What was America thinking? Certain results in American Idol’s 15-season span have felt predestined, like the victories of such surefire talents as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, or the fact that From Justin to Kelly would be terrible. But there have been more than a few shocking twists since the Fox singing series’ 2002 launch that still get fans outraged. (Case in point: Yes, we still think that Jennifer Hudson deserved better.)
As American Idol prepares to bow out after crowning its season 15 winner on Thursday, April 7, Us Weekly takes a look at the 10 most stunning moments in the show’s history. Oh, and no hard feelings, Kris Allen.
10. Taylor Hicks wins (season 5)
Where are you now, Soul Patrol? Salt-and-pepper bluesman Taylor Hicks was something of a flukey phenom and somehow managed to triumph over fan favorite and future TV star Katharine McPhee (our McPheever just won’t sweat out!). Sadly, Hicks never logged a mainstream hit, due in part to his older-skewing style.
9. Pia Toscano exits (season 10)
Pia Toscano was seen as a season 10 front-runner until her surprise ouster, landing her in ninth place. She enjoyed a bit of fame following the show, dating Dancing With the Stars hottie Mark Ballas before their 2011 split.
8. Nicki Minaj storms out (season 12)
Perhaps the less said about season 12, the better. The idea of landing Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj for the judges panel might have seemed like a bit of coup initially, but the chemistry was completely off, and the two did not belong together. This was made crystal clear when the rapper walked out in the middle of filming a January 2013 episode after criticizing her fellow judges for their hurtful remarks about contestants.
7. The battle of the Davids (season 7)
May the best David win! The pairing of rocker David Cook and cherubic David Archuleta made for a particularly attention-grabbing season 7 finale. Fans were split between the two singers, but Cook emerged victorious, and his first post-Idol album went platinum.
6. Mario Vazquez walks away (season 4)
Not-so-super Mario? Mario Vazquez appeared to be a definite season 4 standout but voluntarily quit prior to the finals for reasons that never quite became clear. The singer’s 2006 single “Gallery” (cowritten by Ne-Yo) was a top 40 Billboard hit, but Vazquez hasn’t been heard from much since.
5. Tamyra Gray’s departure (season 1)
Season 1’s Tamyra Gray appeared to be a strong contender in the series inaugural season, and Simon Cowell referred to her rendition of “A House Is Not a Home” as “one of the best performances on television” that he’d ever seen. Alas, the singer didn’t make it past the top four, with Clarkson ultimately landing the season’s crown.
4. Chris Daughtry comes in third (season 5)
Another season 5 surprise! Chris Daughtry went on to have a solid career but couldn’t crack the top two, taking third place behind Hicks and McPhee.
3. Ruben over Clay (season 2)
This was perhaps the biggest nail-biter in the series’ history. Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken both clearly had legions of fans (those Claymates will not be denied), which helped Aiken find plenty of post-show success, including a multi-platinum debut album and a stint in Broadway’s Spamalot.
2. Jennifer Hudson is — gasp! — seventh (season 3)
Who needs you, Idol? Everything clearly worked out the way it was supposed to for Jennifer Hudson, who has received both an Oscar — thanks to her breakout performance in 2006’s Dreamgirls — and a Grammy. But there are few Idol voting results more head-scratching then the singer’s seventh-place exit in season 3.
1. Kris tops Adam (season 8)
We’re still trying to process this one, seven years later. Adam Lambert is one of the show’s signature stars and still lands singles on the charts (as with last year’s “Ghost Town”). But somehow, he was unable to top Kris Allen, one of the many beneficiaries over the years of fans’ predilection for Cute Guy With Guitar (see also: Cook, Phillip Phillips, Lee DeWyze).
American Idol‘s series finale airs on Fox Thursday, April 7, at 8 p.m. ET.
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