Since its beginning in 2002, American Idol has brought us many inspirational performances. Throughout each season, talented singers of all ages and backgrounds appeared on stage and inspired the audience.
The best singers bring tears to our eyes, give us chills, and move us emotionally. Cla s sic hits are redone in imaginative ways, gaining new fans years after the initial release.
Here are the top ten examples of the best American Idol performances sure to impress and inspire you.
1. I (Who Have Nothing) - Jordin Sparks
“I (Who Have Nothing)” was originally an Italian song (“Uno Dei Tanti”). Joe Sentieri first released this song in 1961. By 1963, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller created the English lyrics.
Many famous singers covered this song including Ben E. King, Tom Jones, and Shirley Ba s sey. Sparks found inspiration in the emotional covers by Jones and Ba s sey.
She wanted to create a feeling of strong emotion for the audience. Even though Sparks was suffering a sinus infection at the time, her emotional performance and vocal prowess are enough to give you chills.
2. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman - Kelly Clarkson
Popular soul singer Aretha Franklin released “A Natural Woman” in 1967. The song was a ma s sive hit and even now it’s one of her signature songs.
In the very first season of American Idol, Clarkson wasn’t a popular candidate for a winner. However, it was her performance of “Natural Woman” that helped propel her reputation as a star.
She proved her skills when she nailed the F#6 whistle note (a whistle tone is the highest register of a human voice). Other singers, who can hit that tone? Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
3. Mad World - Adam Lambert
The British band Tears for Fears wrote the original “Mad World” in 1982. Since then, many famous artists covered the song.
The song gained popularity again in 2001 when Michael Andrews and Gary Jules covered the song for Donnie Darko.
Adam Lambert was a fan-favorite in season eight, and many fans were left disappointed when he lost. His impressive performance is still considered one of the best of American Idol. It even earned him a standing ovation from Simon Cowell.
4. Bennie and the Jets - Haley Reinhart
Composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, “Bennie and the Jets” is one of Elton John’s many popular hits. In fact, it was so huge that he performed this song at Live Aid in 1985. The song hit #1 in the United States in 1974.
Haley Reinhart knocked this one out of the park with her unique spin on this popular hit. Reinhart proved that she wasn’t just charisma and charm but that she could belt out notes with the best of them.
5. A Change Is Gonna Come - Syesha Mercado
“A Change Is Gonna Come” is a song by American singer and civil rights activist Sam Cooke. Released in 1964, this song was the result of personal struggles during the Civil Rights Movement.
Mercado wasn’t sure what to sing for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame week. When “A Change Is Gonna Come” was brought up, she considered what the song meant to her. The song is full of history and emotion, and Mercado wanted to inspire the audience.
From her very first powerful notes, it’s clear Mercado delivered one of the best American Idol performances.
6. I Walk the Line - Chris Daughtry
“I Walk the Line” is one of Johnny Cash’s most popular hits. Written in 1956, many singers over the years covered this song.
It was one cover of this song by Live that inspired Daughtry during ‘50s week on the show.
Daughtry edited the song to get to the heart of the chorus sooner to show off his vocal talents. Although he credits Live with his inspiration, he put his own spin on this well-loved song.
7. Alone - Carrie Underwood
80’s rock band Heart performed this song and released it in 1987. Since then, it’s been a popular pop hit.
Throughout the competition, Underwood became labeled as the country singer. But she wanted to break out of her comfort zone and try something different with 80’s rock. A choice that helped make her one of Idol’s most successful winners.
Does Underwood’s rendition of this song make you feel lonely? Find someone to sing about on DoULike and never feel “Alone” again.
8. Circle of Life - Jennifer Hudson
Elton John composed this song for Disney’s The Lion King in 1994. Carmen Twillie and Lebo M. sang the now famous song in the movie.
Jennifer Hudson’s version of this cla s sic is undoubtedly one of the most memorable American Idol performances. Elton John even said her performance sent chills down his spine and called her voice astonishing.
Hudson’s impressive vocal control definitely make this one of American Idol’s best performances.
9. Solitaire - Clay Aiken
“Solitaire” was written by pop singer Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody. Sedaka even acted as a celebrity judge during this competition.
The Carpenters made this song famous and the vocal challenges seemed like the perfect fit for Aiken. He showcases his range and impressive ability to hold a note in his stellar performance of “Solitaire”. He infused so much emotion that Sedaka was moved to tears by his performance.
10. The House of the Rising Sun - Haley Reinhart
Reinhart lands a second spot on the list with her version of “The House of the Rising Sun”. This was a traditional folk song that became popularized by British band The Animals.
She starts acapella, building the anticipation and drama with her spectacular vocals. Her charisma and showmanship during the show perfectly complement her vocal ability, making this one show-stopping performance.
The Best American Idol Performances Inspire Us
Feeling inspired yet? These singers showed us the awe-inspiring vocal ability in some of the best American Idol performances ever. Hopefully, these song covers filled you with emotion and moved you in ways that only music can.
Whether these artists ended up winning the season or not, their performances will stick with us for years to come.