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American Idol - Season 17: The Top 3 - It's Finale Night So Let's Party!

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Ladies & Gentlemen, Lionel Richie, singing Dancing On The Ceiling.


Lionel is joined by the Top 10 idol finalists.


The incredible Lionel Richie! Give it up for your Top 10, working up a sweat. Tonight, it all comes down to these three on the stage: Laine Hardy, Madison VanDenburg and Alejandro Aranda. All three are superstars in the making but only one will take the title. This is the night we crown your winner. And this is American Idol!


Laine: The Baoyou Boy. Madison: The next Kelly Clarkson. Alejandro: The Homie. This is the American Idol finale, live across the nation with real time voting for who you want to be the next American Idol: Madison, Alejancro or Laine. So do not let them down. Text 1 to 21523 for Laine Hardy, or 8 for Madison VanDenburg, or 11 for Alejandro Aranda. Get started and remember, posting on FB or Twitter does not count.


And please recognize your judges, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. First up, your Top 3 will sing twice, after which the artist in 3rd place will be eliminated. You will then keep voting all show long for your winner.


Laine is up first. Bobby Bones says Laine will be sining Marc Broussard's Home. Broussard is a swampy rocker and so is Laine. Laine hits the performance hard and intense, his non-nonsense vocal light and dramatic, picking up with the second verse, making it look easy and comfortable. From a young man who never intended to audition to a performer at home on the stage, this is Laine Hardy!


Katy says every week his hair gets higher; he must be taking pop star vitamins. She says if he applies himself like he has and doesn't get lazy, he'll be one of the biggest pop stars on the planet within 5 years. Luke says he's proud Laine hasn't lost touch with his Louisiana roots. Lionel says he can't believe he had to beg Laine to join the competition; now he's stolen his look. That was a nasty song and you're on your way.


Madison is singing Shallow from A Star Is Born. No pressure. Her voice is pure with a slight wistfulness reflective of the fog surrounding her on the stage. She hits the power notes head on with confidence and clarity, background vocals filling in for Bradley Cooper, this is all about Madison channeling her inner Madonna and there's no nervous holding back. She lets it all loose and the audience eats it up.


Luke says the whole time you were singing, Katy was yelling in my ear. Your growth is so exciting, we've been pushing you to dig in and show what your next level is and it's been amazing to watch, the twinkle in your eyes, so beautiful to see. Lionel says you are an amazing light, 17yrs old, you have to know what a gift you have, we're happy to be part of your flight and you are truly on your way. Katy says you're shaking because the greatness is coming out of you, we knew it was inside of you since you walked up to an American Idol bus and you're here on the Top 3. This thing works.


OK, OK, you got me. I was typing to fast. Of course it was Lady Gaga, not Madonna. I realized that as soon as I hit Submit.


We round out our Top 3 with the original original, Alejandro, singing an original song, of course, Millennial Love. He brings his own music and style and creates his own moments. Sitting on a stool with his acoustic, it's a trademark vocal, light and floaty, eyes closed, his vocal delivering a coffee house narrative with his take on love in the modern era, the audience waiving their camera lights, he closes with almost silence in the audience, hanging on to every word. 


He almost looks disappointed with his performance as the audience cheers. Lionel says it was love at first sound for you, every once in a while, something captivates your soul and you are looking at something amazing, and from one songwriter and artist to another, we are so happy to have you among us. Katy says homie, everyone was truly listening, there is so much reverence and respect for when you sing, never forget that when you get adorned with compliments. Luke says In life, you have moments where you remember the first time, and back in October, I will never forget when I met Alejandro. We have been spoiled by you.


That wraps up Round 1 of the Top 3 performances. Luke thinks Madison took the round (I agree), but all three are so amazing. Lionel says he's a sucker for a songwriter and the beauty of touching someone's spirit and soul, so his vote goes to Alejandro. Katy agrees with Lionel, there was something otherworldly and holy about Alejandro's performance, but everybody took it up a notch.


Remember, Text 1 for Laine, 8 for Madison and 11 for Alejandro to 21523.  One artist will be eliminated by your votes after the second round of performances, then keep voting for the Final 2 to determine your next American Idol!


We now move on to the hometown hero visits as Laine Hardy returns home to Louisiana, stopping first at the Governor's Mansion to declare the day Laine Hardy day across the state. He heads onto the river with his brother for a little fresh air on his face. Next he returns home to Livingston for a family get together with his parents, nieces and and Mamaw. It brings the bayou boy to tears. Next is the hometown parade, riding jet skis on a flatbed, followed by the hometown concert, and the hometown selfie.


Singing Jambalaya (On The Bayou) by Hank Williams, Laine is having fun wearing his gold sparkled jacket and playing some gumbo rock. For me, it's a little disappointing that while he's giving it his all, it feels like he's playing it a little safe, especially in the face of what Madison did earlier. But he's not a dancer and while he's solid, cute and entertaining, I have to wonder if that's going to be enough.


