The American Idol Top 3 finalists perform a Bruce Springsteen song and their original single hoping to earn America’s vote and the WIN on this American Idol season 20 finale.
The episode, one last time this season, is LIVE COAST-TO-COAST. That means the show will air simultaneously across ET/CT/MT/PT time zones. VOTING begins at 8 pm ET and ends after the last comercial break. At the end of the show, host Ryan Seacrest will announce the American Idol season 20 WINNER. Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan serve as judges.
Noah Thompson, HunterGirl and Leah Marlene hope to become the next American Idol. Go to ABC.com or the American Idol app to vote. Fans can also text their votes. Voting rules and text numbers at the link below:
Tonight’s 3 hour finale will be filled with special Top 10 duets, group numbers and more:
Who will win American Idol season 20?
The show opens with a performance taped on the roof of the Roosevelt Hotel with Flo Rida and the Top 10. There might be some lip syncing going on here. The drone flying around Flo is vertigo-inducing. Ryan ends the performance, joining the crew on the roof to utter the classic catch phrase, THIS is American Idol!
The judges enter the studio. Katy looks like a Christmas tree! OH. There was a COVID exposure in Carrie Underwood’s group. She won’t be able to perform tonight. SADS.
The Top 3 take the stage. VOTING IS OPEN RIGHT NOW. The person in third place will be eliminated half way through the show.
The first round is a Bruce Springsteen theme
A Springsteen theme unprecedented! Because he always said no. But now, since he sold his catalog to Sony, he doesn’t make that decision anymore.
Cover Me – She’s playing electric guitar tonight. I don’t love this song choice. At this point in the competition, every performance has to be exciting. It’s a great way to open the show. But it’s more like a Top 14 type performance? Not a song pick for when EVERYTHING is on the line.
The judges are on their feet. Which they probably will be all night. “What big boots you had to step into,” says Lionel, “You turned that into your song.” Katy calls it “Such a groove…you are the whole package.” She notes Leah’s growth. Luke mentions that Leah was backstage laying on the floor before the show. “That personality is why we love you.”
Dancing in the Dark – I don’t love this song choice either! Her stage presence is good though, she’s working the stage and hand touching audience members. Toward the end she adds some nice phrasing and ends on a lovely quiet note.
“This is your stage” says Katy. “I don’t think you’re a star, I think you are a super-nova.” Luke was in HunterGirl’s hometown, Winchester Tennessee over the weekend. Everyone is rooting for her, he says. Lionel adds, “You now own the stage…you now have a career.” Ryan mentions that she earned a platinum ticket.
I’m on Fire – Eh. Still not loving these Springsteen choices. I expected Noah to choose an emotional song. After all, this theme is made for him. This arrangement is a little too…jaunty. The song in Bruce’s hands is passionate. The longing and SENSUALITY is palpable. Not so much here. The vocal is solid, though.
Luke says he’s come a long way from the first audition. “You are the king of aw shucks” he jokes. “You look, you act and sound like yourself,” says Lionel. Katy call it her favorite Springsteen song. “I think you just swooped in and grabbed every heart in America…you are so humble.” she says.
Luke loved HunterGirl’s choice. Katy thinks everyone did fantastic. Lionel says song choice is everything. He also loved HunterGirl because “Dancing in the Dark” is his favorite Springsteen song.
On Tuesday, the Top 3 flew back to their hometowns for the traditional hometown visits. The next round will feature the contestant’s original song alongside an emotional clip of the visit.
Flowers by Leah Marlene – Leah’s hometown is Normal, Illinois. Leah confesses that she was shocked to make the Top 3. She did her first radio interview with dad at 8 years old. The kiddos made signs for her. Afterward, she stopped at Normal West High School. She hugs her music teacher, who has been like a second mom. “The whole town knows my name,” says Leah, who can barely comprehend it. Leah goes home and is very excited to see her dogs. Her dad and mom are SO PROUD. Thousands of people came out to see Leah downtown. It’s Leah Marlene day! There are THOUSANDS of people gathered to watch Leah perform.
Leah wrote this song about her struggles with mental health. Mid-tempo songs aren’t great choices, especially for a finale. But her rendition is very emotional. She has to check her tears at the end. Lionel compliments her songwriting ability. Katy is feeling it. She’s close to crying too. “I’m so blessed to be able to be here.” Katy feels like the show is making a difference. “You are a brilliant messenger.” Luke calls the song “tremendous,” he adds, “You have every right to those emotions.” Leah says to Ryan that she would not have believed it if you told her two years ago where she is now.
