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'American Idol' Coronation Songs, Ranked: From Kelly Clarkson to Nick Fradiani

by Carolyn Menyes   Apr 6, 2016 15:14 PM EDT

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After 15 seasons, on Thursday evening (April 7), American Idol is going to say goodbye (for now) after crowning its new winner. Either La'Porsha Renae, Trent Harmon or Dalton Rapattoni is going to take home the big Idol trophy - and with that win, there is going to be a coronation song. And though fans of the show will have to wait until Wednesday night (April 6) to hear the next Idol hit, ahead of the show's farewell series finale, we had to wonder... how good are those coronation songs, really?

From Kelly Clarkson's tear-filled "A Moment Like This" to Nick Fradiani's swinging "Beautiful Life," American Idol has had some major hits - and major misses - in its coronation songs throughout the years. So, we did what we do best here... we ranked them. Who's released the best coronation track? Who abandoned their single almost immediately? And who just offered us up a big ol' stinky pile of cheese (hint: it's a lot of people). Get the dish below:

14. Lee DeWyze, "Beautiful Day": Yes, this song is *that* "Beautiful Day." The already mega-hit written and released by a little known band called U2. Sure, Idol songs aren't always original tracks but they were never before (and haven't been since) No. 1 hits with three Grammy awards. It's hard not to compare Lee DeWyze's version of this song to Bono's, and of course, it doesn't quite compare. Though he gives a nice texture to this song with his post-grunge rock edge, he lacks the sort of passion and the high soaring vocals at this song's highest point that helped it to resonate with audiences worldwide just 10 years before. Plus, we didn't get a taste of his folk side, which is where Lee really shines. Count this one for a loss (despite being a winning single).

13. Kris Allen, "No Boundaries": Kris Allen thought so little of his Kara DiGuardi-penned coronation song that he only bothered to include it as a super deluxe iTunes bonus track on his self-titled debut album. So, even in the mix of a lot of corny middle season Idol coronation singles, that is a sign that doesn't point toward anything good. And, indeed, "No Boundaries" is a very muddled track. Like the worst Idol songs, it doesn't show any hint of why Kris won over millions of fans and bested Adam Lambert to win season 8. Where's his own unique mark on this track? Mix that in with, yet again, head-in-the-sky lyrics about weathering hurricanes and climbing metaphorical mountains and you get... this.

12. Jordin Sparks, "This Is My Now": The mid-early years were not particularly spectacular for Idol coronation songs, as is marked by Jordin Sparks' ballad "This Is My Now." Jordin did what she could with this watered-down self confidence ballad. The worst thing about "This Is My Now" is, that despite Jordin's own sparkling personality and R&B side (which we would hear later on her own hits "No Air" and "Tattoo") this song could have been sung by, really, any variety of teen pop stars. Imagine say, Mandy Moore, singing "This Is My Now." It is incredibly easy to do.

11. Taylor Hicks, "Do I Make You Proud": Taylor Hicks' "Do I Make You Proud" may be one of the most memorable Idol songs, but we pretty much have Weird Al's "Do I Creep You Out" to thank for that. Taylor rose to prominence on American Idol thanks to his electrifying personality, which was all but absent from this pseudo-emotional song. Even during his performance on the show, Taylor exploded into a chant of "Soul Patrol! Soul Patrol!" that was far more enthusiastic than "Do I Make You Proud." The melody is also somewhat reminiscent of the Lifehouse hit "Amazed," but this track won't quite get middle schoolers swaying to the beat forever anytime soon.

10. David Cook, "The Time of My Life": David Cook won season 7 of American Idol in 2008 AD. So, why does his coronation song sound roughly 10 years too late? Perhaps it's David's voice itself, which has the sort of post-grunge Creed-like throaty quality to it while mixing in a gravel quality that helped David to stand out from the rest of the combination. While this song melodically has a lot of nice rises and falls and a waltz-y quality that just BEGS for plays at a wedding, the real downfall to this song are those hokey twinkles immediately after the chorus and this song's lyrics. So, a 27-year-old rocker is singing about "magic rainbows" and finding his wings? OKAY.

09. Candice Glover, "I Am Beautiful": Candice Glover had a big single to follow up - Phillip Phillips' "Home." And while this song was sweeping and grand and moved away from the "I can't believe my life is so amazing!" sentiment of the worst Idol coronation songs, there is still a certain flavor lacking in "I Am Beautiful." Candice apparently chose this song for its lyrics, and lines like "And in his eyes I'm so worth it / I'm worth every tear / And every scar / And even when you say I'm not / He says I'm beautiful" play in nicely to Candice's whole shtick, this track once again feels like it could have been performed by anyone, at any time. Candice is one of the finest vocalists to step through the doors of American Idol, and she deserved better.