Katy says I don't want Luke to take me fishing, I want you to! You had so much fun. Luke says Laine needs a trademark lawyer for his slogans. Great song choice, way to show your people back home you're stuck to your roots. Lionel says its a big deal when the governor of your state says Party with the Hardy. 


Next to return as a hometown hero is Madison VanDenburg, singing photos in advance on the executive jet with her father on the way to New York. She starts out with some press at her local ABC affiliate network and then her high school, where her friends greet her with great fanfare. Escorted by the school mascot, she returns home where hundreds of friends and family await, but also her dog who was happiest to see her. She relives her soapbox derby days with her father, and he tears up with pride. She climbs the steps to the stage for her hometown concert and takes the official Hometown Selfie. 


Singing Breakaway (Kelly Clarkson), the stage is bathed in purple accent as she opens with a light, tentative vocal, solidifying with the first chorus, working the front row and waiving to the back row, crescendoing slowly until she hits the power point where she lets loose with a dominating, yet controlled climax. Perhaps a little pitchy there at the end, but otherwise a marvelous performance. 


Luke says she finally tackled Kelly Clarkson. Great job. Lionel says when he first flew home on a jet, he couldn't get his father off the plane. Kelly says Madison has come so far and she must continue to nurture and grow her gift, this is just a condensed master class but she's about to spread her wings into the real world. Ryan adds that Madison was just 9 months old when Kelly won the first American Idol.


We round out the last of the Top 3 performances with Alejandro Aranda, returning to his hometown of Pomona, CA via Metro train. He is recognized every where he goes, as he stops at the Ben Harper Music Shop to thank his duet partner. Ben picks a brand new guitar for Alejandro to use, and a Mable Staples vinyl album. They play a little, and then it's onto the Fox Theater in Pomona where the Music Tree Children's Choir surprises him with his original song, Out Loud. He's blown away that someone else might sing one of his songs. He tells the parents to keep encouraging the kids to play music. Then reply he's an inspiration. The parade is complete with lowriders, followed by his outdoor concert of originals and then his Hometown Selfie.


Singing his original song, Tonight, he's playing at the piano with his soft and gentle, soulful vocal, a solid but sedate drum beat behind him, his astral passion for music spreading out through the theater, reaching out through the television, celebrating the marriage of music and lyrics that make up singing. There has never been an artist on American Idol to make it to the Finale, and it's a shame that it has taken 17 years for a dishwasher to find his way here.


Lionel says throughout the entire process, you have tried to identify the place called home, and watching you return to your home town, welcome home to the business and to your heart. Katy says it's been such a pleasure to live in the same lifetime as you. That sounds intense, but I love being on AI, but it's been a bit karaoke in the past. Not anymore. You bring original music, artistry and raise the stakes even higher. Luke says what a beautiful moment, we've thrown so much at you and you take it and still stay true to who you are and doing it you're way. Don't ever change, be true to who you are. And when you're on the cover of Rolling Stone, I will buy it.


This is your last chance to vote for your Top 2 idols. Text to 21523: 1 for Laine, 8 for Madison and 11 for Alejandro.  You can also vote on the American Idol app. One artist will be eliminated by your votes next, and then the voting for your next American Idol begins!


The votes have been tallied and America has determined their Top 2. But before we get to your results, here is Idol's Own, singing Southbound, please welcome Carrie Underwood!


It is now results time as Laine, Alejandro and Madison join Ryan Seacrest center stage. It's time to find out who has been voted into the Top 2. Dim the lights and here we go.


Based on the live nationwide vote, person who came in 3rd place and will not continue in the competition tonight is...   Madison.  Thank you so much, Madison.


The competition is now between Laine Hardy and Alejandro Aranda. The live voting continues, via the American Idol app and by texting 1 to 21523 for Laine, and 11 to 21523 for Alejandro. Remember, Facebook and Twitter votes do not count.  And now, the Idol Finale Party begins!


Laine and Alejandro are your Top 2 idol finalists based on your votes but you still have to choose a winner. Let's take a look back at this season. Roll tape!


Please welcome Montell Jordan with This Is How We Do It for Katy Perry!  Montel is joined by Margie Mays, Austin Michael Robinson and VoKilz.


You're still voting live for your winner, either Laine Hardy or Alejandro Aranda. Please welcome Katy Perry and Daddy Yankee with Con Calma!


Earlier in the competition, Stevie Nix predicted Alejandro would play with a live orchestra. Now with his original song 10 Years, that prediction comes true. I think that's Alejandro's friend, mentor and partner Ben Harper conducting and I don't think I've ever seen the usually humble Alejandro so happy or impassioned as in this moment.


Earlier this season, he mentored the idols during the epic Queen night, and now he's back again, singing his original, New Eyes.  Then Dimitrius Graham leads off with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, joined by Lambert.


Luke has the champagne flute going as Dan & Shay performs All To My Self, before being joined on stage with Madison VanDenburg to sing Speechless!


There's just an hour left for you to vote for your next American Idol! Vote now via the American Idol app or by texting 1 to 21523 for Laine Hardy, and 11 to 21523 for Alejandro Aranda. Who do you thinks deserves to win your vote? 


