Noah Thompson, a soulful country singer from Kentucky, survived and thrived through weeks of competition to win season 20 of American Idol.
It proved to be an all country final between Thompson and HunterGirl. Earlier in the show, the national audience selected the final two contestants. Leah Marlene, who competed in the first hour of the finale, finished third.
American Idol devoted three hours to crown its winner Sunday night. It was equal parts spectacle and coronation. And because it was American Idol, there had to be lots of singing from other big-name guests who represented a beautiful mix of musical genres. The finalists certainly weren’t the only ones who performed. The show’s three judges — Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan — also did duets with the finalists or other top contestants.
Three American Idol Finalists First Performed Springsteen Covers
The finale kicked off with each finalist singing a cover of a Bruce Springsteen song. By the final, the critiques of each singer tended towards gushy. It was difficult to find fault with any of the performances.
Then as per tradition, American Idol went to the hometowns of each finalist.
Marlene introduced the national audience to Normal, Illinois. But there was nothing normal about her singing talents. She opened the show with her version of Springsteen’s “Cover Me.” Then in her second performance, she sang her original song, Flowers, and was emotional when she finished. She has said she wrote the song about a time in her life when she suffered “some pretty crippling depression and anxiety.”
Katy Perry told Marlene “you are the whole package.” Meanwhile, Luke Bryan told her “that personality is why we love you. You keep all that for the rest of your life.”
A week ago, Carrie Underwood, the show’s season four winner, told Marlene “when I was on the show, I feel like it took a little bit to find artistry. And I feel you already have artistry.”
Show Took a Trip to Thompson’s Kentucky Hometown
American Idol journeyed to Lawrence County, Kentucky to see the 20-year-old Thompson and his hometown. Thompson performed Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.” And his original song was “One Day Tonight.” Perry described Thompson as “the good guy from Kentucky.
Bryan told Thompson “you are the king of ‘aw shucks, man.’ Relish the night, enjoy this night.”
Richie said of Thompson “you now look, you sound like yourself. … That’s what’s called an artist, friend.”
The last hometown trip was to Winchester, Tennessee, where HunterGirl grew up. She already had impressed fans with her back story. HunterGirl used her singing as musical therapy to help veterans suffering from PTSD.
She sang Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” Then she performed her original song, “Redbird.”
Perry raved about HunterGirl, saying “This is your stage. I don’t think you’re a star, I think you’re a super nova.”
All three singers already got a huge boost to their careers just by making it this far on the show. During the past few days, each of the three released the original songs they sang Sunday night.