Simon Cowell often told contestants on American Idol that they had to create a moment on the show, something so memorable it would stand out as one of the most unforgettable performances in Idol history. Many finalists have taken those words to heart – so many that the biggest difficulty in compiling a countdown of the top 100 performances in the show’s first 14 seasons is having too large a field to consider.
The main criteria for ranking Idol’s greatest performances were the performances themselves, not how high the finalist finished in the competition nor how successful their careers have been in their post-Idol years.
As the final season progresses, we present the greatest performances from 100 to 1. And for the first time, Billboard reveals the stories behind the song selections and live performances thanks to dozens of interviews with the Idols and the members of the production staff, people who worked on the iconic series for over a decade to assure that there would be so many unforgettable moments.