Season 20 of “American Idol” concludes in epic fashion with the Top 3 each hitting the Idol stage in hopes of securing America’s vote, including one round dedicated to “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen. In the end, host Ryan Seacrest will name one winner the next American Idol. In addition to the finalists, there will be showstopping performances by superstar judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, as well as Idol legend Carrie Underwood and superstars James Arthur, Sara Bareilles, Gabby Barrett, Michael Bublé, Deana Carter, Earth, Wind & Fire, Melissa Etheridge, Flo Rida, Ben Platt, Thomas Rhett, Tai Verdes and more.
Follow along with our “American Idol” Season 20 Episode 20 Grand Finale recap as the Top 3 take the stage one last time in hopes of becoming this year’s winner. Will HunterGirl, Leah Marlene or Noah Thompson take the crown?
This season the judges embark on yet another nationwide search for America’s next singing sensation. Auditions were held in Nashville, Tennessee, Austin, Texas and Los Angeles, California. If given a golden ticket, hopeful idols advanced to the Hollywood round. In a new twist this season, three contestants were given a Platinum Ticket, which allowed them to skip the first phase of Hollywood week. Kenedi Anderson withdrew from the competition on April 11. Jay made it to the Top 7 and was eliminated on May 8. Huntergirl is among the top three in the Grand Finale.
Below, follow along with all the action on Night 20 of Season 20 of “American Idol.” Timestamps are Eastern Standard Time. Hit refresh to see the most up-to-date thoughts on tonight’s live finale!
8:00 p.m. — Previously on “American Idol,” the Top 5 performed for America’s vote. After Seacrest announced the Top 5, we said goodbye to Fritz Hager and Nicolina. Tonight, a champion will be crowned. Let’s go!
8:07 p.m. — The finale begins with a performance of “Good Feeling” from Flo Rida from on top of the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. I think nine of the Top 10 are performing alongside him, I don’t see Emyrson Flora. Maybe she couldn’t make it? She is still in high school, perhaps she had other obligations. Seacrest then lets the entire audience down when he announced that there was a COVID exposure in Carrie Underwood‘s crew so, due to protocols, Carrie won’t perform tonight. The show will start in Battle Round. After two rounds of music we will see a snap shot of the vote and the person in third place will be eliminated! Let’s go!
8:12 p.m. — Round 1 will feature performances from the iconic songbook of Bruce Springsteen. Up first is is Leah Marlene singing “Cover Me.” She’s rocking the guitar, but I’m not sure I would have chosen this song for her. There are so many classics, why this one? It really doesn’t do much for her voice. At the end I’m left thinking, sure, she sounds great, but what a forgettable moment. Lionel says it’s not a familiar song (thank you!), but she still brought us in (not really). Katy calls it “such a groove” and thinks Leah is the full package.
8:18 p.m. — HunterGirl is next with a far superior song choice, “Dancing in the Dark.” Unfortunately she’s only singing about half the notes in the correct key. Sorry, I know the judges won’t mention it, but she’s all over the place. Perhaps it was nerves, but that was one of her worst vocal performances. Katy applauds her for bringing “electricity” to her performance. Luke likes her song choice. Lionel wants her jacket.
8:28 p.m. — Noah Thompson will wrap up this first round with “I’m on Fire.” This is a great song choice and suits his gritty voice. He’s a little stiff on stage, but he sounds good. He’s the season heartthrob to boot, so I’d say he won this round. Luke calls him the “King of Aw Shucks.” Lionel says he is now “an artist.” Katy says Noah picked her favorite Springsteen song and he just swooped in and grabbed everyone’s heart in America. Ryan asks the judges who is in the lead. Of course they totally buckle and refuse to answer. It’s kind of annoying, just give an opinion! I’ll give mine. Noah won that round.
8:40 p.m. — In Round 2 the finalists will sing their debut singles following a look at their Hometown Hero visit. After her trip to Normal, Illinois, Leah will sing her original song “Flowers.” She has such a gorgeous tone. This song has a Stevie Nicks vibe to it, but I think Leah could have a lot of success in the country genre if she chose to go that route. She kind of bends genres in a way that reminds of Brandi Carlile. Lionel gives her props on her songwriting skills. Katy is crying and says she feels blessed to be part of the show. She thinks Leah’s song will change lives. Luke says the song is tremendous and he’s overwhelmed with joy watching her.
8:52 p.m. — Following his trip back to Louisa, Kentucky, Noah sings his original song “One Day Tonight.” This is a song that’s already been charting well on iTunes, which makes me think he’s the likely winner. It’s a pretty basic song, but he gives a solid performance. The video package about his trip home will have much more of an impact on voters than that performance. Katy tells him not to stop dreaming. Lionel says there is nothing better in life than to have the mayor, friends and the high school come out for you. But what makes your career last forever is when people fall in love with you.
