Jake’s Take-The 30 Greatest Talents that “American Idol” Discovered-Part One

American Idol's final season

“American Idol” will begin its farewell season in four days! (Graphic property of FOX & 19 Entertainment)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

In four days, American Idol will air its final auditions!

I have watched Idol since Season Two (2003) and professionally reviewed the show since Season 11 (2012) and one thing that keeps me coming back to the FOX singing competition is the show’s ability to transform ordinary people into household names that have gone on to win Grammys, tour the world and perform on the Great White Way.

Throughout the final season, Jake’s Take will pay homage to American Idol. In the first of a two-part series, Jake’s Take is looking back at 30 contestants that changed the way we watched the former FOX ratings juggernaut forever.

(Photo property of FOX's Michael Becker)

(Photo property of FOX’s Michael Becker)

30-Caleb Johnson (Season 13)

Since American Idol debuted in 2002, numerous contestants that did not make it to the live shows auditioned for the show multiple times. Season 13 winner Caleb Johnson appeared on the show’s tenth (2011) and eleventh (2012) seasons, but was eliminated before the crucial live portion of the show in each season. After taking a season off, Caleb returned to Idol and became a force to be reckoned with all throughout the competition. He brought rockers back to the forefront of the show and became the contestant that everyone wanted to see crown the next American Idol.

Key Performances: “Radioactive,” “Skyfall,” “Still of the Night” & “Dream On

29-Joey Cook (Season 14)

Last season, America was introduced to this quirky Woodbridge, Virginia songwriter who stroke a chord with fans at her Kansas City audition. I loved her mission of bringing originality back into mainstream music and introducing a new generation to the accordion. Throughout her time on Idol, I thought that Joey accomplished her mission by bringing new twists to Top 40 favorites and breathed new life into millennial classics.

Key Performances: “King of Spain (Audition),” “Fancy,” “Miss Independent” & “Somebody to Love

28-Jax (Season 14)

East Brunswick, New Jersey’s favorite daughter was one contestant that I could not keep my eyes off during Idol’s 14th season. Between choosing impeccable song choices such as Cher’s “Bang Bang (He Shot Me Down),” Motown classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and superb stage presence, Jax became a fan favorite who was shockingly eliminated from the finale moments away from the final battle.

Key Performances: “Bang Bang (He Shot Me Down),” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand (Top 12)” & “Poker Face

27-Angie Miller (Season 12)

If I am going to be honest, one of two girls that captured my attention and commanded me to not focus on the Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj feud was Angie Miller.  Ever since she performed her original song, “You Set Me Free,” during the last day of Hollywood Week, I became a huge supporter of Ms. Miller. While it was hard for her to shake off her grip on the Jessie J songbook, Angie proved that she was worthy of the Idol crown as she produced impeccable emotional performances each time she hit the stage.

Key Performances: “You Set Me Free,” “I Surrender,” “I’ll Stand By You” & “Diamonds

26-Skylar Laine (Season 11)

Outside of Carrie Underwood, Skylar Laine was only girl who made me excited to hear country music to be performed on American Idol. The Season 11 Top Five alum brilliantly infused country with almost everything that was thrown at her that ranged from Whitney Houston and Queen to Bette Midler and the Miracles. While was very surprised that she did not join Joshua and Jessica in her season’s Top 3, I look forward to hearing new music from her soon.

Key Performances: “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “Didn’t You Know How Much I Love You” & “The Show Must Go On


(Photo property of FOX, FremantleMedia North America & 19 Entertainment)

(Photo property of FOX, FremantleMedia North America & 19 Entertainment)

25-Allison Iraheta (Season Eight)  

What do Skylar, Angie, Jax and Joey have in common with Ms. Iraheta? They are all heiresses to Allison Iraheta’s legacy: young women who are unafraid to rock out on the Idol stage! While some of her fellow Season Eight contestants were unable to keep up with the omnipotent Adam Lambert, Allison’s fantastic ability to weave a story and deliver powerful vocal performances were always highlights during her season.

Key Performances: “Give In To Me,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” & “Someone To Watch Over Me

24-Casey Abrams (Season 10)

I am always proud of a University of Colorado at Boulder alum or student that makes it onto a major media medium. When CU alum Casey Abrams appeared on Idol’s tenth anniversary season, it was one of the hottest topics on campus. Like his fellow Jazz aficionado Haley Reinhart, Casey brought the fabled musical genre back to the forefront with his impeccable out-of-the-box performances.

