American Idol wrapped its 17th season last night, delivering a three-hour extravaganza filled with live music and familiar faces.
In addition to the three remaining contestants – Alejandro Aranda, Laine Hardy and Madison VanDenburg – a number of eliminated singers also returned to perform in the finale. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon joined forces with Katy Perry, while Laci Kaye Booth shared the stage with Luke Bryan. Dimitrius Graham also came back to sing with Adam Lambert, while Alyssa Raghu performed with Kane Brown, and Uché hit the stage with Kool & the Gang. Meanwhile, Weezer teamed up with Wade Cota and Walker Burroughs and Montell Jordan performed alongside this season’s “most viral” Idol contestants.
As for this season’s top three, the finale featured collaborations between Dan + Shay and VanDenburg, as well as John Pardi with Hardy. Aranda came through with an unforgettable solo performance of his own.
Last year’s winner, Maddie Poppe, who was controversially not invited to perform on the season finale, made a brief appearance to plug her new album, Whirlwind, released Friday.
VanDenburg was the first to be eliminated. As always, the final elimination was saved for the end, with the lights dimming on Aranda and Hardy one last time. After a nationwide vote, Laine Hardy was crown the new Idol, earning a recording contract with Disney’s Hollywood Records. He closed out the show with his uplifting new single “Flame,” having impressed the judges earlier in the night with his takes on Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” and Marc Broussard’s “Home.”
Hardy’s victory was somewhat surprising for fans of Aranda, 24, who has been considered the front-runner for weeks leading up to the finale, according to online polls.
Hardy, who appeared on the 16th season of American Idol, wasn’t even planning on auditioning for the show a second time. However, after accompanying a friend to her audition, judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie asked if Hardy would be willing to give it another try. “
Last week, ABC has renewed the reality singing competition hosted by Ryan Seacrest for a third season. While the future of the show is sure, that of Seacrest and its judges is not. While offers have been made and a source close to the production says the network hopes all of the talent will return, there is also no timing regarding an announcement, meaning negotiations could take a while.