"The best talent ever!," was what "American Idol" viewers were told. And told again. And told yet again. The folks behind "Idol" spent the bulk of this season talking about how great this season of "Idol" was.
But is it true? As viewers gear up to finally put this season to bed with Wednesday's coronation of King David, here, in no fixed order, are the 10 most memorable performances of season 7.
David Archuleta, 'You're The Voice'
Little David's been better — "Imagine" comes to mind — but this was, in many ways, his definitive performance. It was easy to assume that "Imagine," "Another Day In Paradise" and "The Long And Winding Road" came from the heart of an overearnest 17-year-old, the kind who starts up an Amnesty International club in high school and spearheads a recycling drive. But "You're The Voice," and especially his own apparent enthusiasm in selecting it, was the final piece of the puzzle. "I hope you like Up With People anthems," Archie seemed to say, "because you're getting a lot of them from here on out."
David Cook, 'Hello'
To a lot of people, Big David's emo transformation of Lionel Richie's schlocky ode to blind sculptresses was the height of smug arrogance, as he dipped into the well of the Ironic '80s Cover and applauded himself for his cleverness. To many, many more, it was the start of a wild love affair that has taken Cook all the way to the finale, striking a chord that he was smart enough to keep striking from that point on. Either way, "Hello" was the moment he became a major competitor.
Brooke White, 'You Must Love Me'
The anti-"Hello." Most viewers considered her restarting the song inexcusable and found her vocals strained on take two. A smaller group (but one substantial enough to stave off elimination) noted that the screwup turned Brooke into a giant exposed nerve trying desperately to make it through the moment without falling apart, which happened to be exactly the emotional content of the song in the first place. "You're So Vain" and especially "Let It Be" were her shining moments, but "You Must Love Me" captured her in all her unraveling Brookeness.
Chikezie, 'She's A Woman'
It's probably safe to say that not one person saw this one coming. Certainly Chikezie didn't; the look on his face as he careened towards the finish seemed to say, "I'm pulling this off! I'm really pulling this off!" (No wonder he was practically bouncing off the walls afterwards.) Rearranging the Beatles song — twice! — he showed that he could handle both bluegrass and hopped-up rock 'n' roll. More interestingly, he brought both to the table without being asked to do so by the night's theme, thus becoming the season's most interesting wildcard. Two weeks later, of course, he was gone.
Michael Johns, 'It's All Wrong But It's All Right'
Here's one for the "Finally!" file, making good on Mr. Australia's potential and then some after weeks of cruising at a mild simmer. The stunner about this bluesy, soulful gem — accompanied only by a piano, an electric guitar and the latest in an unfortunate series of ascots — was that it was such a stunner. If this really were the most talented batch of contestants ever, a performance of this caliber should have been the minimum standard for what we saw this season. (Or any season, really.) When Michael sang "Tell me sexy lovin' lies," a nation full of women raised their hands and said, "Okay." Unfortunately, one of the lies turned out to be "You'll still be here a week from now."
Alaina Whitaker, 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' (singout)
Alaina's disintegration into a puddle of quivering tears when her number came up reminded everyone that she was a 16-year-old girl who had just been told on national television that she wasn't good enough to last more than two weeks. She attempted to waive her singout, but her former competitors wouldn't hear of it, determined as they were (possibly because she was no longer a threat) to give her a queen's farewell. So she reached into herself and found the strength not only to sing but to cover an entire emotional arc from humiliation and despair to triumph and celebration. Purely on that level, it may have been the greatest singout in "Idol" history.
Jason Castro, 'September Morn'
A performance so memorable that it impressed itself in Paula's mind before it even happened.
Kristy Lee Cook, 'Eight Days A Week'/'God Bless The U.S.A.'/'Forever' (singout)
It's a funny thing about Kristy Lee: for someone who quickly became the season's designated goat, she managed to keep her wits about her the entire time. She had a sense of humor about her role, but kept trying to learn and improve, rather than flipping the show the bird the way Sanjaya Malakar did last season.
In many ways, she's the only contestant who has ever viewed the show exactly how it deserves to be viewed, no better and no worse. As a result, Kristy Lee managed to offer up just about every type of memorable performance (except, alas, for a truly great vocal).
Her bluegrass "Eight Days A Week" was a trainwreck of epic proportions, with a beat that was too busy collapsing in on itself for the vocal to grab any kind of hold on it. "God Bless The U.S.A." was such blatant pandering by a contestant in trouble that Simon Cowell tipped his hat to her black-hearted cynicism immediately afterwards. And during her post-elimination singout of Mariah Carey's "Forever," Simon found himself staring down the business end of the girl he'd been using as a punching bag for weeks as she sang the lines "Those days of love are gone/Our time is through" directly to his face, and even he had to laugh along with everyone else in the studio. At that moment, it was clear that season seven, which was already on the verge of being the most boring yet, was about to become a lot less interesting.
Marc Hirsh is a writer in Somerville, Mass.
© 2013 msnbc.com. Reprints