Chris Daughtry, Jessica Sanchez, Casey Abrams, Didi Benami


Forgotten lyrics, dramatic tears, clashing egos and the occasional fainting spell: No wonder American Idol's Hollywood round is known as "Hell Week." But while hundreds of Golden Ticket-holders have crumbled under the grueling pressure, still others have risen spectacularly to the occasion.

As a new slew of hopefuls descend upon Hollywood tonight, we revisit 10 high-note performances from the show's first 11 seasons.

1. Jessica Sanchez, DeAndre Brackensick and Candice Glover, "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (Season 11): This electrifying performance, all soul and swag, was an early sign of the top 13 greatness to come from eventual runner-up Jessica and the follically blessed DeAndre—not to mention the potential future brilliance of Candice, who's back for Hollywood Week again this year.

2. Casey Abrams, "Georgia on My Mind" (Season 10): The offbeat multi-instrumentalist had played the melodica for his Austin audition but opted for the upright bass during Hollywood Week—a first for the competition—and effortlessly proved that you don't need a tear-jerking backstory to become an Idol standout.

3. Haley Reinhart, "God Bless the Child" (Season 10): The eventual third-place finisher, who'd nearly been cut after forgetting her lyrics during the group round, more than redeemed herself with this solo, which was so growly-sexy that Steven Tyler couldn't help but harmonize from his seat.

4. Andrew Garcia, "Straight Up" (Season Nine): Had she still been a judge, Paula Abdul would've given an enthusiastic seal-clap of approval to this unforgettable acoustic interpretation of her late-‘80s hit. For a brief shining moment, the cash-strapped Cali dad—not BFF Lee DeWyze—looked like the guy to beat.

5. Didi Benami, "Terrified" (Season 9): Katharine McPhee first recorded this Kara DioGuardi-penned tune, but it's the former Knoxville waitress's vulnerable-yet-powerful take on it that everyone still remembers.

Kris Allen


6. Kris Allen, Matt Giraud, India Morrison and Justin Williams (aka "White Chocolate"), "I Want You Back" (Season Eight): Proof that Idol groups can, on rare occasion, be harmonious, this ultra-smooth take on the Jackson 5 classic gave eventual champ Kris his first significant (argyle-sweater rockin!) air time. "All the contestants are cheering now," Ryan Seacrest said after the performance, "but on the inside they're going, ‘Damn, I wish we were that good.'" Four seasons on, they still are. 

7. Josiah Leming, "Grace Kelly" (Season Seven): Performances like this are why Josiah still tops the list of most controversial Hollywood Week cuts. But the Tennessee teen, who famously lived in his car at the time, ultimately got the last laugh when he signed a record deal with Warner Bros. 

8. Blake Lewis, Chris Sligh, Rudy Cardenas and Thomas Lowe, "How Deep Is Your Love" (Season Six): Another group-round gem that featured stand-out solos, spot-on harmonies and the mad beatboxing skillz that would send Blake sailing all the way into the top two.

Chris Daughtry


9. Chris Daughtry, "The First Cut Is the Deepest" (Season 5): This performance marked a turning point for the former North Carolina auto repairman: He slayed this Cat Stevens tune so hard, not even Simon Cowell—who originally voted against sending him to Hollywood—could deny Chris' charisma.

10. Kimberley Locke and Frenchie Davis, "Band of Gold" (Season Two): Is it any wonder that none of the other hopefuls wanted to share the stage with these two golden-throated divas? You wouldn't have wanted to, either.

American Idol airs tonight at 8 p.m.

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