The end of “American Idol” season nine felt like the end of an era: no more kooky Paula Abdul or acid-tongued Simon Cowell to judge the hoards of bright-eyed youngsters set on musical stardom.
Excuse us while we wipe our tears. OK, better.
Now, we’re gearing up for a new season of “Idol” featuring our dawg Randy Jackson, along with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and our “Jenny from the Block” Jennifer Lopez. Will the show have the same magic? Time will tell. In the mean time, we’ll wax poetic for days gone by with the best contestant performances from the past nine seasons of American Idol.
Season One — Kelly Clarkson “A Moment Like This”
The inaugural season of “American Idol” captivated the American television audience during the summer of 2002. Never before did an audience have a true say in who won a competition and we practiced our right to vote, big time. In the end, Kelly Clarkson won an emotional victory over runner-up Justin Guarini and capped off her crown with a tear-filled version of “A Moment Like This.” It’s still the best win of “American Idol.”
Season Two — Ruben Studdard “Flying Without Wings”
Ruben Studdard’s big bass vocals more than made up for his lack of stage presence. The Velvet Teddy Bear wooed audiences all season long with his words and we responded by crowning him winner of season two. He might not have the mainsteam success of runner-up Clay Aiken, but he did leave us with a beautiful cover of Westlife’s “Flying Without Wings.”
Season Three — Fantasia Barrino “Summertime”
Fantasia Barrino overcame many obstacles on her way to the “American Idol” stage; but when she finally got on stage it was like she was born there. A good example of her talent? Her breathtaking version of “Summertime” from the 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess.”
Season Four — Constantine Maroulis “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Everything about Constantine Maroulis screams rock & roll, from his long mop of curls to his attachment to leather clothing. Yes, Maroulis is rock & roll — and he never let us forget it with his anthemic rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He might not have found commercial success post-“Idol” but he is still rocking audiences as Drew in Broadway’s “Rock of Ages.” Rock on, indeed.
Season Five — Chris Daughtry “Walk the Line”
With all his commercial success, it’s easy to forget that Chris Daughtry first leap into our consciousness during his all-too-short stint on “Idol.” He was the first real contestant to challenge the pop formula of the hit competition — and his take-no-prisoners performance of “Walk the Line” was a sign of things to come.
Season Six — Jordin Sparks “Broken Wing”
It’s hard to believe that such a big voice comes out of the body of the sweet and innocent Jordin Sparks, but it does. Her performance of Martina McBride’s “Broken Wing” showed off that She commanded the “Idol” stage so well for someone so young; and in the end it helped secure her the win, along with her place as one of America’s Sweethearts.
Season Seven — David Cook “Billie Jean”
Any “Idol” fans who weren’t already convinced of David Cook’s star power definitely understood after his emo-tinged performance of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” during season seven. This performance, along with his rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” secured his spot atop the “Idol” board. His female fanbase — self-named the Word Nerds — ultimately helped him triumph to victory over “the other David” (David Archuleta.)
Season Eight — Adam Lambert “Mad World”
Adam Lambert is the consummate performer, and star power was fully visible during the early days of season eight. He took the judge’s critiques to heart and continually improved each performance, enough to make the always-harsh Cowell give him a standing ovation for this performance of “Mad World.”
Season Nine — Crystal Bowersox “Up to the Mountain”
Crystal Bowersox isn’t your typical female “American Idol” contestant — she has the kind of voice that defies her face, making her sound like a life-weary, chain-smoking lounge singer rather than a fresh-faced twentysomething. The best thing about Bowersox is that she’s fully aware of her voice and uses it to express the kind of emotion that transcends generations. Her best work on “Idol” has to be the last song she performed — “Up to the Mountain.” Her performance would make Janis Joplin cry — it’s just a shame that she didn’t pull out the win.
What are your all-time favorite “American Idol” performances?