Since its debut in 2002, American Idol has been one of the most popular singing competition shows on TV. Viewers loved watching host Ryan Seacrest interact with contestants before they sang their hearts out on national television and were critiqued by judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Perspective vocalists and songwriters would travel to Hollywood year after year for the opportunity to make all of their dreams come true.
Since the first season aired on FOX, the show has produced numerous superstars including Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson, pop and country sensation Kelly Clarkson, country stars Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery, America's sweetheart Carrie Underwood and more. Judges have come and gone, with past judges including Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. It was believed the final season would be in 2016, but the show was resurrected and moved to ABC with Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie serving as judges.
The show inspired more singing shows like The Voice, but we know it all started with all of the talented finalists and runner-ups from Idol. We've rounded up our favorite 17 American Idol performances, many of which are covering classic country songs.
1. Candice Glover: "I Who Have Nothing" by Jordin Sparks
2. Adam Lambert: "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash
3. Jessica Sanchez: "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston/Dolly Parton
4. Carrie Underwood: "Man I Feel Like a Woman" by Shania Twain
5. Kris Allen: "Make You Feel My Love"
6. Fantasia Barrino: "Always On My Mind"
7. Taylor Hicks: "Take Me Home Country Roads" by John Denver
8. Katharine McPhee: "Houndog/All Shook Up" by Elvis Presley
9. Haley Reinhart: "Blue" by LeAnn Rimes
10. Phillip Phillips: "Still Rainin'" by Jonny Lang
11. Blake Lewis: "When the Stars Go Blue" by Tim McGraw
12. Chris Daughtry: "Making Memories of Us" by Keith Urban
13. Jordin Sparks: "A Broken Wing" by Martina McBride
14. David Cook: "Little Sparrow" by Dolly Parton
15. Joshua Ledet: "I'd Rather Be Blind" by Etta James
16. Clay Aiken: "Someone Else's Star" by David Daniel
17. David Archuleta: "Smoky Mountain Memories" by Dolly Parton
Honorable mention best performances: Clarkson singing "Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin, Lambert's cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World," Archuleta's version of John Lennon's "Imagine," Fantasia's "Summertime, rocker Bo Bice's Allman Brothers tribute "Whipping Post" and Candice Glover's surprise take on The Cure's "Lovesong."
This story first ran on June 6, 2020.
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