While an official date has yet to be set, ABC recently has recently announced plans to produce season 20 of the country’s premiere singing competition, American Idol. With 652 episodes and counting, the long-running reality-TV program is poised to celebrate 20 years on the air next summer, June 11, 2022.
With only the final episode remaining in season 19, the three finalists Chayce Beckham, Grace Kinstler, and Willie Spence will duke it out for the grand championship on Sunday, May 23rd. While many have been enjoying this season more than most, it’s anyone’s guess as to where season 19 will rank in the pantheon of the show’s two-decade history.
10 Season 2
It’s hard to dismiss the sophomore season of American Idol as one of the best and most memorable in series history. The suspenseful finale between the velvet-voiced Ruben Studdard and the smooth-toned Clay Aiken is simply one for the books.
After spending the first year finding their footing and refining the format, host Ryan Seacrest and judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson felt far more comfortable in season 2. This improved the overall quality of the show, which culminated in a chilling finale with Studdard, Aiken, and third-place finisher, Kimberley Locke.
9 Season 1
Due to the sheer novelty of the show and the excited anticipation of seeing something new for the first time, the inaugural season of American Idol is still among the top 10 to date. Moreover, there still haven’t been too many winners as talented as the show’s first winner, Kelly Clarkson.
The show also introduced the world to Simon Cowell, the cantankerous know-it-all judge who fans would come to love to hate in subsequent seasons. After an intense battle with her eventual movie costar, Justin Guarini, Clarkson took home the top prize en route to becoming an award-winning recording artist.
8 Season 17
Under the second-year judgeship of Lionel Ritchie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan, season 17 of Idol remains a standout for several reasons. First, there was a certain nostalgia factor in bringing back former idols, such as Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert to perform, even after making the network switch to ABC.
Secondly, the diverse guest performers included Weezer, Kool & the Gang, Montell Jordan, and Andra Day, with a memorable Disney-themed episode and a heated finale between the first-place winner, Laine Hardy, and runner-up, Alejandro Aranda.
7 Season 6
With the fresh addition of the American Idol Songwriter contest, season 6 of American Idol overcame dubious mid-round eliminations to finish extremely strong in the final four. All told, Jordan Sparks became the youngest winner in the series’ history, at age 17.
While many fans felt Gina Glocksen and Stephanie Edwards were eliminated prematurely, the battle between Sparks, Blake Lewis, and Melinda Doolittle remains highly memorable. The finale included performances by every past winner, save for Fantasia Barrino, as well as performances by legends Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, and Tony Bennett.
6 Season 8
Although season 8 retained the original judges, several format changes were made to the show. A deliberate effort to weed out comedic novelty acts and focus on serious singers was made, while the “judge’s save” option was introduced for the first time.
With 13 finalists instead of 12, the epic showdown between now-famous rockstar Adam Lambert and eventual winner, Kris Allen, was a riveting sight to behold. Both men earned record contracts after the competition, including Allen’s addition to Jive Records. Very few seasons had as much high-wattage star power as season 8.
5 Season 7
With two male finalists for the first time since season 2, Idol season 7 came down to a narrow 56:44 split between winner David Cook and runner-up David Archuleta. Both talented crooners joined an extremely likable and diverse cast of contestants.
Among the memorable performers in season 7 were Jason Castro, Brooke White, Syesha Mercado, and Carly Smithson, all of whom were serious contenders during their competitive run. The heavy-hitting mentors of the season also included Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, Mariah Carey, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
4 Season 10
Season 10 of American Idol became instantly more enjoyable due to the departure of the resident crank, Simon Cowell. While his replacement Ellen Degeneres lasted only one season, the season marked a major upgrade in terms of positive feedback.
Moreover, the top 12 contestants were extremely talented and evenly matched. While Scotty McCreery bested Lauren Alaina for the top prize, the competition was heated until the very end. However, the season’s biggest moments came via performances from Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Steven Tyler, and Enrique Iglesias.
3 Season 11
The season 11 finale of American Idol made history by drawing a franchise record-breaking 132 million viewers. People were absolutely riveted as they waited to see if Phillip Phillips or Jessica Sanchez would emerge victoriously.
While the season also made history when Sanchez was the first female contestant to be saved by a judge, Phillips ultimately wooed voters with his renditions of “Stand By Me” and “Movin Out (Anthony’s Song)” en route to winning first place.
2 Season 5
Many hardcore Idol fanatics feel strongly that the series reached its pinnacle around the fourth and fifth season. The season featured some of the highest quality of talent, including nine of the 18 contestants being signed to a major record label after their time on the show. As such, it’s the highest-viewed season to date.
With no shortage of controversial storylines to keep the masses glued to the tube, season 5 ended with a major showdown between eventual winner, Taylor Hicks, and runner-up, Katharine McPhee. Prince performed during the finale, while original judges Simon, Paula, and Randy remained intact.
1 Season 4
If for no other reason than introducing the world to eventual first place winner Carrie Underwood, American Idol season 4 is the best season of the series so far. In addition to Underwood’s arrival as a major superstar, the season featured an enormous talent pool that viewers really got to know in-depth.
Among the season 4 standouts included runner-up Bo Bice and third-place finisher Vonzell Solomon, both of whom gave Underwood a real run for her money. While the two prior seasons focused more on R&B singers, season 4 expanded the scope to include more rock and country music.
NEXT: American Idol: 10 Best Seasons, Ranked According To IMDb
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