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‘American Idol’: 20 Best, Worst and WTF Moments

From Adam Lambert being robbed to William Hung doing his thing, it’s been a wild ride for the past 15 seasons

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

Prince, William Hung, Mariah and Nicki Minaj all make our 'American Idol' best and worst list

Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty, Peter Kramer/Getty, Todd Williamson/Invision/AP, Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Whether you were an avid fan with an itchy voting finger, a casual viewer or just someone who got stuck listening to post-show chatter around the water cooler, American Idol has been a huge piece of our pop-culture puzzle for the past 15 years. 

From Kelly Clarkson being crowned the inaugural winner way back in the summer of 2002 to Adam Lambert being robbed in Season 8 to this year’s farewell season reminding us just how much the onetime ratings juggernaut has fallen, the reality singing competition helped shape the modern landscape in which we now live. Soon — April 7th, to be exact — it will all just be a distant memory. But while Idol will be gone, it will not be easily forgotten (even though some of you might try). Here, the 20 best, worst and WTF moments of the past 15 seasons of American Idol.

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

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Best: Katy Perry Stumps for Adam Lambert, Season 8

Speaking of Adam Lambert… Katy Perry went to bat for the contestant before the big Season 8 American Idol finale by wearing a cape with his name on it during her performance of "Waking Up in Vegas." While the show attempted to censor the image out of any videos that surfaced, Perry had already made her point. Despite the high-profile endorsement, though, Lambert lost to Kris Allen in what some thought was a backlash against his perceived sexuality. But the runner-up got the last laugh by landing the cover of Rolling Stone just two weeks later to announce he was indeed gay — and six years after that, he was named the top-earning Idol alum of 2015 by Forbes. So, take that, haters.

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

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Worst: “Pants on the Ground” Audition, Season 9

By Season 9, American Idol didn't even try to hide the fact that producers were feeding the judges so-bad-it's-buzzworthy auditions on purpose. Despite being 62, a full 34 years older than the show's age limit, General Larry Platt was allowed to perform his self-penned song "Pants on the Ground" that griped about low-sagging jeans. While the other judges cracked up, Simon Cowell was having none of it: "I have a horrible feeling that could be a hit," he said before walking away. While Platt didn't go to Hollywood, Idol clearly had a winner on its hands when the video went viral.

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

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Worst: Ace Young Proposes to Diana DeGarmo, Season 11

Sorry all you hopeless romantics, but this American Idol marriage proposal was anything but romantic. Instead, when Season 5 finalist Ace Young asked Season 3 runner-up Diana DeGarmo to marry him (during Season 11, no less), it seemed a little too staged. "With the help of David Webb Jewelry, I have a way of making this last forever," said Young, before getting down on one knee. DeGarmo, of course, said yes — making sure to dramatically mouth the word so that everyone could see her response. Still, the two seemed genuinely happy, and they married a year later.

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty, Peter Kramer/Getty, Todd Williamson/Invision/AP, Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Best: Constantine Maroulis’ “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Season 4

Season 4 was a breakthrough year for rockers on American Idol. After mainly featuring pop, R&B and country singers during the previous three seasons, Idol finally gave rock fans someone to root for, two people, in fact: theatrical bad boy Constantine Maroulis and laid-back Southern rocker Bo Bice. Despite then-judge Paula Abdul declaring Maroulis the "one to beat" after his rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," he came in sixth, while Bice slid into second behind winner Carrie Underwood. It wasn't until Season 7 that a rocker walked away the champ, when David Cook took the crown.

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty, Peter Kramer/Getty, Todd Williamson/Invision/AP, Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Best: David Cook’s Cover of “Billie Jean,” Season 7

Rocker David Cook went from dark horse to leader of the pack in Season 7 of American Idol with Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" (by way of using an arrangement previously done by Chris Cornell). The slow, haunting cover took the show to a whole new level, a level where re-arranging a track could lead to a mind-blowing experience. And with the help of that one amazing song, Cook became the first White Guy With Guitar to win Idol — but he definitely wasn't the last.

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

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Worst: The Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj Feud, Season 12

After original judges Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell left in Seasons 9 and 10, respectively, American Idol had a hard time filling their shoes. It went for music industry cred with songwriter Kara DioGuardi, then high-profile fish out of water Ellen DeGeneres, to beloved but befuddled rocker Steven Tyler before hitting rock bottom in Season 12 with dueling divas Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, who seemingly hated each other. There was teeth-sucking, eye-rolling, harsh words, cold shoulders and even an implied threat or two. While some questioned whether it was real, Carey has since said the experience was like "going to work every day in hell with Satan."

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

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Best: Phillip Phillips’ “Home,” Season 11

It was a game-changing moment for American Idol: After being crowned the Season 11 champ, Phillip Phillips took the stage one last time to perform his coronation song, "Home." After a bumpy few years in terms of generating memorable singles for its winners, Idol finally had a megahit on its hands. With its catchy Mumford & Sons vibe, "Home" stands as the best-selling coronation song — or any song, for that matter, by an Idol alum — with more than 5 million copies sold. As the fifth and final WGWG (White Guy With Guitar) to wear the crown, Phillips may not have been the most exciting winner ever, but he provided a brief shot-in-the-arm for the slumping singing competition.

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

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Worst: Judges Check Out Early, Season 15

When Harry Connick Jr. first joined the American Idol judges' table in Season 13, he was a breath of fresh air. There were high hopes that he would be as amusingly direct as Simon Cowell, but he never quite lived up to his potential. That's not to say that he and fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban aren't likable — they are. But as Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken tweeted while watching the show's last season, they’re just kinda "boring." And by the time this year's live shows rolled around, it seemed like even the judges — especially Harry — had checked out. Deep into the Top 10, he admitted that he had only interacted with the contestants offstage once, and after the Top Three performed ahead of the big series finale, he encouraged viewers to vote for "one of these four people." Seems like even he wasn't quite paying attention to Season 15.

Best; Worst; Moment; Rolling Stone; Mariah Carey; Nicki Minaj; Prince; William Hung

Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty, Peter Kramer/Getty, Todd Williamson/Invision/AP, Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Best: Kelly Clarkson Is Crowned the First American Idol, Season 1

It's hard to believe that Season 1 of American Idol got things so right with its coronation of Kelly Clarkson. While other winners have faded into the background over the course of a decade and a half, Clarkson has remained a household name (only Carrie Underwood has been able to give her a real run for her money). Not only was Clarkson the perfect pick, but so was her coronation song, "A Moment Like This," which is one of the most memorable original songs to ever come out of Idol. Some people wait a lifetime, indeed.