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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 201) first singers have have turned in a five-star performance, while 56 have been sent home (including 34 of 137 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
2
Random / Judge's / Idol's
1/9
Band Of Gold0003Band Of Gold
88
 
15 7Eliminated
3
Audition Songs
1/12
Blue Eyed Lie0003Blue Eyed Lie
87
 
16 2Safe
4
Soul
1/12
Ain't Nobody0003Ain't Nobody
85
 
19 2Safe
5
Big Band
1/6
Minnie The Moocher0003Minnie The Moocher
84
 
11 2Safe
Rock
1/6
Whole Lotta Love0003Whole Lotta Love
84
 
23 2Safe
7
Now and Then
1/14
Rolling In Deep0003Rolling In The Deep
82
 
19 4Bottom Group
8
Elvis Presley
1/9
Saved0003Saved
81
 
14 2Safe
9
Finale
1/6
Mad World0003Mad WorldReprise performance
80
 
19 7Eliminated
10
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
12
Detroit
1/11
I Heard It Through The Grapevine0003I Heard It Through The Grapevine
78
 
16 2Safe
13
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
15
Country
1/7
Where The Blacktop Ends0003Where The Blacktop Ends
76
 
15 2Safe
16
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
18
Motown
1/10
Let's Get It On0003Let's Get It On
74
 
19 4Bottom Group
The Beatles
1/9
With A Little Help From My Friends0003With A Little Help From My Friends
74
 
15 2Safe
20
Burt Bacharach Love Songs
1/5
Walk On By0003Walk On By
73
 
21 2Safe
Idol's / Producers' / Judges'
1/9
And So It Goes0003And So It Goes
73
 
24 2Safe
22
Diane Warren Songs
1/6
If You Asked Me To0003If You Asked Me To
72
 
15 2Safe
Great American Songbook
1/7
What A Wonderful World0003What A Wonderful World
72
 
19 4Bottom Group
24
Country / Gamble & Huff
1/8
Sin Wagon0003Sin Wagon
71
 
22 2Safe
25
Country
1/11
A Broken Wing0003A Broken Wing
68
 
21 4Bottom Group
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