One Day Tonight – Noah headed home to Louisa, Kentucky. He vows to always be a small town kid. He stops by his old workplace to visit the guys before he heads home and finally sees his little boy Walker. It’s hard for him to be away. He’s walking now, which Noah missed. But he feels in the long run, the sacrifice will be worth it. His grandmother is so proud of Noah. Along the parade route, the town turned out. At the concert, Kamerone Marlow surprised him and the two performed together. The next morning, Noah is presented with a road sign. “Lawrence County home of Noah Thompson.” It’s very emotional. He has an emotional reunion with Arthur, the friend who signed him up.
Noah’s song is ready for radio. It’s super catchy, especially the sing-along-chorus. Noah sounds good on it. Whoever chose the single did good. So far, Noah hasn’t had an emotional vocal moment, though. Katy has pulled out a tissue. “God has a real sense of humor…you came from working the Ark…you are just about to do something big. There is a plan for you in your life.” Luke thinks the entire top 3 have grown. Luke calls him a good person. Lionel says his career will last forever when “people fall in love with you…you’re on to something fabulous.”
Redbird – HunterGirl headed back to Winchester, Tennessee. She’s overwhelmed when she sees fans waiting for her. The Mayor declares “HunterGirl Day.” The road to her house inspired her song “Redbird.” In her family, a red bird signifies that a departed relative is watching over her. She stops by to see the veteran group she works with. “You started asking the right questions,” one of her group says. It’s a very emotional moment. “Your voice matters,” says HunterGirl. “Hunter you changed us,” one of the group members says. It’s a tractor parade! Hunter performs at a beautiful marina. “I dreamed of days like this my entire life,” she says.
Hunter wrote the song with a couple of her songwriter friends, right around Hollywood Week. Like Noah’s song, this is a country song that would fit on the radio. I haven’t always been crazy about her song choices, but Hunter is a talented songwriter and that tone. Her tone is so beautiful. Luke named his farm “Red Bird Farm” for the same reason. The song got to him. “Those are the ones that stick,” he says. Lionel is impressed with her work with veterans. “Your heart is in the right place,” he says. Katy says, “This is not a karaoke competition.” she adds that music is therapy. “Stay open and vulnerable,” she advises.
Next, Top 7 contestant Jay Copeland performs a medley of hits with Earth Wind and Fire.. Jay joins them on “Boogie Down.” Jay was probably born in the wrong era. Ohh. “September.” Such a great song. Plus, it’s even more awesome because it’s live. Good stuff.
Next, it’s a look back at the season. RECAP TIME. Look at all these contestants we have not seen since the auditions.
Next, Top 10 singer Mike Parker sings “Strawberry Wine,” his audition song, with the iconic country singer, Deana Carter. Mike enters the stage with a ton of confidence. Their harmonies sound good. Deana is a generous, lovely duet partner.
ONE of the top 3 will now be eliminated. Noah, Hunter and Leah take the stage. “Good luck to all of you,” says Ryan. The first singer to make the Top Two is Noah Thompson. The person competing against Noah is HunterGirl. SO SHOCKED. That’s sarcasm. Hello country music Top 2.
Leah Marlene is eliminated
Next, Ben Platt joins Top 10 singer Lady K for a rendition of Elton John’s “Take Me To the Pilot.” OK. This is an interesting song choice. It’s a perfect song choice for Lady K, but Ben Platt is not the perfect partner. Ben is just full of soul! NOT.
Now, it’s American Idol season 16 alum Gabby Barrett and her husband Cade Foehner on stage performing her new single, “Pick me Up.” After, Top 10 singer Emyrson Flora joins them on stage to sing “The Good Ones.” I wonder if Gabby was originally scheduled for two songs? How is the show making up for Carrie Underwood’s absence? In any case, Gabby and Emyrson sound really good together, and I was NOT expecting that. Gabby shares with Ryan about how excited she is to join Jason Aldean on tour.
Next, the contestants sing “A-OK” with Tai Verdes. That performance was short, and did not include the Top 20, like the American Idol social media accounts said it would.
A montage of Tik Tok videos follow. Fans were challenged to sing “A Moment Like This” with members of the Top 10.
