On Thursday night, American Idol comes to an end, with a nostalgic, Nigel Lythgoe-produced finale featuring dozens of alumni from the past 15 seasons. To celebrate (or commiserate, because I’m actually very sad that the show is ending), Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks is ranking the 50 coolest Idol finalists ever.
Why “coolest”? Because for years, many skeptics and snobs have written off this show as just some corny karaoke competition. This gallery proves otherwise. These very cool contestants were the game-changers, the mavericks, the edgy and indie types, the ones that kept things interesting and changed what people thought Idol could or should be.
Other criteria to keep in mind here:
To keep this list from getting out of control, I only considered singers who’d made the top 10 (or top 11, since a couple seasons had bonus contestants). But I do give special shoutouts to some of my other favorites: Brandon Rogers, Josiah Leming, Danny Noriega, Todrick Hall, Alex Lambert, Lilly Scott, Rachel Zevita, Kory Wheeler, Jenn Blosil, Charlie Askew, Jackie Tohn, Alexis Grace, Norman Gentle, and many, many other extremely cool contenders who dared to march to the beat of their own Rickey Minor house band drum.
Second, this list is subjective. Everyone has their own Idol favorites; that’s part of the beauty of the show. I took into consideration the contestants’ Idol performances as well as their post-show work, but in the end, I went with the contestants that just stayed in my heart (or my iPod, or Spotify rotation) the longest. And just the ones that, well, I thought were the coolest. (All photos from Getty Images.)