Sunday, May 27, 2012

American Idol 11 Wrap-Up: 25 Best Performances

To the obligatory count: 6 months. 40 episodes. 159 live performances. 12 elimination rounds. Yes, with another season in the history books, I compiled a list of the most memorable live performances up to the Finale.

American Idol Season 11 was absolutely terrible for me! How am I supposed to rank the performances of possibly one of the most impressive group of finalists I’ve ever seen on this show? Honestly, after reviewing all the episodes and my weekly reviews, I just stared at my laptop and asked myself, “What the hell do I do now?” Sure, I came up with a ranking, but even the list that I finalized isn't as definitive compared to what I published in previous seasons. What got into these kids? Haha.

Anyway, just like many other lists or countdowns, this one is extremely biased. It's based on personal preferences. There will probably be some performances that are nowhere to be found on your list that may be as high as 10 or something on here - actually I guarantee it. But please respond maturely, flames don't make me particularly happy.

SEASON 7 Best Performances (to be transferred)
SEASON 8 Best Performances (to be transferred)
SEASON 9 Best Performances 
SEASON 10 Best Performances

Now, we pay tribute to the performances that made this season worth watching - and reviewing!:

Honorable Mentions!

Week: Top 8
Theme: 1980s

Week: Top 5
Theme: 1960s

Week: Top 3
Theme: Jimmy Iovine's Choice

Week: Top 6
Theme: Open

Week: Top 7 Redux
Theme: Now

Week: Top 25
Theme: Wildcard

Week: Top 13
Theme: Whitney Houston

Here are the TOP 25 Best Live Performances of Season 11:

25. Home
Phillip Phillips

Week: Finale
Theme: Coronation Song

Phillip got a marching band and a standing ovation. What else can you ask for? Haha. Sure, his vocals weren't perfect - he sounded uneven, especially towards the end - but I must give him credit as he probably "picked" a coronation song that was far beyond my expectation. In fact, this sounded like one of the better if not the best coronation single in American Idol history that I even dared to include in this list - for the first time! The arrangement was unique, he connected with the song impressively, the staging was worked and this actually suited his style perfectly. To me, this performance sealed his fate as the newly crowned American Idol.

24. Ready For Love
Joshua Ledet

Week: Top 6
Theme: Open

Incredible vocal restraint. Lovely interpretation. Effortless vocals. This, to me, was Joshua's one of the more interesting performances and possibly one of my favorites from him. When Joshua sings with some sense of vocal control - softly and quite subdued - he's just brilliant. No shouting or screaming or any over-the-top runs in this performance. He interpreted the song beautifully and it was just wonderful.

23. The Climb
Hollie Cavanagh

Week: Top 6
Theme: Open

Interestingly, this was the same song she did last season as her audition piece - she was a sobbing mess! - and yes, Hollie has come a long way! While I wasn't really a big fan of the song, this Miley Cyrus ditty was probably a clever song choice for Hollie. Cheesy as the song may seem, The Climb has that ability to strike a chord with the audience if competently sung. I thought she sounded confident, her vocals were impeccable and she was less stiff on stage. This was the second week in a row where Hollie delivered and has improved by leaps and bounds!

22. One And Only
Elise Testone

Week: Top 25
Theme: Open

While her vocals weren't perfect - she hit a few clunkers in there - but her gritty yet polished tone down to her phrasing were amazing. Elise also accompanied herself with a piano - something we haven't seen since Katelyn Epperly in Season 9 - and that alone made this a LOT better than Jen Hirsh's version during that week. She absolutely murdered the number, and Jen was nothing more than a bad taste left in my mouth. Haha. Oh, and I was quite impressed with how she managed to connect to the song. Nice!

21. Love You I Do
Jessica Sanchez

Week: Top 25
Theme: Open

If this is how Jessica sings when having throat problems, can we look forward to more really good singing when she's on her top shape? Oh yeah, we got that already. Haha. True, her vocals had some few very minor problems, especially her lower register and a couple of key changes - possibly due to her voice issues - but this performance was just insane. Mighty vocals. Unbelievable stage presence. Great vocal control. Outstanding vocal dynamics. Unreal.

