American Idol 2023: Best Performances Of The Top 26 Night 1

Emma Busse on American Idol 2023
Photographed: Emma Busse (ABC/Eric McCandless)

The American Idol 2023 top 26 performed on Sunday and Monday. Honestly, the night one contestants killed it. All of them gave great performances. I can’t even imagine which three will be eliminated because they were all so good. However, we definitely had our favorites from both nights of the top 26 performances.

Let’s discuss which seven from the first night of the top 26 performances stood out to us the most.

Iam Tongi “Don’t Let Go” by Spawnbreezie


Iam Tongi continues to prove that he’s one of the American Idol 21 frontrunners. He chose a song that means something to him and Hawaii, which helped make the performance even more memorable and got the crowd on his side. There was such ease when he sang it.

He hit all the notes and gave a smooth and mesmerizing performance of Spawnbreezie’s “Don’t Let Go.” It’s a cool song that made you just appreciate Iam’s artistry more.

Kaeyra “Don’t Let Go (Love)” by En Vogue

Kaeyra hasn’t been given as much attention as the other American Idol 2023 contestants. Therefore, she really needed a great performance to try to steal some of those votes. She made such a smart choice by picking “Don’t Let Go (Love)” by En Vogue. It’s not a typical Idol song and it was able to showcase so much vocally.

Kaeyra gave such a soulful and entertaining performance. It really felt like Kaeyra’s moment to say, “Hey, watch me.” You will now watch her more to see what other risks she takes in the competition.

Matt Wilson “Speechless” by Dan + Shay


“Speechless” is already a great romance song, but Matt Wilson turned it into an even cooler song by adding a little sprinkle of soul and pop to it. Matt’s vocals weren’t perfect but they definitely got better as he continued to sing the song. 

It created a really nice moment singing it to his wife. Matt is very talented and will only get better with each performance.

Nailyah Serenity “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton


Nailyah Serenity really was able to exceptionally execute all the notes. She made Minnie Riperton proud, especially when she hit those very high notes. 

Her whole vocal performance was extremely impressive. She made it sound like it was a song made for her. Nailyah has an old soul and it shows in her singing and song choices.

Zachariah Smith “Lucille” by Little Richard


Zachariah Smith is proving that being a great vocalist is important but also being an entertainer matters just as much, sometimes even more so than singing abilities. Zachariah has a unique voice and he knows how to use it well. He excels at creating these standout and memorable performances.

Zachariah’s performance of “Lucille” by Little Richard is going to be one that many people remember long after it ended. It’s so fun and entertaining.

Emma Busse “Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith

Katy Perry and the American Idol judges made theatrical performances seem like a bad thing, but Emma Busse proved that a little theatrics never hurt anyone. 

She made them work for “Lay Me Down.” She was able to stay true to the essence of the song but sang it in her way and style. She gave it some uniqueness that fit Emma’s voice. It was a showstopping performance.

Warren Peay “Fire to the Rain” by Adele

Warren Peay took on Adele and made the song his own. He gave it a little more rock vibe but that completely worked for the dynamics of the song. It’s another cover that was changed up just enough to make it unique to the artist performing it.

I truly was impressed by all the Idol contestants who performed on night 1, so it was very hard not just naming all of them as the best. Let us know your favorites.

Join us tonight for another American Idol 21 recap. We’ll see the second night of the top 26 performances, and return tomorrow to see our favorites from the top 26 night two performances.  Add us on Facebook and Twitter for all things American Idol 2023.