American Idol is one of those shows in which some of the performers hit it out of the park, and others fail miserably. During the many seasons of American Idol, a handful of stellar performances, the kind that cause you to catch your breath and hold it so you don’t miss anything, have filled the small screen. Here are a few, and you’ll spot a common denominator in many of them in that the performer’s heart and soul were soundly affixed to the performance:
Katharine McPhee: Somewhere Over the Rainbow. McPhee performed this song during the show and again for the finale. During that finale show, McPhee sat on the stage, modestly dressed with legs tucked behind her in an innocent, little girl fashion. There were no gyrations, no running about the stage, no hand gestures. Her voice and eyes were her performance. Simplicity. Simply a brilliant performance.
After her exodus from the show, Katharine would record this song for Simon Fuller on his record label. It would be the second highest record seller for 2006. As beautiful as it was musically, the calm backdrop McPhee maintained put the performance into another realm.
Elliott Yamin: A Song for You. Again, this was a song Elliott sang at the beginning of the competition. It’s the song that wowed the judges in the first place. If Elliott has a forte, it’s in knowing his strengths and weaknesses. A Song for You has been in Elliott’s repertoire for years as it is one of his favorites, performed by one of his favorite performers, Donny Hathaway. That’s part of what made Elliott’s rendition so believable. He loves the number himself.
Elliott’s voice caressed each word, and each note of each word. He was singing a song for us that season. As an aside, Donny Hathaway’s daughter was among the backup singers which made the performance all the more moving.
Clay Aiken: Bridge Over Troubled Water. For his finale, a head to head against Ruben Studdard in Season Two, Clay took on the most popular song of 1970. A choir performed behind Clay, but his voice dominated through a very ambitious song, particularly for such a crucial segment of the show.
Tamyra Gray: A House is Not a Home. It’s always risky for an artist to pick a song that is owned (in the spiritual sense of the word) by another artist. Still Tamyra opted to sing a Della Reese classic, an ambitious undertaking. Her range and ability to hold strong, solid notes makes this a standout.
Melinda Doolitte: My Funny Valentine. Ambitious again. As with Tamyra’s performance, this is an old standard, and people expect it to be perfect when they hear it. Doolitte’s voice suited the song. She felt the song, and so did we.
David Archuletta: Imagine. Sweet-faced David Archuletta was just innocent enough to throw out the question: Imagine? Still, his strong soulful voice would catch listeners off guard. The youthful innocence hearkens back to the 60s and 70s when many people his age asked the same sort of questions.
David Cook: Billie Jean. It seems only right that the David Archletta entry should be followed the David Cook song Billie Jean. He added many roller coaster like turns to the song, making it all his own. David Cook contorted this Michael Jackson arrangement in a way that made it all his; in fact, Jackson’s version was not even recognizable in it.
Blake Lewis: You Give Love a Bad Name. Prior to any actual singing, Lewis does a mime-like imitation of a record dropping down on the turntable. In typical Lewis style, he added a lot of beat box movements and rhythms, giving a classic rock song a twist that updates it for new listeners.
Jennifer Hudson belted out a forecful rendition of Circle of Life during the week featuring Elton John. Her powerful voice took a song that had been done in a more peaceful manner to another level. Sounds trite, but that’s the only way to describe it. If you loved that song in The Lion King, you have to love Jennifer Hudson’s performance during season.
If we’re telling the truth here, some of these will change depending on one’s mood for the day. The common quality with these, however, is that the performers seemed to reach far beyond their reach, yet they captured exactly what they had intended.