Since the early days of American Idol, there has always been a place for country singers. While Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson admits that she unsuccessfully begged producers to include a country week during the show’s first season, it wasn’t until Season 2 that Idol producers conceded with a “Country Rock”-themed week. Since then, country has been a theme almost every season, providing for a ton of memorable country moments on the show.
As we prepare for this week’s American Idol finale,we looked back on some of the best country moments on American Idol over the last 13 seasons. It was nearly impossible to include every one (Sorry Josh Gracin, Hollie Cavanagh & Phil Stacey), but here are some of the standouts.
1. Carrie Underwood – “Independence Day”
It would be impossible to have an American Idol country moments list that didn’t include Carrie Underwood. She took on this Martina McBride hit early in Idol‘s fourth season, cementing her place as the show’s resident country star. She would later reprise this song on the Season 4 finale, leading to an easy win over long-haired rocker, Bo Bice.
2. Casey James – “Don’t”
While Casey James immediately caught some of the judges’ attentions for his flowing blonde hair and stripping his shirt off in the auditions, it was his soulful rasp that won over America. He quickly showed off his bluesy country side on this stunning version of Shania Twain’s “Don’t” that foreshadowed his country path.
3. Kellie Pickler – “Fancy”
During her stint on American Idol, Kellie Pickler’s amusing quips and tragic back story often got her as much attention as her voice. However, it was this performance of the Bobby Gentry/Reba McEntire hit “Fancy” that showed she was a country force to be reckoned with.
4. Scotty McCreery – “The River”
From the moment he first opened his mouth to sing a few bars of Josh Turner’s “Your Man,” it was clear that Scotty McCreery was country to the core. On the first live show of Season 8, McCreery skillfully tackled Garth’s classic, “The River.” From then on, it was smooth sailing to victory for the North Carolina teen.
5. Lauren Alaina – “Anyway”
Like her Idol BFF Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina was country to the core on Idol‘s Season 8. While she tackled a variety of country tunes during her run on the show, it was this performance of Martina McBride’s “Anyway” that blew audiences away. She may not have won, but it didn’t matter anyway.
6. Janelle Arthur – “The Dance”
Janelle Arthur finished fifth on Season 12 of American Idol and performed Garth’s hit “The Dance” on the week themed “Songs You Wish You Had Written.” While Arthur may not have won Idol, it was performances like this that endeared her to a legion of devoted country fans across the country.
7. Kree Harrison – “Here Comes Goodbye”
Kree Harrision may have been Idol‘s Season 12 runner up, but it was her pure voice and understated quality that helped her sail through the competition. While she had many a great country moments on the season, her take on Rascal Flatts’ “Here Comes Goodbye” was a beautiful stirring rendition that breathed new life into the song.
BONUS: Kelly Clarkson & Reba McEntire – “Does He Love You?”
Although Kelly Clarkson couldn’t quite convince Idol producers to include a country week during the show’s inaugural season, she was given the opportunity to sing with her own idol, Reba, during a reunion special in Vegas. The pair joined forces on Reba’s duet with Linda Davis “Does He Love You?” Fast forward 12 years and this performance is just amusing.