The voting and finale party continues with a B-Roll look back at Luke Perry's best (or worst) moments. Then he takes the stage with Knockin' Boots before being slowing it down with Laci Kaye Booth for a duet of Every Breath You Take (The Police)!


VolKilz introduces Jon Pardi and Laine Hardy, singing Dirt On My Boots and Nightshift!


You never know what to expect with Katy and she kept us on our toes all season. Roll tape! Please welcome Katy Perry singing Unconditionally with Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon!


Next, Wade Cota and Walker Burroughs join Weezer for Africa (Toto), Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Tears for Fears) and Take One Me (A-Ha)!


Performing 2 songs from his current album, Experiment, here's Kane Brown with Good As You and, joined by Miss Sauce herself, Alyssa Raghu, Lost In The Middle Of Nowhere!


Less than 30 minutes for you to vote for your next American Idol via American Idol app or text message. Will it be Laine Hardy? Text 1 to 21523.  Or will it be Alejandro Aranda? Text 11 to 21523.  Time is running out to pick the next American Idol!


Disney is not going to wait for your results - Disney Cruise Lines is sending each finalist and a guest of their choice a cruise to the Bahamas!  And now, an ode to a man whose song, Hello, was #1 on the charts 35 years ago today, Mr. Lionel Richie. Roll it!


This next young lady's audition went viral, reaching 103m people worldwide. She's back tonight to sing the song that caught our attention back in Louisville, with Rise Up and joined by Andra Day, please welcome to the Idol stage, Shayy!


It's time to bring in the funk. In celebration of their 50th anniversary, joined by Uche', please welcome Kool & The Gang with Hollywood Swinging, Ladies Night and the classic party anthem, joined by Wade, Walker, Jeremiah, Laci, and the rest of your Top 8 sans Laine and Alejandro, Celebrate!


Whatever happens tonight, both Laine and Alejandro will be joining Ryan on a cross-country flight to NYC tonight to appear on GMA. We now kick off Round 3 for your votes. But first, we look at what the other Top 8 had to say about Laine.


Text 1 to 21523 or vote via the American Idol app as Laine Hardy sings Bring It On Home To Me (Sam Cooke) in his last performance to earn your vote. With a bit of gravel in his voice, he channels every ounce of his soul to this classic, before rocking out bayou style, then kicking the performance into overdrive with a fast tempo climax that brings him to glad handing the front row and bringing it on home.


Luke says I got the holy spirit. Congrats, man. When I heard you last year, the tone in your voice is something special and you can't teach that, so identifiable. This is the last time I can comment on you and I love you. Lionel says all I want is for you to remember that when I come to the stage door, and say yo, please let me in. You have the best attitude I have ever seen in my life, you were rejected the first year and now you're back in the Finals, my brother! You are authentic, Katy says, you were not ready last time (no I wasn't, Laine agrees) but you are ready this time.


Text 11 to 21523 or vote via the American Idol app as Alejandro Aranda checks out what the Top 8 think of him, then performs his original (and now classic) Out Loud. With his nimble fingers plucking his guitar like a keyboard, his vocal exuding every bit of love and passion for music this artist can muster, his smile infectious, Alejandro is truly an American original.


The audience is deafening, chanting "Homie" as Luke waits to say sometimes its best to let the fans talk. Please one day send me a postcard from the planet you come from. Thanks for changing our lives. Lionel says there's instant identity with you, you're a gift to us all. Katy says it's such an incredible honor to have this opportunity to give you a little boost for you to find your wings. We love what we do and love when we see someone like you shine. 


Ryan points out that Alejandro sang four original songs during the season, and tonight, the audience was singing back to him. Voting is about to close during this commercial break, so it's your last chance to vote.


Who is going to be your next American Idol? Laine Hardy and Alejandro Aranda await your results. The voting has officially closed and Ryan has the final results in his hand. Good luck to both Laine and Alejandro. For the final time this season, dim the lights and here we go.


After the live nationwide vote, from coast to coast, the winner of American Idol 2019 is... Laine Hardy!


That means your runner up is Alejandro.  Your American Idol is Laine Hardy. Laine says he is so thankful but his mind is blank right now. He pulls himself together to perform his debut single, Flame!


Final thoughts, as Laine is joined on stage by the rest of the Top 10. I think Madison had the best vocals tonight, and she will have a tremendous career.  But from early on in the season, this was Laine's competition to lose. He had the personality, versatility, vocal talent and southern charm all going in his favor, not to mention a comeback story. That said, it may be best for Alejandro that he did not win. Free from the binding contract the winner gets, of which many an Idol winner have said was chaffing and restrictive), Alejandro will be free to master his art and reach his audience.  I expect big things to come from all three.


So that's what I thought. What did you think about tonight's Finale? Was it the right Top 2 and the right American Idol winner?  I want to know what you thought of the season. After its second year, is ABC doing American Idol right? Are you looking forward to an 18th season in 2020?

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