In a night bursting with great music, ABC’s American Idol host Ryan Seacrest didn’t waste a milli-second opening the show with a simple, “Ladies and gentlemen, Lionel Richie.” Belting out “Dancing on the Ceiling” with Bobby Bones hot on his heels, Lionel was joined by Idol’s season 17 Top 10, many we haven’t seen in weeks, but who would also be showcased in performances throughout the night. Last season’s winner, Maddie Poppe, also returned to the Idol stage for a catch-up visit with Ryan and announcing that she had just released her album. Of course, the focus was on the Top 3 contestants: Laine Hardy, Madison VanDenburg, and Alejandro Aranda. Each of the finalists performed two solo songs of their choosing. Between rounds, viewers got a look into the lives of the rising stars as they returned to their hometowns and visited with friends and family. While each visit showed incredible local support for their contestants, it also revealed overwhelming emotions that the aspiring young stars were feeling.
LAINE HARDY (18) – Livingston, Louisiana
“Home” by Marc Broussard
KATY PERRY: “If you apply yourself like you’ve applied yourself for the next five years, every single week and don’t get lazy, you’re going to be one of the biggest stars on this planet.”
“Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” by Hank Williams Sr.
LIONEL: “Let me tell you what’s a big deal—when the governor of the state says ‘party with the Hardy.’ You’re on your way.”
MADISON VANDENBURG (17) – Cohoes, New York
“Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
LUKE: “You know what’s so exciting is your growth, and we have been pushing you the whole time to dig in and show the world what kind of next level voice you have. It’s been so amazing to watch and you have the twinkle in your eyes that is so beautiful to see.”
“Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson
KATY: “Madison, you have come so far and I think you just have to continue to nurture and grow this gift you’ve been given because it’s amazing to see this growth. This is just like a master class, it’s a condensed version of what the real world is. And you’re about to spread your wings in the real world, but just keep this work ethic and you’re going to fly so far.”
ALEJANDRO ARANDA (25) – Pomona, California
“Millennial Love” – original
LUKE BRYAN: “I think in life you have those moments where you remember the first time you met somebody or saw somebody, and back in October I’ll never forget the first time I met Alejandro. We have been spoiled by you, week after week, and I want to thank you for that. We love you, we love you from the bottom of our hearts.”
“Tonight” – original
LIONEL: “Throughout this entire process, we’ve watched you try to identify with a place called ‘home.’ And after watching you return back to your hometown, welcome home to the business and welcome home to your heart, my friend.”
After their solo performances, the first elimination took place leaving just two to compete for the win. And the first artist sent home was Madison VanDenburg. Before the winner was announced, both Laine and Alejandro got one final performance.
LAINE – “Bring It On Home” by Sam Cooke
LUKE: “Laine, congrats man. From when I heard you last year, the tone in your voice is just something special and you can’t teach that. Always remember that you’ve just got that tone that is so identifiable. Congratulations. This is the last time I will ever get to comment on you and I love you, bud.”
ALEJANDRO – “Out Loud” original
KATY: “It’s just such an incredible honor to be given this opportunity to be able to give you a little boost for you to find your wings. I think I can speak for all of us, we love what we do and we love when we see a person like yourself shine.”
AND THE WINNER IS: Laine Hardy!
Longtime fans of American Idol will remember that Laine originally auditioned for season 16 of the show, and as much as the judges loved him, he didn’t advance past the Top 50. Then, for season 17, he arrived at the auditions as an accompanist for a friend with no intention of auditioning himself. After he was recognized by Luke and Katy, he gave an impromptu performance and earned a golden ticket to Hollywood. Congratulations to Laine, Alejandro, Madison, and all of these talented young people who have the potential for stardom.
Carrie Underwood – “Southbound”
Montell Jordan with Margie Mays, Austin Michael Robinson and VoKillz with – “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan
Katy Perry and Daddy Yankee – “Con Calma” by Daddy Yankee
Alejandro Aranda with backing orchestra – “10 Years” – original
Adam Lambert – “New Eyes”
Adam Lambert with Dimitrius Graham – “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
Dan + Shay – “All To Myself”
Dan + Shay with Madison VanDenburg – “Speechless” and “All To Myself” by Dan + Shay
Luke Bryan – “Knockin’ Boots”
Luke Bryan with Laci Kaye Booth – “Every Breath You Take” by the Police
Jon Pardi with Laine Hardy – “Dirt On My Boots” and “Night Shift” both by Jon Pardi
Katy Perry with Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon – “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry
Weezer with Wade Cota and Walker Burroughs – “Africa” by Toto, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears, “Take On Me” by A-ha medley