While the current season of American Idol has stirred up quite a lot of controversy (ie: What's Ellen doing here? Is this Simon's last season? Why hasn't Tim Urban been kicked off yet?!), it's still had its share of stellar performances over the past 5 months. After all, in the show's 9th season, the competition is no longer just about being a great singer. A show-stopping performance requires not only crazy pipes, but also personality, originality, the remarkable ability to make a trite karaoke song sound completely fresh and modern, and of course, Kara's favorite word, artistry. While more contestants than usual this season seemed to crack under the pressure, making for some pretty painful renditions of songs that have already been revamped on this show countless times before, others seriously "worked it out," in the words of Randy Jackson, and won over both the judges and the voters. Whether or not you think the show is on its last leg of existence, you've gotta admit that season 9 did bring forth some noteworthy numbers, in a season where it was especially hard to impress.
So in honor of this tonight and tomorrow's season 9 finale (GO LEE!), I've collected this season's 9 best performances from the top 12 contestants, in no particular order, complete with links for easy downloading!
While no one seemed to be able to quite figure Siobhan out, this song was the perfect showcase for her haunting, mysterious, slightly rocker-chick voice. And of course, you can't forget her knack for screaming! -- Top 12, Rolling Stones Week
The Ingrid Michaelson sound-alike never really got the credit I felt she deserved... except when she sang her version of the Fleetwood Mac hit. Unfortunately, she spent more time crying than singing during her stint onstage, but she had her moment, as fleeting as it was! -- Top 16, Female Semifinalists Perform
Finally! The judges get a performance that just about lives up to his rendition of "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul. Unfortunately, he was sent home soon following this epic take on the Chris Brown single. At least he's got YouTube fame! -- Top 10
Ever since he stopped singing terrible songs like "Fireflies," he's been improving from week to week. However, his rendition of "Hallelujah," as recommended by Simon, really made him the clear frontrunner of this season's top 3 and solidified his potential to take the whole competition! -- Top 3, Judges' Choice
Crystal has been consistent throughout the season's entirety, but this performance really stood out for her fans. It's the first time she came out of her guitar-and-harmonica comfort zone and showed that she's not just a one-trick pony, but a well-rounded performer. Sure, she just swapped the guitar for a piano, but still... -- Top 10
Poor kid. I think we all knew he didn't really have a shot at the title, but he put up a pretty respectable fight. I've heard better versions of the song on this show (uhh like Kris Allen's last season!), but his vocals were pretty impressive! ...Just not quite impressive enough. -- Top 10
Big Mike was known for being theatrical, or "wet" as Simon not-so-astutely described him. This performance, however, was simple, pared-down, and really let Mike just show off some really beautiful singing. -- Top 10
Once upon a time, before the judges realized he sounded like a lamb, Casey James actually had a pretty good thing going. A curly-locked, stool-sittin' guitar-strummer, pouring his heart out to some mystery girl that Kara wished she could be. Then he went all Guitar Hero on us in the later episodes and we were all kind of over it, but he did have a few honest money performances, and "Heaven" was one of them. -- Top 24, Male Semifinalists Perform
I'm usually not a big fan of the duets, but this one just can't be ignored. Talk about a power duo! Nevermind the fact that I was totally annoyed with the song choice -- Kris Allen just sang this song last year for the SAME THEME -- they still did an amazing rendition. The pairing couldn't have been more perfect! -- Top 4, Songs From The Movies Week
Honorable Mention: Gotta give love to "Pants on the Ground" by General Larry Platt
...just because I couldn't resist!
Got a favorite performance from this season that didn't make the list? Weigh in below!