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Leadoff Performances

Say you're a contestant on American Idol, and you're standing backstage a few hours before show time when the producers walk up to you and say, "Congratulations, Fred, you're singing first tonight!" Assuming your name is really Fred, your response should be to (choose one):

  1. Thank them profusely for the coveted honor of leading off the show.
  2. Throw up on their shoes.
  3. Hide in the wardrobe room and don't come out until the second commercial break.

Well, we can rule out A. As we and our friends at USA Today noted, the leadoff spot hasn't been terribly friendly to contestants over the years. Just 14 (of 202) first singers have have turned in a five-star performance, while 56 have been sent home (including 34 of 138 finalists, the highest ratio of any slot by far.) Through AI6, four of the six leadoff singers in a Final 3 episode have been voted off, and five of six in the Finales (where so far only Ruben Studdard has sung first and lived to tell about it.)

The challenges of performing first are obvious. Many late-arriving viewers miss the performance entirely, and those who do see it have upwards of an hour to forget about it before the voting begins. Plus, singing in front of a "cold" audience is rarely a treat; that's why opening acts were invented. Certainly the producers are aware of this too, so if they were ever intent on getting rid of a contestant – and we are not saying we suspect them of anything (cough-cough) – the leadoff spot is the obvious place to put him or her.

So if you ever find yourself opening the show on Idol, do whatever it takes to make it as memorable of a performance as you can. And don't forget to apologize to the producers afterwards for their shoes.

[back to top] Leadoff Performances

Click on a column header to sort by that column.
# Episode / Theme Slot Performance Approval Rating σ Result
1
1950s
1/11
I Don't Hurt Anymore0003I Don't Hurt Anymore
90
 
16 2Safe
Billboard charts
1/10
Long As I Can See The Light0003Long As I Can See The Light
90
 
15 2Safe
3
Random / Judge's / Idol's
1/9
Band Of Gold0003Band Of Gold
88
 
15 7Eliminated
4
Audition Songs
1/12
Blue Eyed Lie0003Blue Eyed Lie
87
 
16 2Safe
5
Open
1/10
And I Am Telling You Im Not Going0003And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
86
 
13 2Safe
6
Soul
1/12
Ain't Nobody0003Ain't Nobody
85
 
19 2Safe
7
Big Band
1/6
Minnie The Moocher0003Minnie The Moocher
84
 
11 2Safe
Open
1/8
Ive Got The Music In Me0003I've Got The Music In Me
84
 
21 2Safe
Rock
1/6
Whole Lotta Love0003Whole Lotta Love
84
 
23 2Safe
10
Now and Then
1/14
Rolling In Deep0003Rolling In The Deep
82
 
19 4Bottom Group
11
Open
1/12
How Come U Dont Call Me Anymore0003How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?
81
 
15 2Safe
Elvis Presley
1/9
Saved0003Saved
81
 
14 2Safe
13
1970s
1/10
Crazy On You0003Crazy On You
80
 
10 2Safe
Finale
1/6
Mad World0003Mad WorldReprise performance
80
 
19 7Eliminated
15
Open
1/8
Unbreak My Heart0003Un-Break My Heart
79
 
16 5Wild Card
Andrew Lloyd Webber
1/6
One Rock N Roll Too Many0003One Rock 'N' Roll Too Many
79
 
19 4Bottom Group
60's / British
1/12
River Deep Mountain High0003River Deep - Mountain High
79
 
17 4Bottom Group
18
Detroit
1/11
I Heard It Through The Grapevine0003I Heard It Through The Grapevine
78
 
16 2Safe
19
Bon Jovi
1/6
Blaze Of Glory0003Blaze Of Glory
77
 
18 7Eliminated
Finale
1/6
You Give Love A Bad Name0003You Give Love A Bad NameReprise performance
77
 
25 7Eliminated
21
Country
1/7
Where The Blacktop Ends0003Where The Blacktop Ends
76
 
15 2Safe
22
Open
1/12
Never0003Never
75
 
14 2Safe
Michael Jackson
1/13
Way You Make Me Feel0003The Way You Make Me Feel
75
 
15 2Safe
2010s
1/10
Didnt You Know How Much I Loved You0003Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You
75
 
16 2Safe
25
Motown
1/10
Let's Get It On0003Let's Get It On
74
 
19 4Bottom Group
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