It was a season like none other and in the blink of an eye, the live rounds for season 18 of American Idol were done. And it went out in fine fashion with host Ryan Seacrest announcing the Top 5 finalists, two performances from each of them, and performances from judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie.
In addition, there were also incredible special performances from artist Lauren Daigle, Rascal Flatts, Cynthia Erivo who hijacked some of the contestants to sing with them.
But the show kicked off with the Top 7 singing “Come Together” by the Beatles and shortly after that, the seven became five, and the Top 5 would each perform two songs – a song of celebration and a song that would become their first single if they won.
Right at the beginning, Ryan announced the Top 5 finalists and opened up the voting for season 18’s winner.
DILLON JAMES (26) – Bakersfield, California
- Performance #1 – “Change the World” by Eric Clapton
KATY: “Wow, way to bring it home. that was one of your bet performances all season long. I’m so impressed with that performance, it was so effortless. You deserve to be in the Top 5 in my opinion.”
- Performance #2 – “The Times They Are A-Changing” by Bob Dylan
LIONEL: “Congratulations because I’m in love with Bob Dylan’s version of it, but you have turned it into a Dillon James version. It was just your song and that is exactly what a true artist will do. Great job, I’m very proud of you.”
FRANCISCO MARTIN (19) – San Francisco, California
- Performance #1 – “Adore You” by Harry Styles
LUKE: “I’m so proud you made Top 5. I just enjoyed watching your confidence. Thank you for working so hard these past few months.”
- Performance #2 – “Alaska” by Maggie Rogers
KATY: “The people outside on the balconies, that really touched my heart. That was so sweet. That performance was an elevated version of what you gave to us in the beginning. You’re so smooth when you delivered that. It sounded like it was professionally recorded in a studio somewhere. That’s how good it was. Congratulations.”
JUST SAM (21) – Harlem, New York
- Performance #1 – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson
LIONEL: “Our little girl has grown up.There’s no more ‘poor me Sam,’ it’s called ‘look at me, Sam.’ What you gave us in that performance was attitude, girlfriend. You killed it.”
- Performance #2 – “Rise Up” by Andra Day
LUKE: “What growth on all levels of this competition. So proud of you. That song is built for you and so glad to get to hear you do it one more time.”
ARTHUR GUNN (21) – Wichita, Kansas
- Performance #1 – “I Don’t Want to Be” by Gavin DeGraw
KATY: “I can tell that it’s the finale because of that performance. You’re leaving it all on your living room floor. You look so comfortable, you’ve grown so much, and I’m so proud to be on this show and have you in the Top 5.”
- Performance #2 – “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
LIONEL: “You’re an absolute star. You have carved your place, man. The best performances, the best in vocals and, more importantly, the best in style and personality. No matter what happens forward, you take this star and ride it all the way.”
JONNY WEST (23) – Marietta, California
- Performance #1 – “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down” by James and Bobby Purify
LUKE: “You navigate these songs like a seasoned, 40-year performer. It’s stuff that’s just not taught. It’s given from the man upstairs and you have it.”
- Performance #2 – “Makin’ Love” by Jonny West (original)
KATY: “You know what’s so cool about you is you’re already thinking about the future right now. These songs that the Top 5 are singing, this is gonna be released if you win American Idol and if it’s your original song, you’re the artist, and I’m thinking to myself, man, if he wins American Idol, I want Mark Ronson to produce this song. Its got soul. I want it to be so big. No matter what happens, you are on your way and I am a fan.”
Viewers had just a few more minutes to cast their votes for the winner.
As voting was tabulated, Luke kicked off the superstar performances with his new single, “One Margarita.” Following his performance, Luke called Doug Kiker, one of this season’s early contestants, and invited him to perform “Bless the Broken Road” with the song’s original artists, Rascal Flatts.
Lauren Daigle opted out of singing her inspirational hit, “You Say,” as a solo artist, but instead asked Just Sam to join her for the performance.
Ryan announced Katy as the mother of all judges and indeed she is, but her burgeoning baby bump didn’t impede her vibrant performance of her new single, “Daisies.”
The Top 11 from this season of American Idol joined Cynthia Erivo for an exciting medley of Aretha Franklin hits including the super smashes “Respect” and “Chain of Fools.”
With that, Arthur Gunn and Just Same were named the Top 2 performers for season 18.
AND THE WINNER IS:
Congratulations JUST SAM!
With that, this season’s Top 20, including Sam, Jonny, Dillon, Arthur and Francisco joined Lionel, and previous Idol contestants Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Gabby Barrett, Kellie Pickler, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Laine Hardy, along with Katy and Luke for a heart-soothing and much-needed rendition of the Lionel Riche and Michael Jackson penned epic, “We Are the World.”
Look for Sam’s version of “Rise Up” wherever you stream and download music.