Key Performances: “Georgia On My Mind,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Your Song” & “Harder To Breathe

23-Ruben Studdard (Season Two)

Ruben carries a lot of clout in the American Idol universe. Not only was he the first African American male singer to win the show, but he was also the archetype of what a soul singer who auditions for these shows should be: a velvet teddy bear that was vocally blessed by both the late Sam Cooke and Luther Vandross.

Key Performances: “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “Music of My Heart,” “Just the Way You Are” &  “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart


(Photo property of FOX, FremantleMedia North America & 19 Entertainment)

(Photo property of FOX, FremantleMedia North America & 19 Entertainment)

22-Katharine McPhee (Season Five)

Katharine McPhee was one of the most gifted vocalists that ever appeared on Idol’s first five seasons. The Boston Conservatory alum always captivated the audience with her amazing vocal performances. It was a huge surprise that she was not the true winner of Season Five. However, she received an amazing consolation prize: a great acting career.

Key Performances: “Think,” “Until You Come Back to Me,” “Who Wants to Live Forever” & “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree


 (Photo property of 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America & SYCO TV)

(Photo property of 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America & SYCO TV)

21-Pia Toscano (Season 10)  

Five years after Katharine made her epic debut, another powerhouse singer took America by storm. Her name: Pia Toscano! The former make-up artist fulfilled her dream of becoming a singer after she received a Golden Ticket from Season 10 judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Her high-octane vocals took her all the way to the live rounds until her tragic elimination that shocked the nation!

Key Performances: “Doesn’t Mean Anything,” “I’ll Stand By You,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” & “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”  

20-Justin Guarini (Season One)

The original Idol runner-up continues our countdown! When he first auditioned with “Who’s Loving You” and “Blame It On the Sun,” fans became instantly attached to the Pennsylvania native’s pure R&B voice, which helped placed Justin at the top of the Idol pantheon.

Key Performances: “For Once in My Life,”  “Sunny,” “Route 66” &  “Get Here


Elise Testone I Want It All

(Photo property of Fox’s Michael Becker)

19-Elise Testone (Season 11)

After Haley Reinhart catapulted her way to Season 10’s Final Three, I thought it was going to be difficult to any female Blues-Rock singer to follow in Haley’s footsteps. Elise Testone proved me wrong. During Season 11, Elise Testone produced some of the best performances of the season with her interpretations of signature classic rock tracks.

Key Performances: “One & Only,” “Vienna,” “Whole Lotta Love” & “I Want It All

18-Crystal Bowersox (Season Nine)

Before both Haley and Elise continued the Idol ladies rock revolution, Season Nine runner-up (and the true winner of Season Nine) Crystal Bowersox cemented her place in the Idol pantheon as Season Nine’s resident folk rocker.  In a season that marked Simon Cowell’s final appearance on the Idol judges panel and a lackluster group of performers, the audience could always count on Crystal to deliver solid performances.

Key Performances: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Maybe I’m Amazed” & “Up to the Mountain


(Photo property of FOX, FremantleMedia North America & 19 Entertainment)

(Photo property of FOX, FremantleMedia North America & 19 Entertainment)

17-David Cook (Season Seven)

Kansas City native David Cook was the third rocker to add to the Idol rocker blueprint after Bo Bice and Chris Daughtry appeared on the show. While David followed up on Daughtry’s narrative of turning any song that he performed on the Idol stage, he also inserted a lot of personality onto the tunes he selected. David also brilliantly stepped out of his comfort zone when it came to tackling some of his season’s most challenging theme weeks (Mariah Carey and Andrew Lloyd Webber).

Key Performances: “Hello,” “Billie Jean,” “Always Be My Baby” & “The Music of the Night


Clark Beckham Georgia On My Mind

(Photo property of FOX, FremantleMedia North America & 19 Entertainment)

16-Clark Beckham (Season 14)

Season 14 Runner-Up Clark Beckham concludes part one of our countdown! Out of all of the contestants that were featured in Season 14, the only person that I deemed worthy of not only post-Idol success…but a recording contract. While he did not win, Clark brought Blue-eyed soul back into American Idol after a three-season absence.

I do not own any of the clips that are sprinkled throughout the article. They belong to FOX, FremantleMedia North America & 19 Entertainment.


  1. […] If you missed Part One of my countdown, click here. […]

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