‘American Idol’ finale: Joshua Ledet leads top season 11 performances

There were plenty of strong moments.

As with every season on “American Idol,” this is the time when we sit back and reflect — and of course look at what we thought were the top moments of the season 11 live rounds.

Before we post our top ten list, let’s first explain the criteria. Due to editing and fairness we’re not looking at anything before the live shows — and we’re arranging this list based primarily on personal preference, audience reaction, and to a lesser extent (mostly because everything is “beautiful” according to Steven Tyler) the judges’ critiques.

Overall, this season was a tad weaker than season 11 — though there were a few talents brighter than just about anyone ever on the show, it was also pretty uneven compared with a season 10 with Haley Reinhart, Scotty McCreery, James Durbin, Casey Abrams, and Pia Toscano.

The list

10. Elise Testone, “Whole Lotta Love” (top 9) – Singing a song by Led Zeppelin is hard. Singing a song by Led Zeppelin that Adam Lambert already killed on the show is harder.

What made us admire Elise’s take on this song so much is that she didn’t really bother to care how anyone else performed it in the past, and she instead focused on making it something that was unique to her and perfect for her style.

9. Jessica Sanchez, “How Will I Know” (top 8 ) – Uptempo songs are going to be a focus of a good bit of this list, mostly because we feel these are never really given their due on the show in any capacity. Dear voters — it’s just as impressive when a performer makes a fast song not sound like karaoke as it is when they nail a power ballad.

This song still had some big notes, but it also featured Jessica working the stage and quite frankly dominating the competition during “songs from the 80s” week.

8. DeAndre Brackensick, “Master Blaster” (top 13) – While we know DeAndre has a great falsetto, this funky, reggae side is something that he should have showed off more during the competition. This was such a trippy, fun arrangement of a Stevie Wonder song — and allowed DeAndre to really have fun rather than stress too much about his voice (which at times was his downfall).

7. Joshua Ledet, “Runaway Baby” (top 7) – In continuing with the uptempo theme here, we have a song that still gives us nightmares when it comes to him landing it the bottom three for it. Joshua’s cover of the Bruno Mars hit was a bit like you were on board a party train for two minutes, and he was the crazy conductor getting everyone to dance.

6. Phillip Phillips, “Volcano” (top 4) – Phillip has had a bit of an unusual trajectory on the show. He started off a favorite, faded during the live rounds, but around the top 4 started to really show off more of who he is and what he can bring to the table. “Volcano” was a soft, powerful performance with real vulnerability. If there’s one song that is his most-requested on tour, we have a feeling this will be it.

5. Skylar Laine, “Stay With Me” (top 25)  – “Get up! Get up! Come on now!” This was Skylar’s introduction to America during the live shows (or at least some variation of that), and it still stands out as her best moment on the “Idol” stage. We wish more contestants actually allowed themselves to have this much fun on the stage — instead, they act like this is (gasp!) a talent show where you are not trying to prove your star power to anyone.

4. Colton Dixon, “Piano Man” (top 10) – In our first of two moments from Billy Joel Week, we turn to a performance that we have probably listened to dozens of times since it first aired on TV. This was an example of Colton making a classic song his own that totally worked — and proved that rock n’ roll can still be relevant with a piano.

3. Elise Testone, “Vienna” (top 10) – While it may not be the most-discussed piece ever created on the show, “Vienna” was an example of subtle mastery. Every choice that Elise made in this song was amazing, and it’s crazy to think that it wasn’t even her first choice during Billy Joel Week.

2. Jessica Sanchez, “I Will Always Love You” (top 13) – While there are a number of strong performances that Jessica gave this season, few had the vocal or emotional impact as Whitney’s landmark hit. It was a song that America needed to hear following the news of the legendary singer’s passing, and only by Whitney herself has it been sung better.

1. Joshua Ledet, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (top 4) – We still make the “so good it’s ugly face” every time we hear this. Joshua managed to take a song that has been done to death on singing competitions, and still turn it into something new. This was a moment on par with Adam Lambert’s “Mad World,” Carrie Underwood’s “Alone,” and some of the very best of what “Idol” has had to offer in over a decade of music.

What was your favorite performance from season 11? To check out our rankings leading up to the finale, follow the link here.

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