Below are a few of my favorites. Have some different choices? Think I'm nuts and/or one of the contestants is paying me to write nice things about them? Throw out yourr favorites in the comments and tune into "Idol" tonight at 8 p.m. on FOX for some more unforgettable moments.
12. Rachel Hale - "Nothing But the Water"
Still salty after all these months. Janelle Arthur and Kree Harrison became the doted-upon country girls basically from the start, but many may forget that Hale, the Arkansas native who was about as bubbly as they come, was also a judge favorite, until she was unceremoniously booted from the show in favor of Arthur at the end of Sudden Death round two. Though Arthur picked it up tremendously once she was in the top 10, eventually placing fifth, she couldn't hold a candle at first to Hale's Sudden Death showing of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' "Nothing But the Water." Do you like your country gospel-tinged? With a little throwback soul? Do you? Then get a load of this. Hale was on pitch, her enthusiasm was infectious and she wasn't singing a ballad, which at that point of the show was godsent. Who knows where she would have been going forward if she had made it through, but this performance alone deserved at least a shot at the next round.
11. Vincent Powell - "Cause I Love You"
Here's another contestant you might not be familiar with if you only tuned in for, say, the top 10. Powell was relatively unknown before his Sudden Death performance of Lenny Williams' "Cause I Love You," and while the song was his only real moment of clarity on the show before his elimination in the next round, few can honestly say they went on live TV and slayed a performance quite like Powell. Everything was just fantastic -- the runs! The falsetto! That loooooong final note -- and Powell looked as though he was ready to lead spiritual revival on the confines of the "Idol" stage. For an extra special bonus, watch Zoanette Johnson during the performance. It's the best.
10. Nicki Minaj Telling Candice Glover She Wants to Skin Her and Wear Her
Some of the Nicki-isms were amazing this year, possibly giving Steven Tyler a run for his money. But when eventual finalist Candice Glover concluded her audition of "Syrup and Honey" at the Charlotte show, Minaj admitted that she was "obsessed" with the South Carolina singer. That would have been high praise enough for most, but Minaj took it a step further, telling Glover that she "[wanted] to skin you and wear you." THE BEST.
9. Amber Holcomb - "Lately"
If you had all the more dedicated viewers of "Idol" this season create a list of favorite performances, chances are something from Holcomb, the eventual fourth-place finisher, would be there. There was so much to choose from that narrowing down to her absolute best is a tall order, but Holcomb arguably shone the most on "Lately." While certain other songs, such as "Power of Love," might have had more big moments, there was also a pitchiness in Amber's voice at times that just couldn't be ignored. Not here, though. After a spot in the bottom three the previous week, Holcomb needed a big performance -- and got it. How about a standing ovation from the judges and high praise from Smokey Robinson, too? Works.
8. Curtis Finch Jr. - "I Believe I Can Fly"
Maybe he was a bit too dramatic. Maybe the sincerity of his "bless you"s weren't so sincere. Maybe his quick willingness to see Charlie Askew go home when the young singer was sick in Hollywood did him no favors. But all that aside, Curtis Finch Jr. could flat out sing. His best number of his tenure on "Idol" was his fairly faithful version of the R. Kelly classic, which was one of the few song choices from him that found him actually showing a bit of restraint before really going for it at the end. Once he hit that falsetto, you knew he was a shoo-in for the top 10, even if he was promptly voted out in 10th place.
7. Kree Harrison - "Here Comes Goodbye"
A little context really makes this moment in "Idol" season 12. Prior to Harrison's rendition of "Here Comes Goodbye" was footage of her homecoming trip, during which she opened up a bit more about the death of both her parents when she was younger, causing emotions to run fairly high even before she sang a song about saying goodbye. It may not have been her best vocal as a whole, but watching the conviction with which she sang it was infectious, and very few eyes were left without tears by its end. It may very well be remembered as the performance that launched Harrison into the final two.
6. Burnell Taylor - "Ready for Love"
The season's best male contestant, Taylor's story was intriguing from the start; after all, he's a Hurricane Katrina survivor who went from a talented-but-unassuming singer in his audition to a focused finalist whose interesting delivery -- namely his act of seemingly conjuring up the notes he sang with his hands -- and his raw R&B style that drew comparisons to Frank Ocean and Miguel, mixed with a little John Legend. "Ready for Love" was raw, emotional and powerful, easily the best of that particular evening. May not have lived up Joshua Ledet's version of the song last season, but what did?
5. Zoanette Johnson - "Circle of Life"
Johnson didn't turn out to be the absolutely insane ratings and entertainment boost for which some hoped, but that doesn't mean her rendition of "Circle of Life" wasn't fantastic in the weirdest ways. Whereas many "Idol" contestants rely on being clean, technically adept singers, Zoanette simply went for it each time out, missing notes and adding far more intensity than was needed. But all that combined together on the "Lion King" opener to provide one of the most energetic, talked-about performances of the season. It meant Johnson was basically destined for Broadway rather than the radio, and while there was some major pitch issues at times, she basically busted through the song and created one of the few moments on the show where being on-point vocally doesn't actually matter.
4. Candice Glover - "I (Who Have Nothing)"
Glover first performed this song during the top 10 week, and there were worries she might have peaked too early. Not only was that not the case -- she also came back during the top two performance finale to sing the song again and slayed it even more. If you're looking for a star-making song full of drama, emotion and passion, look no further. This was the last song on an "Idol" performance episode all season, In a season of high notes, it wasn't even her best. Seriously.
3. Nicki Minaj vs. Mariah Carey
Yeah, maybe the "fight" itself was a bit anticlimactic, but the Minaj vs. Carey feud that boiled into a big ol' argument during the Charlotte auditions was still fun to watch and was something that you could have seen coming from a mile away, even without the continued hype about when it would actually happen. Keith Urban took issue with Summer Cunningham's off-hand comment about doing the "country thing" when asked what kind of singer she wanted to be. Randy Jackson and Carey followed suit. Minaj, in this case the voice of reason, asked what it mattered, that there was no reason for Cunningham to peg herself as a certain type of singer just yet. The argument intensified between Minaj and Carey specifically, with the former leaving the studio for the day. Though tempers cooled, there was always a bit of a rivalry present between the two the rest of the year. This was the mere tipping point.
2. Angie Miller - "You Set Me Free"
Original songs don't usually tend to find a major audience on "Idol." That didn't stop Miller from pulling out the piano to sing one of her own tunes in the third round of Hollywood week. The payoff from "You Set Me Free" was tremendous and thrust Miller into the spotlight as one of the voices to beat. In fact, the judges often made reference to the song throughout the season, particularly her piano playing. Did she ever live up to this performance in the subsequent weeks? Not really. That didn't really matter, though, because from the start, Miller was shown as a potential artist, someone who didn't need songs written for her and knew her path in music. Expect her on the radio, likely following Colton Dixon's path to the Christian airwaves.
1. Candice Glover - "Lovesong"
Biggest moment of the year, hands down. Glover already came in fairly celebrated (see: No. 4), but doing a version of The Cure's "Lovesong" rooted in Adele's cover was possibly the best song choice all season. The runs were tremendous, and the way she pushed forward and held back on certain notes was the mark of someone who's going to be in the business for awhile. Completely worthy of the praise it was given post-performance, Mariah Carey glitter throw and all. Randy Jackson called it one of the best performances in the history of the show, and he wasn't kidding. Watch if you haven't already.