On Tuesday night’s episode of “American Idol,” Crystal Bowersox did something that she normally does every single week on the show: She looked like the eventual winner. But something else happened during her stunning, teary-eyed performance of “People Get Ready,” and that was she elevated herself to the rare echelon of “American Idol” contestants who are in the conversation for the title of “Greatest ‘Idol’ Performance of All Time.” It was honest, soulful and made for tremendous television.
MTV News “American Idol” expert Jim Cantiello doesn’t quite think that the Bowersox performance was the best ever (she missed too many notes for that), but it definitely gets mentioned in the list that includes such key “Idol” moments as Kelly Clarkson’s “Stuff Like That There,” Fantasia Barrino’s “Summertime,” Bo Bice’s “In a Dream” and David Cook’s “Billie Jean.”
Attaining “American Idol” immortality requires more than just being able to hit the notes. A killer performance is obviously key, but there are more criteria. Context is important, especially if the contestant in question has come through a series of poor performances or has recovered from some sort of personal struggle. Song selection is also key. After struggling to find her voice, Melinda Doolittle managed to find the absolutely perfect song for her in “My Funny Valentine,” and Clay Aiken’s take on “Build Me Up Buttercup” proved that he had a fun side and could play fast and loose with songs.
There is also something intangible that has to happen with an all-time great “Idol” performance, a vague feeling that says, “This person is a winner.” When Kelly Clarkson busted out “Stuff Like That There” during the Top Six show in the very first season, everybody knew at that moment that Clarkson would win and was destined for greatness. That was certainly present in Bowersox’s performance last night, but was the rest of her chemistry enough?
So take a look at the song selections below and vote for the one performance you think is the best of all time. Let us know in the comments if you have any write-in votes, and stay tuned for plenty more “American Idol” coverage here on the MTV Newsroom Blog and at MTV News.