20. Wind Beneath My Wings
Skylar Laine

Week: Top 8
Theme: 1980s

I wonder if she sings this when she's out duck hunting. Haha. Vocally, this wasn't perfect, but I believe Skylar delivered the best solo performance during this week. She brought out the vocal chops that gave her performance some robust. I loved that she kept her country twang and she showed some great control, which I didn't get to see often from her prior to this performance. I admit, I loathe this cheesy ballad with a passion, but Skylar is a terrific "storyteller" and she sold it to me. Simply put, she soared - no pun intended! Haha.

19. You Are So Beautiful
Jessica Sanchez

Week: Top 5
Theme: British

This, to me, was a thing of beauty! Seriously. Her version of this Joe Cocker classic was outstanding. She showed some brilliant vocal control, some beautiful little touches, great phrasing and an impeccable falsetto. Plus, she learned to not put vibrato into every note. She made some notes be so pure and clear and used the vibrato for emphasis. Technically astounding from a pure vocal point.

18. When A Man Loves A Woman
Joshua Ledet

Week: Top 11
Theme: Year You Were Born

With this performance, Joshua just put all those b*tches to shame! Haha. I rolled my eyes when I heard of his song choice as I found it to be a bit overdone, but he probably gave the best version yet - at least to me. He felt every note he sang, showed great dynamics in his vocals and there's a certain energy that radiated through his body as I sat and watched the whole performance in awe. Also, I'm usually not a fan of singers who get all cray cray at the end of a song like that, but I didn't really mind it with Joshua. I disagree that this was the best performance on American Idol EVER, but it's definitely one of his shining moments.

17. Rolling In The Deep
Hollie Cavanagh

Week: Top 7 Redux
Theme: Now

She tackled an Adele song and there's NOTHING Hollie can do to make it better or change it up in any way that would leave anyone amazed. That being said, this was clearly one of her best performances on the show. Her performance was dynamic yet, and it allowed her to finally connect with a song on a visceral level. There were no weird phrasing issues and her accent was practically non-existent. Her vocals were powerful and she was on pitch for something as difficult as Rolling In The Deep. True, I liked Adele's deeper tone on this song, but Hollie's vocals were outstanding.

16. We've Got Tonight
Phillip Phillips

Week: Top 3
Theme: Jimmy Iovine's Choice

Despite Phillip rubbing his leg throughout this performance, I found his version incredibly compelling. This was a genius strategic choice by Jimmy Iovine for Phillip as it allowed him to sing to the best of his ability and do what he does best: connect with the audience. Yes, he didn't all of a sudden show some great melodic prowess in this performance, but I thought the verses sounded gorgeous. He struggled a bit with the chorus, but even his straining for the upper notes of the melody surprisingly worked. I mean, it didn't sound like a vocal limitation, but rather vulnerability. Good job!

15. Vienna
Elise Testone

Week: Top 10
Theme: Billy Joel

After a couple of trips back to the Bottom 3, Elise suddenly pull this one out of her bag of tricks and delivered, yet again, another water cooler performance. Her rendition of Vienna was incredibly impressive that I was seriously floored by her technique in this. Every color of her rich and seductive voice was front and center. The phrasing was brilliant and that jazzy final run was absolutely one of the most vocally difficult things I’ve ever heard or seen done on American Idol.

14. The Prayer
Jessica Sanchez

Week: Finale
Theme: Reprise

STUNNING! While I was hoping for something more upbeat and fierce from Jessica during that night, I felt like this was a brilliant move from her as it actually sets a good contrast to Phillip. Her vocal was sublime, the performance got some great vocal dynamics, her breath control was impressive, the liberties she took with the melody were spot on, and the glory note was spectacular. She once again proved that she's an absolute vocal beast.

13. Runaway Baby
Joshua Ledet

Week: Top 7
Theme: 2010s

This performance seriously proved that Joshua could be a viable R&B artist post-American Idol. Sure, Joshua has more of a throwback style compared to most artists today, but we are seeing a resurgence of throwback music recently from Adele to Cee Lo and, to some extent, Bruno Mars. So, to whoever said that artists like Joshua can't be current in the music industry are wrong! Haha. To me, this was one of Joshua's more dynamic performances on the show. It allowed him to let loose without over singing and it was pretty entertaining, to say the least. Plus, for a preacher's kid, he really knows how to work that stage.

