The housebound edition of the 18th finale show of “American Idol” was more subdued than usual given that the final five hopefuls announced at the top of the show — Arthur Gunn, Dillon James, Just Sam, Francisco Martin and Johnny West — had no live audience cheering them on save for judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan and a coterie of family and friends at remote locales. Usually they can feed off the electricity of a packed auditorium of “Idol” fans, swaybots included. But the restrictions of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic muffled what is usually a rather boisterous celebration of music and talent that ends with the season’s competitors hugging each other and honoring the new “American Idol” with an explosion of confetti and good wishes.
Alas, because of the country’s continued need to shelter in place, this last show of the year was not being broadcast live nationwide. The West Coast was left to watch each performance on an official YouTube channel . Who knows how many fans on the left side of the country even knew to head online to see what was aired live for viewers in the East?
Did it affect the outcome? Perhaps, but the two who made it to the end — Arthur and Just Sam — were the top picks in a recent Gold Derby poll following the penultimate show on May 10 featuring Disney songs and Mother’s Day tribute tunes. However, Arthur earned 31% of the votes among the Top 7 while Just Sam — who won on Sunday — came in with 21% of the support.
When host Ryan Seacrest announced Just Sam won, she was all alone while social-distancing herself by being in Los Angeles while her sweet devoted grandmother was back in Harlem. After hearing the news, she exclaimed, “My dreams have come true,” while her granny did a happy dance wearing a Just Sam T-shirt that viewers could witness on an iPad. This soulful 21-year-old subway busker, whose full name is Samantha Diaz, won’t have to carry her money box around anymore. Witness the goose-pimply moment again in the video above.
Watching Just Sam’s joyful reaction to her win was just one of the many highlights of the unusual season closer. While it didn’t have the usual festive hoopla given the circumstances, it instead provided a more intimate and heartfelt arena for the singers to perform in. Take the poll below and pick your choices of your favorite moments on the show — just refresh the page each time while making multiple picks. And share any other thoughts about the finale in the comments.