By Maggie Fremont
May 20, 2019 at 12:23 AM EDT
  • TV Show

Idol friends! Tonight is the night! After so much time speculating, we’re finally getting answers. Tonight, we learn who rules the Iron Throne. Whoops, wrong show. Over here we’re going to learn who will be crowned the winner of American Idol season 17. Honestly, just as bloody, right?

I don’t know what’s going on with the American Idol finale, they basically took a two-night event and smushed it into one very long episode and it is … weird, but if you know anything about it, know this: Montell Jordan performs “This Is How We Do It” flanked by Katy Perry lookalikes doing the worm and I legitimately thought I was trapped in some fever dream caused by the fact that I went to a brunch buffet this morning and ate a REAL weird mix of food. What a time to be alive.

There’s a lot of filler to get through before naming this season’s Idol (this episode is three hours! Who has the time? I have weird buffets to attend!). As far as the “competition” goes, the top three—Laine, Alejandro, and Madison—will each perform twice before the contestant in third place gets eliminated. The final two will then have one more shot to win over some votes before the season 17 winner is announced. The rest of the three hours will be full of performances: Carrie Underwood! Adam Lambert! Dan + Shay! Your Judges! Kane Brown! Weezer! And I’m sorry, but do you remember when I said Montell Jordan shows up? Because Montell Jordan shows up.

Before we get to some of the highlights, let’s see how our final three did with their last two competitive performances.

ABC/Kelsey McNeal


Laine Hardy // “Home” by Marc Broussard
No one looks cooler than Laine Hardy, it’s no competition. In this first round, he’s got a pink and gold blazer and it is working. His vocals, however, are a little shaky, especially at the top. It’s a shame because this is a great song choice for Laine. It’s that nice mix of rock and country but with a darker edge than much of what we’ve seen him do (Lionel calls it “nasty”). He sounds more like himself in the end, but it’s not his best. Can anything stop this kid though? With a comeback story like his, this competition seems like Laine’s to lose.

Madison VanDenburg // “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
This is such a risk for Madison, whose main problem this season has been a lack of emotional connection. I mean, has there been any song with more emotional connection than “Shallow” in the past year? She’s certainly going for it. We also learn she changed to “Shallow” last minute after deciding “I Have Nothing” wasn’t the best fit for what she wanted to show off. That is a super smart choice. “I Have Nothing” has been sung to death on Idol and she’s right—”Shallow” is a much more youthful choice for the 17-year-old. She sounds great, but I’m still looking for goosebumps and tears.

Alejandro Aranda // “Millennial Love” by Alejandro Aranda
Speaking of risks, Alejandro does another original (yes, another!). He’s had some great originals on here this season, but this isn’t his best one. Alejandro needs a big moment. The judges don’t even comment on the actual performance, just on Alejandro’s overall performance in this competition. It’s true: He offers something so different and I’m interested to see what happens to him post-Idol no matter how this whole thing shakes out. Although, if you ask Lionel and Katy based on this round, they’d put Alejandro at the top (I’m with Luke, who picks Madison after round 1). That’s got to feel good!


Laine Hardy // “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” by Hank Williams
The Bayou Boy is back in town! I’m a fan of these hometown visits—how wild must it be for the contestants to find their hometown is suddenly obsessed with them? Even if they lose and their career goes nowhere, what a treat! I especially love them because we get things like Laine’s Mawmaw telling him how proud she is of him. Hold your mawmaws tight, you guys. This performance is a big love letter to where Laine’s from and it’s nice to see someone so young choose to celebrate where he’s from like this. This is classic Laine.

Madison VanDenburg // “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson
First Laine’s Mawmaw and now Madison’s dad, just up in here talking about how proud they are, holding back tears, and making me FEEL THINGS. Madison selects a Kelly Clarkson classic for her second song and that seems right. She’s been compared to the original Idol since day one. It’s a little rough during the first two thirds or so but then Madison brings it home. Also, her dad is there watching so who is even paying attention to “singing” at this point? Then we learn that Madison was only nine months old when Kelly won American Idol and now I’m definitely not paying attention to singing because I’m crying in the corner of a dark room.

Alejandro Aranda // “Tonight” by Alejandro Aranda
NOW A CHILDREN’S CHOIR IN POMONA IS SINGING ONE OF ALEJANDRO’S SONGS TO HIM. And Ben Harper’s back to tout another LEGEND to come out of this city. This is the American Idol show I want. Cut all the auditions and just give me people’s hometown children’s choir appearing from behind giant curtains, okay? This original definitely tops Alejandro’s first round original. In fact, I daresay, I think the guy easily wins round 2. If it were up to the judges, this would be Alejandro’s title. But it’s not and who really knows what America wants these days. Hold on to your butts!


And with that, our finalists have pretty much done all they can. It’s Madison VanDenburg who lands in third place and falls short of the title with just under two hours to go.

To fill the time, many of these performances feature familiar faces: Luke Bryan and Laci Kaye Booth duet on “Every Breath You Take,” Alyssa Raghu parties with Kane Brown, Walker Burroughs and Wade Cota join Weezer for some a-ha and Toto covers, the entire Top 10, save for our finalists, take the stage with Kool & the Gang for a medley of their biggest hits, Madison makes a rebound from her extremely recent elimination to join Dan + Shay on stage, and Shayy brings us all to tears once again, this time with an assist from Andra Day as they sing Day’s “Rise Up.” Papa Lionel and his tear ducts are no match for this pairing.

Still, there are two duets that really stand out: First, Dimitrius Graham, OPERA SINGER, teams up with Adam Lambert to crush “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Hey, remember when we all voted this guy off? Honestly, how dare we? The second performance I’ll be rewatching is that duet between Katy Perry and Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon. They sing Perry’s “Unconditionally” and I’d like to live in it, should that be a possibility.

After all the good times, though, we have to let Laine and Alejandro make their cases one last time.

ABC/Kelsey McNeal


Laine Hardy // “Bring It On Home to Me” by Sam Cooke
Can we always get the other Idol contestants to do impressions of each other? Specifically Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon? What can really be said at this point in the competition? Both Laine and Alejandro are so consistent and so very much themselves, they’re on cruise control. Although Laine is, well, he’s “Party with the Hardy,” I love when he shows us a more emotional side—and he does a little of that to close out his time on the show. Lionel points out how wonderful it is that Laine didn’t give up when they eliminated him last season—he just got better! Are you listening Idol wannabes? NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS.

Alejandro Aranda // “Out Loud” by Alejandro Aranda
I mean, it’s no children’s choir singing this song and bringing us all to tears, but yes, this original is very good. This is the song Alejandro auditioned with and it feels good to bring everything full circle for this kid who, I think, still cannot believe he’s singing on American Idol (and people are singing his original songs back to him). He’d be a great person to take the title if only because he’s so different than any previous winner. Don’t we need something refreshing 17 seasons in? Sure, why not?

And finally, just like that, we’ve reached the end of the road. Your new American Idol is…Laine Hardy! Look at that kid, up there, surrounded by the other contestants, singing his new single “Flame,” and living out his dream. Isn’t that wonderful? Am I crying? I mean, we’ve been on this journey for weeks now, you should know that of course I am. But now this journey is over and I hope you get to party with the Hardy for the foreseeable future, should that be what you’re in to. 

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