Sad news, reality TV fans: The singing competition that started it all is finally signing off. Yes, on Monday, it was announced that American Idol will end after Season 15, which, according to E! Online, is scheduled to premiere on FOX in January 2016. I've been a (mostly) loyal Idol viewer since Season 1, so I'll be sad to see it go, but truthfully... this is probably for the best. The general public's interest in the series has dwindled considerably in recent years, which has made it difficult for winners to carve out successful careers. Speaking of winners, did you know that a woman has only won Idol FIVE times since the show debuted in 2002? Whoa. What's up with all the dude worship, America?
Now, I don't claim to know why Idol has only crowned five women, but I can tell you one thing: it has nothing to do with a lack of female talent! In fact, I think many of the best and most memorable Idol performances over the past (almost) 13 years have come from women. That should be celebrated! After all, in my opinion, there really is nothing better than watching a powerhouse female vocalist do her thing.
Here are 21 of the best performances from women in American Idol history:
Angie Miller — "You Set Me Free" (Season 12)
Every time I watch Angie Miller's debut performance of her original song, "You Set Me Free," I get chills. Chills!
Tamyra Gray — "A House Is Not A Home" (Season 1)
Dionne Warwick's "A House Is Not A Home" was a great song choice for Tamyra Gray, who probably should've been in the Season 1 finale with Kelly Clarkson instead of Justin Guarini.
Jena Irene — "Creep" (Season 13)
As I watched Jena Irene put her own unique spin on Radiohead's "Creep," I remember thinking to myself, "That's your Season 13 champ right there!" Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. (Irene ended up taking 2nd place.)
Carrie Underwood — "Alone" (Season 4)
Carrie Underwood's rendition of "Alone" is better than Heart's. Yeah, I said it. Also, her hair. It's... beautiful.
Jessica Sanchez — "I Will Always Love You" (Season 11)
There's a lot of power behind Jessica Sanchez's voice — but she knows how to control it. That, I think, is what makes her so special. Sanchez made singing Whitney Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You" seem easy.
Fantasia Barrino — "Summertime" (Season 3)
Fantasia Barrino is truly one of a kind, and her mesmerizing performance of "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess proves it.
Candice Glover — "When You Believe" (Season 12)
Candice Glover wasn't my pick to win Season 12, but there's no denying her incredible talent. When the choir comes out near the end of her rendition of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston's "When You Believe," I lose it.
Kelly Clarkson — "I Surrender" (Season 1)
Clarkson's voice wasn't in top form for her performance of Celine Dion's "I Surrender," but she still crushed it. Bow down to the Queen, y'all.
Haley Reinhart — "You And I" (Season 10)
The way I see it, Haley Reinhart was eliminated from Season 10 too soon. Her version of Lady Gaga's "You and I" is wonderful.
Kimberley Locke — "I Can't Make You Love Me" (Season 2)
Kimberley Locke's voice has a warm quality to it that suits Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" very well. (Side note: Locke's 2004 debut single, "8th World Wonder," is still on heavy rotation on my iPod.)
Katharine McPhee — "Over The Rainbow" (Season 5)
Katharine McPhee's version of "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz is really, really good. It's not quite as good as her song from The House Bunny soundtrack, "I Know What Boys Like," but it comes close. (JK... or am I?)
Jennifer Hudson — "Circle Of Life" (Season 3)
Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson finished in 7th place on Season 3, which is kind of mind-boggling... especially when you watch her performance of "Circle of Life" from The Lion King. What was the public thinking?!
Didi Benami — "Rhiannon" (Season 9)
This may seem like a surprising choice to some, but Didi Benami's rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" has really stuck with me.
Jordin Sparks — "I (Who Have Nothing)" (Season 6)
Ben E. King's "I (Who Have Nothing)" has been sung a few times on Idol, but Sparks' take is definitely my favorite. (Sadly, King just recently passed away on April 30.)
Pia Toscano — "I'll Stand By You" (Season 10)
I want Pia Toscano's career to take off so badly — I just can't get enough of her voice! Her big, bold, show-stopping performance of The Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You" is what Idol is all about.
Melinda Doolittle — "My Funny Valentine" (Season 6)
"My Funny Valentine" from the 1937 musical Babes in Arms is another song that's been covered a few times on Idol, but Melinda Doolittle's powerful rendition is the one that stands out to me.
Allison Iraheta — "Someone To Watch Over Me" (Season 8)
Allison Iraheta's version of George and Ira Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" is understated, elegant, and just about perfect.
Crystal Bowersox — "Me And Bobby McGee" (Season 9)
How did Lee DeWyze win Season 9? HOW?! Crystal Bowersox's performance of Janis Joplin's No. 1 hit, "Me and Bobby McGee," is practically flawless.
LaToya London — "Somewhere" (Season 3)
Now that's what I call a "big finish"! West Side Story's "Somewhere" really allowed LaToya London to show off.
Didi Benami — "Terrified" (Season 9)
I guess I kind of have a thing for Benami! I didn't realize it until just now. I wonder what she's up to these days? (Fun fact: "Terrified" was co-written by Idol judge Kara DioGuardi and recorded by Idol winner Katharine McPhee for her 2010 sophomore album, Unbroken. Connections!)
Kelly Clarkson — "Stuff Like That There" (Season 1)
No one does it better than the original American Idol. No one.