Getting excited for ''American Idol''? Michael Slezak thinks back on trainwreck moments that, for better or worse, are burned in our memory forever. And, yes, Sanjaya's in the house...

By Michael Slezak
Updated December 26, 2008 at 12:00 PM EST

‘Idol’: The 10 worst performances ever

10. MIKALAH GORDON, ”Love Will Lead You Back” (Season 4)

Bad enough that the spunky Las Vegas teenager inexplicably turned Taylor Dayne’s big ballad into a funeral dirge, but even worse, her voice kept cracking like Humpty Dumpty hitting the sidewalk. By the time poor Mikalah grabbed the mic off its stand and began to approach the audience, it almost felt like a threat.


9. NIKKI MCKIBBIN, ”Always Something There to Remind Me” (Season 1)

It almost seems too easy to take another swing at season 1’s perennial punching bag, but listen to the non-existent lower register, the shrieking high notes of Nikki’s Naked Eyes cover, and you’ll hear how far Idol has come over seven seasons. This is what once passed as a top-three contestant?

8. JOSH GRACIN, ”Jive Talkin”’ (Season 2)

There’ve certainly been worse vocals in Idol history than Josh Gracin’s clumsy attempt to countrify the Bee Gees’ 1975 hit. Nope, what forever scalded this moment into our memories was a scary close-up of Josh thrusting his wild-eyed face full-frame into the camera. That was accompanied by some of the most awkward body gyrations on record, as the Marine painfully attempted to act out every line of the song through spastic hand gestures resembling sign language gone horribly awry. Predictably, Josh went home and, thankfully, never came near a disco floor again. — Dalton Ross

7. HALEY SCARNATO, ”Turn the Beat Around” (Season 6)

She did not turn the beat around. Nor did she turn it upside down. Haley did, however, choke the life out of Vicki Sue Robinson’s disco classic. Clad in barely there short-shorts, Haley frantically raced around the stage like a woman who didn’t have an answer to her own half-hearted improvisation — ”somebody won’t you tell me if you if you feel the beat!” Watching the audience limply clap along to her performance, chances are most of them could not answer in the affirmative, either.


6. KEVIN COVAIS, ”Part-Time Lover” (Season 5)

Setting aside for a second that the song manages to somehow be simultaneously too low and too high for his vocal register, is anyone not completely squicked out by the idea of someone nicknamed ”Chicken Little” attempting to seductively deliver lyrics like ”Knowing it’s so wrong/But feeling so right”? Awkward, to be sure, and the scrawny, bespectacled Kevin’s debate-club vibe only heightened the impression that he’d been forced on stage by a group of very large high school football players who were threatening to shove him into a locker if he didn’t do it. Poor little guy never had a chance. — Whitney Pastorek


5. CARMEN RASMUSEN, ”Call Me” (Season 2)

The Utah teenager’s goat-bleat of a vibrato wasn’t quite as tuneless on her Blondie cover as it had been during, say, her evisceration of Billy Joel’s ”And So It Goes,” but the attitude was all wrong — kind of like watching a Girl Scout bust into a biker bar and screech at some Hell’s Angels to buy her #@*%*@ cookies!


4. KRISTY LEE COOK, ”Eight Days a Week” (Season 7)

Poor, valiant, misguided Kristy Lee — strapping herself onto the out-of-control barrel horse that was the Idol band’s attempt to countrify (and speed up) a Beatles classic, and falling off with a thud some 90 seconds later, exhausted, bewildered, but still smiling like a frightened pageant queen in her shredded jeans and sparkly sliver top.

3. JOHN STEVENS, ”Music of My Heart” (Season 3)

”You and Latin music go together like chocolate ice cream and an onion,” said Simon Cowell, describing the congenial 16-year-old’s abominably atonal rendition of ”Music of My Heart” during Idol‘s ill-advised foray into the Gloria Estefan songbook. Still, all things considered, that choco-onion platter might go down easier than a repeat listen to John’s strained and quavery vocal performance.


2. SANJAYA MALAKAR, ”Bathwater” (Season 6)

Not even perky guest mentor Gwen Stefani could hide her disdain when Sanjaya tackled a No Doubt hit. And from his out-of-tune, out-of-breath vocals, to his botched lyrics, to his infamous (and hideous) ”pony-hawk,” the scourge of season 6 lived down to Stefani’s low expectations, bringing to life the lyric ”I know I’m divin’ into my own destruction.”

1. CAMILLE VELASCO, ”Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (Season 3)

Accusing Camile Velasco of butchering Elton John’s ”Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” would be a case of assigning blame to the victim. The only correct emotional response to the teen’s rendition — presented in an awkward crouch-and-bounce stance at center stage — would be one of sympathy. Her final, wretched ”ahh-ahh-ahh,” delivered with the indignity of a barnyard beast passing through the slaughterhouse door, was a musical white flag, begging the viewing audience to hang up their phones and put her out of her misery. And that’s exactly what they did.

Episode Recaps


American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

  • TV Show
  • 16
  • 574
  • ABC