Monday, June 06, 2011

Top 15 American Idol Duets

After ranking two duets at the top of American Idol Season 10's Top 10 performances, I thought it would be fun to rank the all-time top Idol duets. I wasn't sure at first that I could come up with a good Top 10 list, but I was actually able to come up with more, so I expanded to 15.

1. Carrie Underwood/Rascal Flatts - Bless The Broken Road
Looking back on it now, it's kind of like a special Grammy performance between two superstars. Heh. They actually DID perform together later on the Grammy's. Carrie did "Bless The Broken Road" solo just three weeks earlier, and the difference is astonishing between the solo and duet performances. Her solo performance was a bit tense. But in the duet, she's so relaxed and happy, and the harmonies just really enhance the song so much. She and Gary LeVox sound AMAZING together, and I always thought this version is the standard-bearer for this song.

2. Allison Iraheta/Cyndi Lauper - Time After Time
"Time After Time" is one of my favorite songs of all-time, and I especially love it done acoustic. Allison's gravelly voice contrasts so well with Cyndi's baby voice, and it all blended together into this beautiful duet at the Season 8 finale. Kris Allen said in an interview that he was watching it backstage in tears. He wasn't the only one.

3. Kris Allen/Keith Urban - Kiss A Girl
Like the Carrie/Rascal Flatts duet, the Kris/Keith duet led to a post-Idol collaboration, as Kris went on tour with Keith a year later. They never really did get the lyrics down on the songs they later dueted on (Boys of Summer and Jack and Diane), but this one was perfect, and Kris sounded just as good singing it as Keith did. Everyone did a little WTF?! when this pairing was first announced, but in hindsight, it was a brilliant matchup and one that held up in the real world.

4. Adam Lambert/Allison Iraheta - Slow Ride
This performance was just electric. Two great vocalists rocking the hell out of the stage. And the hug at the end of the song? ADORABLE. The performance was so good it was enough to overcome the fact that I loathe this song. :P

5. Elliott Yamin/Mary J Blige - One
This probably would have ranked higher if Mary J. hadn't basically treated Elliott like a backup singer for most of the song. Once she got on stage, it was all her. But then again, that's also part of what was so appealing about the performance - she put everything into the song and got lost in it, which she often does when she performs.

6. Haley Reinhart/Casey Abrams - Moanin'
The best performance of Season 10, in my opinion. There used to be a time on Idol when people were eliminated after scatting (hi, Leslie Hunt!), but these two took scatting to a new level on Idol with this song. And Haley's voice was just incredible here.

7. Casey James/Bret Michaels - Every Rose Has Its Thorn
The circumstances of this particular performance pack the biggest punch. Brett Michaels had just come off his death bed, practically, and his appearance at the finale was a well-kept secret, so when he walked out on stage to sing with Casey, the entire theater went nuts. It was a special moment and easily the highlight of that season for me.

8. Scotty McCreery/Lauren Alaina - I Told You So
This is a duet that works outside of the Idol bubble. I would listen to a studio recording of it if one existed. Idol singers always get asked if they would record with another contestant (ad nauseum at times, right, Kris and Adam?), and it rarely happens, but these two really should. Country duets are gold.

9. Justin Guarini/Tamyra Gray - With You I'm Born Again
Fast forward to the 6:15 mark of this video. Justin and Tamyra performed "With You I'm Born Again" in the middle of a Top 10 Motown medley in the season finale. It only lasted about one minute, but it was the second-most glorious minute of that entire episode, and it definitely left me wanting to hear more. They sounded terrific together.

10. Casey Abrams/Jack Black - Fat-Bottomed Girls
It's not a vocal masterpiece by any means, but this makes the list for sheer entertainment value and non-stop hilarity and ridiculousness.

11. Frenchie Davis/Kimberley Locke - Band of Gold
This has held up over eight years as the best Hollywood group performance in Idol history. Considering what they had to work with (Casio keyboard musical backing), they totally aced this song with diva-licious vocals that scared every other contestant into working with them.

12. Carly Smithson/Michael Johns - The Letter
For as great a season as it was, I thought the season 7 finale was relatively underwhelming finales as far as guest performers and musical numbers go, but this duet was one of the highlights. It was so successful that they reprised it on a Season 8 result show (where ... it wasn't as successful on the small semifinal stage).

13. Paul McDonald/Kendra Chantelle - Blackbird
On a show where loud is often mistaken for being good, it was great to see such a strongly-received subtle vocal like this. Paul's whisper-thin voice doesn't always work on some songs (Steven Tyler even said this in the critique of this performance - "Your voice was so different. It's good. In some instances it's not so good; this was beautiful"), but when he picks the right song, it just works. For Kendra, this was one of several standout performances during her run on the show that was ridiculously cut short just shy of the Top 13.

14. Bo Bice/Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama
Bo was born too late in life. He really should have been the lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd. In this finale duet, he looked like he had just won the lottery singing with these guys. This is the kind of music he always should have been doing, not this Nickel-crap lite. All Clive Davis had to have done was seen this performance to realize it.

15. Casey James/Mike Lynche - Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman
I've given Season 9 a lot of grief, but I actually really enjoyed this performance. Must be the guitars and the harmonies. The judges slobbered all over Lee and Crystal's "Falling Slowly", but this was the best duet that night, hands down.

Bonus Bottom 3 Duets:

I'll be fair and not include bad auditioners like Michael Sandecki (with Clay Aiken) or Bikini Girl (with Kara DioGuardi) or Pants on the Ground/William Hung.

1. James Durbin/Jacob Lusk - I'm Into Something Good
Because this was in a performance show, this gets extra negative points. It was like a joke performance to me. The cheesy song, the cheesy dancing, the horrible white pants, the shrieking at the end. This was just all kinds of wrong.

2. Mikalah Gordon/Lindsey Cardinale/Babyface - Every Time I Close My Eyes
OK technically it's a trio, but good lord. This is why they shouldn't let the 11th and 12th place finishers get any kind of solos on the finale. Mikalah's caterwauling during the Mariah parts and her pawing of Babyface just make this very hard to sit through. Babyface deserved better.

3. Katharine McPhee/Meatloaf - It's All Coming Back To Me Now
OMG. Meatloaf was TERRIFYING in this. Katharine sounded great, but he was all over the place vocally and was kind of skulking about the stage in a creepy kind of way. Later, he said he totally got stage fright and didn't remember any of the performance and was lucky he didn't die of a heart attack.


Kimberwyn said...

3. Katharine McPhee/Meatloaf - It's All Coming Back To Me Now"

Lawlz, this was the worst thing ever! And #4 should be Toni Braxton trying to make Taylor feel up on her thighs.

Anonymous said...

Luv your list. I especially agree that the Kris Allen/Keith Urban duet was supreme! Both guys are fun & talented (not to mention hot)! How could the duet not have been great?