Music legend Tina Turner died on May 24, 2023, at the age of 83, and it’s time to revisit some of the most memorable American Idol performances of her songs. Tina was a singer, dancer, and author. Audiences first fell in love with her when she was the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, and she later became an iconic solo artist. During her illustrious career, Tina earned three American Music Awards, seven Billboard Awards, eight Grammy Awards, three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Throughout its 21 seasons, American Idol contestants have paid tribute to the Queen of Rock & Roll with performances of her songs. Some memorable contestants who sang her songs were Naima Adedapo, Olivia Ximines, Layla Spring, and Todrick Hall. Although taking on a Tina Turner classic is a monumental task for any singer, the finalists enjoyed performing her songs because they’re challenging and entertaining. While no one can out-sing Tina, these 12 powerhouse finalists did a fantastic job with their versions of her music.
American Idol season 8 finalist Lil Rounds took on Tina’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” She began the song by dancing out onto the stage with confidence. Lil showed her vocal range on the song, singing both the low and high notes beautifully. Although the judges thought that she tried to copy Tina too much, Lil actually paid a great tribute to Tina during the performance.
American Idol season 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez performed “Proud Mary,” putting her own spin on the classic song. She brought a bluesy feeling to the beginning, and then unleashed her spirit in the chorus. Jessica paid tribute to Tina by including her signature dance moves and hair flips. She also showed the power in her voice, and her ability to dominate the stage. Jessica mastered paying homage to Tina without giving a copycat karaoke performance. Judge Jennifer Lopez loved the song, and said Jessica was, “a little bit of Tina, a little bit of Beyoncé, a little bit of I don’t know what up there!”
For Lucy’s American Idol season 21 Top 26 performance, she took on Tina’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” She brought her unique style to the song, starting off slowly, and then building to a fast-paced chorus. She danced and interacted with the audience. Lucy shone brightly on stage, rocking to the music, while showcasing her incredible vocals.
American Idol season 13 winner and runner-up Caleb and Jena sang a duet of Tina and Bryan Adams’ hit song, “It’s Only Love,” during the finale. They rocked out on the much-anticipated duet, proving why they deserved to be in the Final 2. Their perfect harmonies captivated the audience, who danced along with them. It was a high-octane performance that was a breath of fresh air.
American Idol season 6 third place finalist Melinda sang Ike & Tina’s “Nutbush City Limits,” which was assigned to her by the producers in her final week on the show. She brought her powerhouse vocals to the song, and looked like a true professional while carrying the microphone stand throughout the song. Melinda had confidence, and said that she had a blast on stage. Judge Simon Cowell called it, “another brilliant performance.”
Syesha, who placed third on American Idol season 7, also sang “Proud Mary.” In her package, she discussed how the song has been covered over 100 times, and how she was a little scared to attempt the song because there’s a lot of choreography with famous steps. However, Syesha said she looked in the mirror and told herself to just have fun with it. She began the song slowly, dancing along to the music. Her smile showed that she felt at home singing the tune. When the song picked up speed, Syesha continued to dance, and her vocals soared. She proved that she had true star quality.
Trenyce wowed the American Idol season 2 audience with her version of “Proud Mary.” Although host Ryan Seacrest introduced the song as a Creedance Clearwater Revival hit because it was written by lead singer John Fogerty, there was no doubt that Trenyce’s performance was heavily influenced by Tina’s. She hit the high notes with confidence, while dancing and working the stage. Guest judge Neil Sedaka called Trenyce, “positive and uplifting.” Those two words describe Tina perfectly as well.
One of the most recent Tina performances came from American Idol season 21 finalist, Nutsa. She sang a rousing rendition of Ike & Tina’s classic, “Proud Mary.” She began the verse slowly, building to the energetic chorus by counting off an exciting, “1, 2, 3, 4,!” Nutsa earned her place in the Top 26 with her incredible dancing and showmanship during the song. She highlighted her vocals, ending the song on her knees, while belting out a long high note that left judge Katy Perry saying, “We’re nuts for Nutsa!”
During American Idol season 1, Tamyra sang “A Fool in Love” by Ike & Tina. She brought so much personality to the performance, effortlessly hitting every note. Tamyra danced along to the music, proving that she had the whole package to become a music superstar. As a season 1 finalist, she set the bar high for future performers with this song. As judge Randy Jackson told her, she embodied everything that the American Idol competition was about. Simon called her, “sensational.”
During American Idol season 10, Pia wowed the audience with her rendition of Ike & Tina’s “River Deep – Mountain High.” Known for her powerhouse ballads, Pia broke out of her comfort zone with this uptempo song, proving her versatility. As she came down from the stage to sing to the judges, and get closer to the audience, Pia showed a new side of herself. Her vocals soared, especially with her final high note. Pia’s elimination after this joyous and spectacular performance still shocks and puzzles American Idol fans today.
During American Idol season 15, runner-up La’Porsha established herself as an early front-runner with her stunning Top 24 performance of “Proud Mary.” She worked the stage, dancing as she channeled Tina. Her final runs in the song were phenomenal. She had commanding stage presence, and took control of the performance. La’Porsha proved that she could take on a legend’s song and make it a smash hit for herself.
The first time that fans met American Idol season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino, she sang “Proud Mary.” Unlike today’s auditions, there was no musical accompaniment. All Fantasia had was her finger snapping along to the keep the beat, but she delivered one of the greatest auditions in American Idol history. She effortlessly sang Tina’s classic, showcasing her interesting and unique vocals. Simon called Fantasia, “one of the best we’ve ever had.” Her incredibly inspiring American Idol journey began with one of Tina’s most iconic songs.
American Idol finalists have been celebrating Tina’s legacy with performances since season 1. The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (once for her career with Ike, once for her solo achievements) was an inspiration to so many of the singers. American Idol season 22 should feature a theme night in Tina’s honor. Her infectious joyfulness, electric showmanship, and stunning vocals can never truly be replicated. However, her influence will always be felt in new generations of singers on future American Idol seasons.
Sources: Domeju/YouTube, JessicaFanForever Sanchez/YouTube, American Idol/YouTube, KingDigital/YouTube, MelindasBackups/YouTube, Max Grash/YouTube, Domeju/American Idol, American Idol/YouTube, gabyvalla/YouTube, Pia Paradise/YouTube, American Idol14/YouTube, americanidolaudition/YouTube