It’s common knowledge at this point that Tim Urban currently holds the title of worst singer on American Idol Season 9 (although he would excel as a catalog model for Abercrombie & Fitch). But is Tim’s awfulness that extraordinary, or do we just have bad memories?
The truth is, every season of the reality competition is burdened (or is it graced?) with a version of Sanjaya Malakar—the unworthy Idol hopeful who manages to stay on the show well past their expiration date at the expense of clearly more talented performers. How do they do it? Do they get by on their charm, pity, good looks or luck? (Or maybe it’s just that we as a society like making fun of people, and voting for the worst singer guarantees an additional form of entertainment.) Let’s take a look back at each season’s “Sanjaya” to find out just how atrocious Tim Urban’s crooning is in comparison.
Season 9 – Tim Urban
How Long He Lasted: Top 9 (and counting!)
Tim shouldn’t even be competing at this point—remember, he nabbed Chris Golightly’s spot when Chris was disqualified. So really, Tim’s surviving on stolen time, and he’s decided to giggle his way through the finals. He’s had his fair share of embarrassing performances (including his desperate slide during “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”), but his off-key cover of OneRepublic’s “Apologize” showed just how limited he is as a singer.
Season 8 – Scott MacIntyre
How Long He Lasted: Top 8
First of all, we’re happy that somebody with a disability was able to succeed on a major platform like Idol. But Scott’s main disability wasn’t his blindness—it was his voice. Sweet kid, but the guy seriously cannot sing. We’re going to bet Scott’s underdog story is what kept him on the Idol stage for so long, because it definitely had nothing to do with this cheesy cover of “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
Season 7 – Kristy Lee Cook
How Long She Lasted: Top 7
Pretty girl, generic voice, horrible song choices. We’d call her the poor man’s Carrie Underwood, but even a broke guy could probably do better. Here’s Kristy turning The Beatles’ “Eight Days A Week” into a 100mph chili cook-off nightmare.
Season 6 – Sanjaya Malakar
How Long He Lasted: Top 7
As Sanjaya-y as all the contestants on this list are, there hasn’t been one quite as Sanjaya-y as the original. The soft spoken, pre-pubescent, ponyhawked performer really did have it all—a weak voice, a proficiency for sound bites (“what people may not know about me is I know how to hula”), and the inability to be embarrassed. Because really, the best part of making fun of an American Idol contestant is that they can take it. It’s no fun being a bully. And with Sanjaya utilizing his infamy on the show for other vanity projects (appearing on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here and writing the book Dancing to the Music in My Head: Memoirs of the People’s Idol), it’s safe to say he’s pretty much okay continuing to be a punchline.
Season 5 – Kevin Covais
How Long He Lasted: Top 11
Sure, you could make the argument that Taylor Hicks was Season 5′s “Sanjaya,” and he won the whole thing. But regardless of Taylor’s career now (or lack thereof), on the show he had the Soul Patrol pushing him forward, as well as a bold, likable personality and some undeniable vocal chops. Then how do you explain the teenage boy known as “Chicken Little” surviving til the Top 11? Little girls and grandmas desperately calling in to keep this sweet, innocent, and inexperienced youth on the show? As with most of his performances, such as “Part Time Lover” below, Kevin looked absolutely terrified. Did anyone buy this little kid as a lover of any sort, even just part-time?
Season 4 – Scott Savol
How Long He Lasted: Top 5
Scott definitely does not look like a pop star, so if he was ever going to get any sort of attention as a recording artist, Idol was it. But Scott’s slack-jawed stage presence and unremarkable voice, plus the fact that he managed to outlast rocker Constantine Maroulis and the soulful R&B crooner Anwar Robinson, is what makes this a travesty.
Season 3 – Jasmine Trias
How Long She Lasted: Top 3
Jasmine wasn’t a total trainwreck on the Idol stage; she was just way, way out of her league in a season that had the likes of big-voiced divas, such as Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia Barrino, and La Toya London. But what makes her reach “Sanjaya” territory was the fact that she beat out both London and Hudson despite giving either unmemorable, generic or truly pitchy performances like “It’s Raining Men.”
Season 2 – Carmen Rasmusen
How Long She Lasted: Top 6
Like Jasmine, Carmen made a little go a long, long way. She wasn’t completely awful, but her unoriginal arrangements and shaky, goat-like vibrato she displayed week after week leaves us scratching our heads what made her get so far in the competition.
Season 1 – Jim Verraros
How Long He Lasted: Top 10
In his post Idol career, Jim was able to find an audience—he went on to release an album with several naughty-minded songs (“One for the money, two for the sex/three and a half hours later, what’s next?”), as well as star in gay comedies like Eating Out and Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds. But during Idol‘s premiere season, he was just a guy who sang off-key and wore questionable outfits.
Final Thoughts: Compared to the long-lasting, terrible contestants of Idols past… yeah, Tim is pretty bad.