12. Everybody Has A Dream
Jessica Sanchez

Week: Top 10
Theme: Billy Joel

Without a doubt, the most underrated performance of the season. When Diddy and Jimmy Iovine talked her out of the whole vocal acrobatics she was used to doing, I was afraid that this little unknown Billy Joel ditty would fall flat. But you know what, Jessica managed to perfectly blend her pitch perfection, her vocal bombast and that swagger that got lost prior to this week. The vocal dynamics she showed from her lower register that was sounding stronger and stronger each week to the rafter-shaking vibrato to that goose bump inducing falsetto was probably the BEST I've seen on this show. And the fact that despite her showcasing that unbelievable vocal prowess, it didn't seem like she was showboating what she could do with her voice.

11. I Knew You Were Waiting For Me
Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet

Week: Top 8
Theme: 1980s

At one point, I thought I was watching the Finale when I saw this! Haha. THIS is to Season 11 what Moanin' by Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams was in Season 10. Seriously. This was fan-freakin'-tastic! I felt like I was watching the good old days of American Idol where two soulful singers just sang the living daylights out of a song. I thought Jessica and Joshua were combustible!! Let's be frank, this duet only proved my initial impression that both Joshua and Jessica are the strongest male and female vocalists by a mile this season. End of discussion.

10. Stay With Me
Skylar Laine

Week: Top 25
Theme: Open

The biggest shocker of the Top 25 night for me was Skylar Laine. Seriously. It was like sitting down to watch a movie you’re just sure you won’t like, but ended up thoroughly enjoying the show. Skylar was a real firecracker out there who totally connected with her song with great energy and presence and some unbelievable spunk. The performance was a little frenetic, but who cares? I thought she sounded great and she had a shockingly impressive breath support despite all the craziness on stage. She easily demolished Chelsea and Baylie as the chosen country girl of the season. Oh, and the fact that I took back my desire to have no country girls this year was saying something no?

09. Love The Way You Lie
Colton Dixon

Week: Top 7
Theme: 2010s

I grudgingly admit that I genuinely enjoyed his version of this song. Haha. True, I never really jumped the Colton bandwagon for a couple of good reasons - I didn't like the way he "dresses" himself as a lady man and that hiccup quality to his voice kind of grated on me. However, I got to hand it to him because it's pretty obvious that he knew how to play the game and he studied the Idol playbook really well. Just from the staging alone, he made it look like he was singing in Heaven, which was fitting since he apparently had this onoing bromance with Jesus. He kept the whiny quality of his voice to a minimum - no slurred notes - and his tone was evident here. There were moments where he was crossing over to the shrill quality of his voice, but that somehow added to the dynamics of the song.

08. I Will Always Love You
Jessica Sanchez

Week: Top 13
Theme: Whitney Houston

SUBLIME! While she came across a little too practiced and studied, she sang the crap out of this song! Of course, no one will ever compare to the great Whitney Houston, but her vocal performance was excellent from the pitch-perfect a capella to the practically flawless vocals towards the end. I compared her before to Pia Toscano, but the only similarities they have are their pitch perfect voices. Jessica has a passion and a swagger that Pia could never muster. I believe she just created a very special Idol moment right there. I'm pretty excited because she's not the next fill-in-the-blank successful Idol. She's not the next Kelly, or the next Carrie, but she can blaze a different trail all on her own.

07. Sweet Dreams
Jessica Sanchez

Week: Top 9
Theme: Personal Idol

Some say Jessica isn't indestructible. Well, this performance proved that her house is made not just of bricks, but of GOLD BARS. Seriously. This was stellar!! Sure, I wanted her to go uptempo, but I wasn't even mad at this performance. Admittedly, I didn't expect her to change up a song as drastic at this and when she pulled it off, I died a little! Haha. Her vocals were outstanding, the control was unreal and the dynamics she put into the mix were great. Plus, she got on top of that vibrato! Yes, I had initially pegged Jessica as a precocious pageant bot in the likes of Katie Stevens and Thia Megia, but she made a serious case that she's just a real prodigy who can not just sing all the glory notes, but really interpret and inhabit a song.

06. Bleeding Love
Hollie Cavanagh

Week: Top 5
Theme: British

Leona Lewis sang the crap out of this song, but Hollie confidently put her own stamp on it. She sounded divine, the intimate quality to the arrangement was genius and she connected with the song shockingly well. The staging was beautiful, yet simple, and the song was made to feel less epic, musically, so that the vocals could be the focal point. I loved that she tried to tweak the song to fit her range and it was one of those special moments. This was easily Hollie’s strongest vocal performance of the competition.