08. Carrie Underwood, "Inside Your Heaven": Carrie Underwood is indubitably one of the most successful American Idol winners ever, if not *the* most successful. And we know that Carrie can belt out a note with the best of them. But, for her coronation song (which was also performed and released by season 4's runner-up Bo Bice), Carrie wasn't quite at her massive status yet. Like a fine wine, this country girl only gets better with age. Though Carrie's twang worked really nicely on this piano ballad, there's very little personality to be heard here and the passion is greatly missed in its absence. The song itself, however, has a very pleasant melody that's hard to resist even after all these years.

07. Scotty McCreery, "I Love You This Big": ^_______________________^! "I Love You This Big" is one of the most adorable song titles to come out of American Idol (if not THE most adorable), and though the single itself takes itself pretty seriously, you can't help but smile at that title. Now, after about six years of corny cheese fests (which would have been better served with some warm honey butter), we got a love ballad, which is really, truly refreshing. Scotty McCreery could sing rejected Tinder messages and sound amazing, so with a lyric this endearing, he works wonders and sounds like the big, beautiful bass he is (even with that mop of ginger hair). If this song suffers from anything, it can get a little dull. But, hey, that's better than some generic teen pop anthem!

06. Nick Fradiani, "Beautiful Life": After three or four years in which Idol moved away from cheesy coronation songs, Nick Fradiani waltzed in with "Beautiful Life," which features such terribly dorky lyrics like "Haters can hate and fakers can front," a line that has consistently made me cringe with every listen for a solid year now. But Nick is notable for never being a frontrunner on Idol but for playing the game flawlessly, so this song choice is perfect for that arc. Luckily for us, unlike the ballads of mid-Idol editions, this song injects just a little bit of that singsong melody of Phillip Phillips' "Home" and you do hear that heavy Matchbox 20 influence in the music and Nick's vocal delivery. Is this an amazing single? No. But is it perfect for American Idol? Kind of, yes.

05. Ruben Studdard, "Flying Without Wings": Ruben Studdard, the second American Idol took this Westlife song and filtered it through a Babyface production. While the boy band song was turned into something wholly unrecognizable from the original, listening back to this song now in 2016 - 13 years after it first debuted - there's a major aging problem. This song is *very* 2003, from the light faux drums in the background to the gospel choir assisting Ruben in the song's final verses and chorus. That being said, the soulfulness of Ruben's voice makes "Flying Without Wings" successfully inspiring and oddly comforting. He is, at the end of the day, our velvet teddy bear.

04. Caleb Johnson, "As Long As You Love Me": While it would have been frickin' awesome, Caleb Johnson's "As Long As You Love Me" is NOT a cover of Backstreet Boys or Justin Bieber. I know... it's really unfortunate. What this song is, however, is a hook-filled classic rock channeling hit. Penned by The Darkness' Justin Hawkins (who we all know can write something with balls and a badass melody), "As Long As You Love Me" didn't shy away from who Caleb is as a performer and artist in order to gain the favor of Middle America. This track has a bit of spice to it, thanks to soaring guitar solos and Caleb's signature falsetto, which is all over this track and executed flawlessly.

03. Fantasia, "I Believe": Fantasia has one of the best voices in American Idol history, and that was on full display for her season 3 gospel anthem "I Believe." Like the majority of Idol coronation songs (and certainly those from the first few seasons), this song oozes with cheese and the sort of faux-inspirational lyrics that marked those early Idol finale performances. But, what helps Fantasia's track to stand out is her vocal performance. There's that signature slight lisp and that rasp, which just sounds oh-so-fantastic in the highest parts of the chorus.

02. Kelly Clarkson, "A Moment Like This": There's never anything quite like the first. As the inaugural Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This" is a bona fide classic song. Though it may actually be about falling in love (or whatever), lyrics like "I can't believe it's happening to me / Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this" reflect the American Idol journey and win perfectly. It's an emotionally packed song from beginning to end, and the manner in which Kelly explores the range and depth of her voice over the course of three-and-a-half minutes is a delight to listen to. When you separate the meaning of "A Moment Like This" from the song itself, you get something that is... fine. It's a little hokey and definitely a little generic, musically speaking, but like everything she touches, Kelly Clarkson turned this song into gold.

01. Phillip Phillips, "Home": Phillip Phillips' single "Home" was great for a few reasons. First off, it showed off a sweet side to Phillip's persona. Secondly, its bouncing melody and the acoustic guitar are hard to resist. Finally, "Home" was simply an incredibly smart choice because it tapped into the Mumford & Sons/Lumineers trend that was dominating rock and radio in 2012, the year in which Phillip won American Idol's 11th season. Thanks to a sync with the summer Olympics, "Home" was a homerun for Phillip and Idol, which had suffered from watery, faux-inspirational coronation songs for this year. "Home" proved you can win a reality show and still release something captivating and classic for years to come, all with your own personality and twist.

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