9:05 p.m. — Following her trip back to Winchester, Tennessee, HunterGirl finishes Round 2 with a performance of her single “Red Bird.” But, wow, that video clip of her with the veterans was so impactful. That was a tearjerker. It was great to see how much of an impact she’s had on those veterans. I love the staging of this performance. The lyrics are beautiful. Luke is emotional because his farm is called Red Bird Farm. Katy says everyone tonight is doing something special.
9:20 p.m. — Earth, Wind & Fire sings “Shining Star,” “Let’s Groove” and “September” with Top 7 finalist Jay. That was fun! Next, Top 10 finalist Mike Parker joins CMA winner Deana Carter for a rendition of “Strawberry Wine.” LOVED IT. But now it’s time for business. Each of the Top 3 finalists has performed twice. Viewers have been voting for over an hour and now it’s time for the person with the least amount of votes to be eliminated. The singer finishing in third place is Leah Marlene. She had a great run, but it’s going to be a country showdown for the Season 20 title.
9:33 p.m. — Benn Platt is joined by Top 10 finalist Lady K for a performance of Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot.” I love the look she’s rocking. She looks like a superstar up there and sounds fantastic. Then Idol alum Gabby Barrett returns to sing her single “Pick Me Up.” Next, Emyrson Flora joins Gabby to sing “The Good Ones,” so I guess she is there! I must have just not seen her in that earlier group performance.
9:45 p.m. — Tai Verdes is on the stage singing “A-O-K” with Christian Guardino, Lady K, Jay, Mike and Emyrson. Next, singing “She Used to Be Mine” is Sara Bareilles with Top 5 finalist Nicolina. Honestly, this performance is better than anything we’ve seen from the finalists tonight, but it’s a killer song and Nicolina is a vocal beast.
9:47 p.m. — Just a little note about what’s happening live on the iTunes charts while this finale progresses. HunterGirl’s single “Red Bird” is currently at #3 and Noah’s “One Day Tonight” is at #5. That’s not much distance between them, but does that mean HunterGirl might have the edge tonight? Leah Marlene’s “Flowers” is at #14.
9:57 p.m. — Katy Perry takes the stage with Thomas Rhett to sing their collaboration “Where We Started.” It was fine. Then Top 5 finalist Fritz Hager joins James Arthur for a performance of “Can I Be Him.” Fritz sounds great!
10:10 p.m. — Michael Bublé is making good on his promise to join Top 7 finalist Christian on stage for a performance of “Smile.” They sound great together. Such a dramatic rendition! Next Melissa Etheridge is joined by Noah for “I’m the Only One.” Okay, Noah is on the rise, but the kid doesn’t have the presence to stand next to a rock legend. She’s sort of eating him alive, but it’s still great to watch! At one point even Noah has no choice but to stand back and smile while Melissa goes ham on stage.
10:30 p.m. — Lionel Richie takes the stage with the Top 10 finalists to sing “You Are.” He is a living legend. Next, Ben Platt and Sara Bareilles return to sing “Grow As We Go” together. Jay, Nicolina, Fritz and Leah serve as backup singers. Then Ryan brings out HunterGirl and Noah to let them know they’ve each won a Disney cruise. After a commercial break, Katy joins Leah for a performance of “Firework.” I love this! Then Luke Bryan joins HunterGirl for my favorite Randy Travis song, “I Told You So.” This is actually the best HunterGirl has sounded all night.
10:42 p.m. — Noah is up with his last performance of the night. It’s a reprise of “Stay” by Rihanna, which he sang in the Hollywood Showstopper round. Look how far he’s come since then! He’s looking sharp in a suit with no tie. Noah could have had a country hit with this. Katy says, “How dare you wear that suit and sing that song!” Luke says when Noah sang it the first time they knew he had something special. He just proved it even more.
10:50 p.m. — For HunterGirl’s final performance she’s singing her original audition song, “Riot” by Rascal Flatts. She looks calm and collected on stage. It’s wise of her to choose a song she’s so comfortable with for her last moment. She’s taking it all in! Katy says “American Idol” ends tonight, but her career will be forever. Luke says he has no doubt HunterGirl will have a huge career. Lionel says he’s proud to say he mentored her on her way to superstardom.
10:59 p.m. — The final vote of the season is now closed. It’s time for Seacrest to give us the news. The Season 20 winner of “American Idol” is Noah Thompson! Congratulations Noah! HunterGirl is an honorable runner-up. Noah closes out the show with his winner’s single, “One Day Tonight.” That’s a wrap for this season of “American Idol.”