ABC/Eric McCandless(LOS ANGELES) — The votes are in, and our new American Idol is — Laine Hardy.
This season came to a close with an epic three-hour finale Sunday night, complete with a real-time vote that whittled the finalists from three down to two, until finally the winner was crowned.
After the first round of solo performances, Madison VanDenberg was the first to go, leaving Laine and Alejandro Aranda facing off for the title. Despite Alejandro impressively performing all-original music the entire night — and the judges hinting that he was their favorite — America clearly wanted to party with Hardy, voting Laine as their American Idol. It was a second chance for the 18-year-old Louisiana native, after first having appeared on the show last season.
Laine delivered flawless and confident performances throughout the night, including songs that reflected his roots, like “Home” by Marc Broussard and “Jambalaya (on the Bayou)” by Hank Williams. Alejandro’s original tunes included tunes titled “Millennial Love,” “Tonight,” and his heartfelt audition song, “Out Loud.”
While Laine duetted with country singer Jon Pardi on two songs, Alejandro opted to perform an original composition called “10 Years,” backed by an orchestra wearing signature Alejandro beanies.
After Laine was announced the winner, he performed the winner’s song, “Flame,” to close the show.
The finalists weren’t the only ones who got stage time last night. Judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan also performed, along with a couple of American Idol alumni and various country, rock and pop acts.
Here are some of the highlights:
Lionel opened the show with his classic song “Dancing on the Ceiling” with the top 10. Katy performed her latest single, “Con Calma,” with Latin star Daddy Yankee, and sang her hit “Unconditionally” with top-10 finalist Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon. Luke sang “Every Breath You Take” with Laci Kaye Booth, as well as his current single, “Knockin’ Boots.”
Madison returned to the stage after her elimination to sing “Speechless” with country duo Dan + Shay.
American Idol season eight runner-up Adam Lambert, one of this season’s mentors, sang his new single, “New Eyes,” and also rocked out to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with top-10 finalist Dimitrius Graham. American Idol season four winner Carrie Underwood performed her latest hit, “Southbound.”
In an unexpected emotional moment, this season’s blind contestant, Shayy, returned to sing a powerful rendition of “Rise Up” with Andra Day.
Other performances included a Kool & the Gang medley with the band and the top eight finalists, rock band Weezer and, in the most bizarre performance of the night, Montell Jordan performed “This Is How We Do It” backed by Katy Perry lookalikes doing the worm. During audition rounds, Katy infamously did the worm to that song.
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