The winning songs ranked from worst to best
Anthem, your name is “American Idol”.
You know what we’re talking about, don’t you? Those slow-building songs that land in midtempo purgatory and blast a cliche checklist: Hope? To verify. Recognition? To verify. Inspired? To verify. Timeless quality? Ah. We will get back to you.
Each season of “American Idol” — Season 20 concludes Sunday (8 p.m. EDT/PDT) — culminates with the singing winner shaking center stage while trying to control a kaleidoscope of emotions. The lackluster performances we can forgive, but the lackluster construction of those “coronation” songs? No excuses, really.
A few “Idol” winning favorites are still playing, primarily Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” and David Cook’s “The Time of My Life.”
But can anyone other than Jordin Sparks’ most ardent fan remember the name of his all-time favorite song? That of Caleb Johnson? That of Nick Fradiani?
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Yes, we understand. These all-purpose plug-and-play deals given to contestants — with the exception of Chayce Beckham, the first “Idol” winner to write his song — are forgettable. And with most of them, it’s actually a blessing.
But a handful of them deserve continued recognition, so we’ll salute them — while ranking the history of “American Idol” coronation songs from worst to first.
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19. Lee DeWyze, “Beautiful Day” (2010)
Of all the U2 songs to cover, of course Lee, choose one of their most treasured which also won three Grammy Awards. Talk about unrealistic expectations. There’s a slightly appealing gritty texture to DeWyze’s version, which otherwise sounds like a glorified karaoke bar performance.
18. Taylor Hicks, “Do I Make You Proud?” (2006)
No, not much pride emanating from this one. But despite that, Hicks’ schlocky anthem of gratitude still debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
17. Scotty McCreery, “I Love You So Much” (2011)
More than a decade after his win, it’s still incongruous to hear that bass-heavy voice coming out of the most aw-shucks dude on the planet since Opie Taylor. This standard devotional ballad might have fared better without such a childish title and chorus, which sound really dumb coming from a 17-year-old.
16. Trent Harmon, “Downfall” (2016)
Even if you hire Keith Urban to write your coronation song (along with Dallas Davidson and Brett James), the result might be just another generic blue-eyed soul anthem that even a key change and Harmon’s soaring vocals can’t. save.
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15. Laine Hardy, ‘Flame’ (2019)
Despite positioning himself primarily as a country singer throughout his run, Hardy received an innocuous pop-rock thumper (“Put your light on, put your light on, put your light on”, rinse and repeat) that didn’t isn’t, uh, flaming top 40 radios. It also didn’t support his budding Southern rock career.
14. Chayce Beckham, ’23’ (2021)
The combination of Beckham’s whiskey-tinged vocals, lively lyrical storytelling and obvious country flair was deftly packaged enough to send the song to No. 25 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. But more importantly, it’s the first self-penned coronation song in “Idol” history, so extra kudos to Beckham.
13. Kris Allen, “No Boundaries” (2009)
On paper, this upbeat skyscraper of a song — co-written by veteran “American Idol” judge and songwriter Kara DioGuardi, along with Cathy Dennis and Mitch Allan — is an easy-to-digest anthem with a message. insurance. But it’s obvious that EVERYONE thought Adam Lambert would take the crown and imbue this power ballad with his trademark drama.
12. Maddie Poppe, ‘Going Going Gone’ (2018)
Given Poppe’s penchant for rootsy folk-pop, this Mumford & Sons-esque foot-taper is one of the most palatable “Idol” offerings of recent seasons. A catchy song written with purpose and perfectly matched to the winner’s style – what a concept.
11. Jordin Sparks, “This Is My Now” (2007)
So many Disney-worthy themes are tucked away in this brilliant ballad: the rise of the shy girl and living in the moment among the most literal. As the guitars rage melodically, Sparks cuts through it with massive notes and earnestness.
10. Candice Glover, “I’m Beautiful” (2013)
This series of I’m-Worth-It-Worth platitudes would be unbearable without Glover’s big voice punch. In his early twenties at the time of his victory, Glover imbues the song with a hint of skepticism and plenty of maturity.
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9. Just Sam, ‘Rise Up’ (2020)
Choosing Andra Day’s 2015 empowerment anthem proved to be a good one, as Just Sam boasts a voice worthy of Day’s R&B gem. The recent “Idol” champ doesn’t add any original details, but her slick vocals effortlessly drive the song.
8. Caleb Johnson, “As Long As You Love Me” (2014)
Despite debuting with this catchy pop rocker penned by The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins, the guttural-voiced Johnson seems unfairly overlooked. This crunchy fist-pump has the dubious distinction of being the “Idol” winner’s first song that failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
7. Ruben Studdard, “Flying Without Wings” (2003)
The velvet-voiced Studdard coated this cover of the 1999 Westlife ballad with his silky tones and even brought smiles to devoted Claymates who were still pouting about a loss of Clay Aiken at his authenticity.
6. Nick Fradiani, “The Good Life” (2015)
Part pub song, part song that sounds like a Bon-Jovi reject, this is a definitive earworm with the pedigree of a co-writing by Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba. You must have ice cream in your veins if you’re not driven to clap — for real or in your head — once the chorus begins.
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5. Carrie Underwood, “In Your Heaven” (2005)
Of course, no one could have guessed the level of success that would await Underwood, but this brilliant lite-country-pop confection would always seem appropriate in his live shows. Even before landing in the spotlight of stardom, this voice was capable of greatness.
4. Fantasia Barrino, “I Believe” (2004)
Ready from the start, Barrino slays this R&B-inspired ballad (co-written by former “Idol” contestant Tamyra Gray), which sent it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
3. David Cook, “Time of My Life” (2008)
An alt-rock guitarist-singer at heart, Cook had to soften his limits a bit for his final song, the songwriting contest-winning entry “American Idol” (written by Regie Hamm). With a solid chorus and its no-regrets message, the song flourishes under Cook’s throaty leadership and swirling melody.
2. Phillip Phillips, “House” (2012)
The best-selling version of the “Idol” story is also one of its best periods. Shades of the Dave Matthews Band color Phillips’ vocals as well as the tone of the song, combining for an acoustic guitar shuffle that aims to soothe.
1. Kelly Clarkson, “A Moment Like This” (2002)
No, it’s not just a sentimental choice for the “American Idol” OG. It’s simply a fantastic song for its purpose, a celebration of achievement wrapped in the dawning roar of a Clarkson voice.