And now, Top 5 contestant Nicolina Bozzo sings her audition song, “She Used to Be Mine” with Sara Bareilles. Sara is seated at a grand piano, while Nicolina is nearby, dressed in light blue satin. Sara is laying back, allowing Nicolina to shine. They don’t harmonize at all. They sing the last line in unison, but that’s OK.
Country singer Thomas Rhett and Katy Perry sing their new duet “Where We Started.” Is Thomas hoping for a crossover hit? The song is just alright.
Afterward, the contestants weigh in on the Top 3. They make fun of Leah’s laugh. But with the love. “That’s tough” is a thing that Noah says all the time. They compare Noah and his hair to a Jonas Brother. Next, the contestants give HunterGirl’s boot and fringe look a whirl.
Now, James Arthur and Fritz Hager sing “Can I Be Him.” James won X Factor UK some years ago. James is a good match for Fritz. The song would have been a good pick for him during the competition.
Next, Michael Buble and Top 7 contestant Christian Guardino sing the classic standard, “Smile.” Christian sports a fancy jacket and a bow tie. The modulation! The backing track sounds like something out of Wizard of Oz. They harmonize a lot and it’s beautiful. Why does Michael yank Christian’s ear? That was a little odd!
The next clip features a quiz. How well do the judges know the Top 3? Not very well. HunterGirl plays bass guitar! Whe knew? Katy wins!
Next Noah Thompson joins Melissa Etheridge on stage to sing her hit “I’m the Only One.” Melissa hasn’t taken very good care of her voice over the years. She’s all rasp at this point. This duet is rough. Neither singer is completely on pitch.
Now, the Top 10 sing “You Are” with Lionel Richie. The singers are fanned out in the audience. This lyrics to this song are so trite. “You are the sun, you are the rain.” Really now. Not a big fan of Lionel’s 80’s output. The Commodores forever!
Ben Platt and Sara Bareilles are back on stage to sing “Grow as We Go.” It’s a Ben Platt song that features Sara. This is more Ben’s speed than “Take Me to the Pilot.” Jay Copeland, Fritz Hager, Nicolina Bozzo and Leah Marlene sing back ups. Maybe this is the Carrie Underwood space filler. American Idol didn’t promote this performance at all beforehand.
Ryan brings Hunter and Noah out on stage to pick their brains, and give them a prize! The two win a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas, along with 3 guests. That’s nice.
After the break, a video of Leah Marlene singing “Firework” plays. Dissolve to Leah on stage singing the song. Katy Perry joins her on stage. Aw. Leah’s dad is playing acoustic guitar! What a wonderful moment. It’s truly full circle. Katy/contestant duets are always great.
Next, HunteGirl and Luke Bryan sing the Randy Travis classic “I Told You So.” Ryan jokes that HunterGirl helped Luke raise his game.
The special performances are done. Next, each of the Top 2 will sing a reprise of a favorite performance.
Stay by Rihanna – “Stay” was certainly the biggest moment for Noah on the show. He turned Rihanna’s R&B ballad into a folk/country song. The production tonight is bigger than when he performed it on Showstoppers. It’s not an improvement over the acoustic version. But as far as reprises go, Noah chose well.
Lionel is speechless. Katy loves his suit. “I’m so glad you picked that song,” she says. Luke also loves the suit.
Riot by Rascal Flatts – Although she chose a different song when Idol asked her favorite performance (Sugarland’s “Baby GIrl” for her parents), Hunter opts for the song that earned her the Platinum Ticket during her audition. It’s the better choice, for sure.
Katy says, “You have your wings. I believe in you so much.” Luke is sure she’ll go “So far.” Lionel says, “Your star is shining so bright.”
Ryan is of course, going to draw this result out as long as possible. TOM DIM THE LIGHTS HERE WE GO. The Winner of American Idol 2022m after the nationwide vote, over 16 million votes, is Noah Thompson. SO NOT SURPRISING. We all pretty much called it.
NOAH THOMPSON WINS AMERICAN IDOL! He sings his NEW SINGLE “One Day Tonight.” Now, wil BMG work this song to country radio? How high will the song climb the charts? Does Noah have a hit on his hands? The Top 10 join Noah on stage, He seems in total disbelief.
Noah Thompson – Winner
HunterGirl – Runner-up
Leah Marlene – 2nd Runner Up.