If you need any other convincing on American Idol’s massive impact over the past 20 years, consider this: Since the reality competition’s official YouTube channel launched in 2006, it has charted more than 460 million views. The “Idols Global” channel for the worldwide franchise, meanwhile, has racked up more than 865 million views.
American Idol has been making the airwaves more melodic for two decades now—on Fox and then ABC—and the show celebrated that milestone with a 20th anniversary reunion special this May. But since Idol officially turns 20 on Saturday, June 11, we’re celebrating all over again with these 10 most-viewed clips from those YouTube channels.
Brandon Elder’s Season 16 audition: 9.9 million views
This construction worker from Arab, Alabama, only made it to the Hollywood Round of Season 16, but the original song he performed in his audition established him as a poet with a guitar. “Songwriting is in your wheelhouse forever,” an impressed Lionel Richie told Elder, saying he was speaking on behalf of songwriters everywhere.
Season 16’s Disney Night performances: 10 million views
What’s the harm in a little corporate synergy? When Season 16 devoted a night to Disney—ABC’s parent company—standout performances included Michael J. Woodard singing “Beauty and the Beast,” Michelle Sussett singing “Remember Me” from Coco, and eventual winner Maddie Poppe singing “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book.
Adam Lambert’s Season 8 audition: 13 million views
Considering all of Lambert’s future success—including becoming the Season 8 runner-up—it’s interesting to see the judges, especially Simon Cowell, question whether the then-26-year-old was good or just “theatrical.”
Auditions gone wrong: 13 million views
YouTube viewers’ schadenfreude is real! In this popular montage of failed auditions, one contestant couldn’t take no for an answer, one gave the judges the finger, and one claimed that “you don’t have to sing to be an American Idol.”
Bikini Girl’s Season 8 audition:17 million views
Katrina Darrell, better known as Idol’s “Bikini Girl,” showed up to her Season 8 audition in a two-piece bathing suit for some reason—and then got into a tiff with judge Kara DioGuardi. After DioGuardi critiqued Darrell’s performance of Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” and then delivered her own version of the song, Darrell responded, “Your demonstration wasn’t any better.”
Ashley Hess’s Season 17 audition: 18 million views
This Fremont, California, native made it as far as the Top 14 of Season 17, but Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan thought she could go all the way. And the judges even sat by the piano as Hess covered Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” so they could be as close as possible to her voice.
Benjamin Glaze’s kiss with Katy Perry: 19 million views
After Glaze, a 19-year-old from Enid, Oklahoma, confessed that he had never kissed a girl because he was saving that milestone for someone special, Perry invited him to kiss her cheek, only to sneak in a kiss on the lips. Following that headline-making Season 16 audition, Glaze told The New York Times the smooch made him uncomfortable. “I wanted to save it for my first relationship,” he said. “I wanted it to be special.”
Caitlin Lucia’s Season 16 audition: 30 million views
This waitress from Orange County, California, took a risk auditioning for Perry and the other Season 16 judges with a unique cover of “I Kissed a Girl,” one of the pop star’s biggest hits. “I think she might have sung it better!” Perry commented with a grimace.
Rihanna’s performance: 35 million views
The Barbadian singer and her backup dancers burned up Idol’s Season 11 finale with a performance of her electro-pop banger “Where Have You Been,” a single off her 2011 album Talk That Talk. (Bonus points for the laser show and the shirtless drummers.)
Trevor Holmes’ Season 16 audition: 50 million views
Bryan called Holmes a dreamboat, but it was Perry who had stars in her eyes watching the construction worker. “Don’t call me ma’am! Don’t respect me!” she told the polite Season 16 applicant. (Too bad he was a taken man!)
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