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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 203) first singers have have turned in a five-star performance, while 56 have been sent home (including 34 of 139 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
Country
1/11
A Broken Wing0003A Broken Wing
68
 
21 4Bottom Group
2
Finale
1/6
A House Is Not A Home0003A House Is Not A Home
39
 
16 2Safe
3
Movie Hits
1/11
Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)0003Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)
21
 
12 4Bottom Group
4
Movie Songs
1/8
Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)0003Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)
38
 
18 2Safe
5
Country Rock
1/10
Aint Goin Down Til The Sun Comes Up0003Ain't Goin' Down ('Til The Sun Comes Up)
43
 
28 2Safe
6
Grand Ole Opry
1/11
Aint Goin Down Til The Sun Comes Up0003Ain't Goin' Down ('Til The Sun Comes Up)
25
 
14 4Bottom Group
7
Soul
1/12
Ain't Nobody0003Ain't Nobody
85
 
19 2Safe
8
1960s / Neil Sedaka
1/10
Aint Too Proud To Beg0003Ain't Too Proud To Beg
44
 
17 4Bottom Group
9
Year You Were Born
1/10
Alone0003Alone
23
 
16 2Safe
10
Idols' / Jimmy's / Judges' Choice
1/9
Amazed0003Amazed
37
 
21 2Safe
11
Idol's / Producers' / Judges'
1/9
And So It Goes0003And So It Goes
73
 
24 2Safe
12
Finale
1/6
Angel0003Angel
44
 
18 7Eliminated
13
Personal Idol
1/13
Any Man Of Mine0003Any Man Of Mine
49
 
20 2Safe
14
Burt Bacharach / Wish You Wrote
1/12
Anyone Who Had A Heart0003Anyone Who Had A Heart
33
 
19 2Safe
15
Billboard #1 Hits
1/8
At This Moment0003At This Moment
66
 
20 2Safe
16
This Is Me
1/13
Aw Naw0003Aw Naw
31
 
11 2Safe
17
Beatles
1/11
Back In The USSR0003Back In The U.S.S.R.
28
 
21 7Eliminated
18
Random / Judge's / Idol's
1/9
Band Of Gold0003Band Of Gold
88
 
15 7Eliminated
19
Country / Rock
1/12
Barracuda0003Barracuda
77
 
16 1Pending
20
2000s
1/10
Because Of You0003Because Of You
11
 
17 7Eliminated
21
Finale
1/6
Before Your Love0003Before Your Love
44
 
13 7Eliminated
22
Finale
1/6
Black Horse And The Cherry Tree0003Black Horse And The Cherry TreeReprise performance
52
 
13 7Eliminated
23
Bon Jovi
1/6
Blaze Of Glory0003Blaze Of Glory
77
 
18 7Eliminated
24
Audition Songs
1/12
Blue Eyed Lie0003Blue Eyed Lie
87
 
16 2Safe
25
Queen / Open
1/12
Bohemian Rhapsody0003Bohemian Rhapsody
44
 
26 2Safe
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