05. Volcano
Phillip Phillips

Week: Top 4
Theme: Wish You Wrote

Bravo Phillip Phillips! This was gorgeous and possibly the first time I truly and genuinely enjoyed his performance. I loved everything about it from the emotional connection he had with the material to the perfect staging. I even thought the background singer singing harmony with him was pretty clever. His tone was just bliss, the liberties he took with the melody were spot on and I liked the subtlety to the whole number. No ticks or vocal shudders; we simply heard him and that’s all I ever wanted from him. In hindsight, this performance secured his place in the Finale and possibly the win. It was easily his best performance of the season.

04. And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
Jessica Sanchez

Week: Top 4
Theme: Wish You Wrote

INTENSE! I'm still not sure how that just happened, but Jessica possibly had the BEST version I've heard of this song on American Idol. She connected with this song like she wanted to punch someone in the face, her vocals were outstanding, and that breath control was just incredibly unbelievable. In other words, she just killed it and ran it over so many times. Haha. It was an unbelievable moment for her with a song that had an unbelievable level of difficulty.

03. Whole Lotta Love
Elise Testone

Week: Top 9
Theme: Personal Idol

WOW. Who knew Elise was actually a manlier rocker than Colton Dixon? Haha. I didn't think she'd pull this performance off, but this was FANTASTIC! Heck, I even prefer this version much better than Adam Lambert's. Sue me. The grit and tone to her voice suited the song quite nicely, her vocals were exceedingly strong, and that screeching note was ridiculously unbelievable. It sounded like a catfight. Haha. Yes, this, to me, was brilliant! And yes, that's all I have to say. 

02. It's A Man's Man's World
Joshua Ledet

Week: Top 4
Theme: Wish You Wrote

Of course, this performance garnered another obligatory standing ovation from the judge that at some point, I thought to myself, we can all stop watching the show now since Joshua has given the most definitively awesome performance ever in the history of the world and universe that will never be matched ever. Haha. But you know what, this was seriously mind blowing and actually deserved that standing ovation! I'm not exactly a big fan of Joshua and his over-the-top hollering and whatnot, but the passion he put into this performance was something I couldn't understand myself. The way he imbued every single note with emotion was unbelievable and the things he could do with his voice were unreal. I didn't even mind the over-the-top growling and screaming, because it added to the ridiculous dynamics of the performance.

01. Stuttering
Jessica Sanchez

Week: Top 7
Theme: 2010s

Indeed, the performance that almost got Jessica Sanchez eliminated was, arguably, THE performance of the season - at least, to me - and I will tell you why: For starters, Stuttering was clearly an obscure song and during that night, words can't even explain how happy I was that Jessica pulled off possibly her riskiest song choice of the season. Also, I don’t think people fully appreciate how difficult this song is to sing, especially since the song lacked a common melody, but what she managed to do with her voice was spectacular and how she made it look so effortless was even more impressive. She did not sound like the original that somehow dispelled the mimic criticisms she's been getting a couple of weeks back, her pitch was spot on, her breath control was unreal, and yes, this was her most passionate performance this season. Lovely. Restrained. Nuance. Sublime.

8 comments:

Will said...

Stuttering. I knew it! :p

Emon said...

Its so hard to narrow it down to 25, this season was packed with good performances.

Anonymous said...

Stuttering is also my favorite performance of this season.

destinycayin said...

Agree on Stu.. stu.. stuttering! The scatting was a pleasant surprise. Jessica can literally do anything, such a talented girl!

Anonymous said...

1.and im tellin you-jessica
2.i will always love you-jessica
3.dance with my father-jessica
4.wind beneath my wing-skylar
5.sweet dreams-jessica
6.te climb-hollie
7.you are so Beautiful-jessica
8.whole lotta love-elise
9.bleeding love-hollie
10.all the man that i need-hollie

Anonymous said...

waaaay too much Jessica and Joshua. sorry, not my cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

I would of added All theman that i need and make dance with my father in the top 25 instead of honorable mention.But I overall liked your list very much. Sorry for The poor english im german.

Danni said...

My favorite performance is definitely Time After Time by Colton. I thought your list was kinda biased but that's okay because it's YOUR list and you can do whatever you like with it. :)

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