came across as a genuinely nice guy- and who can resist that? His overall catalog of Idol performances, top to bottom, might be my favorite of any contestant- or at least a very close second to the person I slotted #2. Put a gun to my head and I'll say David's take on Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby" is my favorite, but it was his arrangement of Lionel Richie's "Hello" during the Top 16 that instantly put him at the top of his class, from where he never looked back. 

David & I in 2009. Nice guy.

#3: Carrie Underwood
Did I just hear some gasps? Yes, the gorgeous country queen merely gets the third spot on my list- but it's less about her and more a commentary on how much I love the next two artists. There's not really anything I can say about Carrie that you don't already know, so I'll just say this: I was ready to move on from American Idol after its third season, but Carrie's emergence had me running back to my television set. Having seen her perform live in concert, I can truly say that Carrie Underwood is simply fantastic.

#2: Adam Lambert
I admire Adam Lambert on so many levels. Obvious vocal talents aside, he isn't afraid to be himself, and he took some killer risks on the show (I'm sure I don't have to remind you of "Ring of Fire"). He was captivating week after week, never singing a single note out of tune, from his very first audition to "A Change is Gonna Come" on the finale, and the incredible "Mad World" in between. I still don't understand how he didn't take the Season 8 title, as he just might end up being the most talented performer the American Idol stage will ever see.

#1: Kelly Clarkson
This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, seeing that I've already declared my love for Kelly twice in my blog's one-week lifespan. I'll just leave you with her latest video for another brilliant song, "Stronger."




OK, I lied. If you want to see the exact moment that Kelly Clarkson turned into a star, watch her sing "Natural Woman" on Idol a whopping 10 years ago. I couldn't in good faith write this post and not include that performance.

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