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American Idol Season 18 - Top 5: Finale

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Louis Knight. Julia Gargano. Dillon James. Francisco Martin. Just Sam. Jonny West. Arthur Gunn. When they first auditioned, it was another America, one before physical distancing and face masks, home quarantine and Zoom socializing. This is not the season of American idol they were expecting, but the cast, crew and you have come together to make it a season to remember.  This is American Idol!


The Top 7 are coming together for the biggest moment of their lives and we're coming together for what may be the most memorable Finale in Idol history. Tonight we'll be live voting and in the end, someone will take the illustrious title, but not before we get a front row seat to some fantastic surprises.


First say hello to our home team of judges, it is Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Ritchie. Katy is missing from her video box. Where's Katy Perry? She walks in without a costume, just a daisy-print maternity dress. It's time to be normal, she says. It's also the name of her new song, Daisies. 


For the first time ever, Ryan Seacrest says, we will crown your Idol from afar, wherever they are. But first, Luke Bryan kicks of the celebration with One Margarita, Katy will debut her new single Daisies, plus much more, including a crew of Idol alum helping Lionel Ritchie out with We Are The World for the first time on TV since he co-wrote it with Michael Jackson 35 years ago. 


But who gets to take a step closer? Last week, your Top 7 performed and you picked who you wanted to see in the Finale, so let's get to it. One by one, I'll be naming the 5 contestants who will compete for the title tonight. In no particular order, here are the results.


After the nationwide vote, the first person to make it into your Finale is...   Dillon James! 


The next person to take a spot in your Top 5 and sing live for your votes tonight is...   Jonny West!


Back to your results in no order, the next person to get the honor tonight is...   Arthur Gunn!


Let's take you back to the results now with 2 more spots left. The next person to make it into the Finale is...   Francisco Martin! 


Here we go. There's only one spot left in tonight's Finale, and the final person is...   Just Sam!


That means we say goodbye to Julia and Louis. 


You can start voting right now by texting to #21523: 12 for Francisco Martin, 15 for Dillon James, 16 for Arthur Gunn, 19 for Just Sam and 20 for Jonny West. Voting closes after the 2nd round of performances during the ET/CT broadcast. So get busy and vote for your next American Idol!


On with the competition. This round, we asked the finalists to pick the song they would celebrate with when this crisis is over. We will also take a look back at each of their incredible Idol journeys, starting with a guy we first met at the LA audition, Dillon James. Roll tape!


Singing Change The World (Eric Clapton) besides his beautifully lit backyard swimming pool, his vocal is reflective and thoughtful, his voice strong and full of promise of a better tomorrow. His family and the judges applaud. Katy says that was one of your best performances all season long, so effortless. Luke says it felt real natural, the right song, the right key, the right delivery. Lionel says the vocal performance was absolutely stellar.


The next celebration song comes from Francisco Martin, who was visibly nervous at his audition. Singing Adore You (Harry Styles), energizes it up a bit from his bedroom/studio, his new-found performing confidence reflected in both his strong vocal and stage presence. His smile is as big and infectious as his voice as he declares his love for music. Luke says he enjoyed watching his confidence. Lionel says you earned being in the Finals of American Idol and your stage presence is better than even that. Katy says you deserve to be here, you were smiling on screen and if you can do that to an iPhone, imagine what you can do with a large crowd. 


An important announcement: American Idol will be back for Season 4 on ABC (and Season 19 overall). 


Just Sam took a chance at her audition and now it's time for her Memory Lane. Here's how far she's come from performing in the New York subway. Singing Stronger [What Doesn't Kill You] (Kelly Clarkson),  Wearing a rust-gold gown in her multi-colored lit apartment room, her voice is one of empowerment and confidence, self-reliance and power vocals, her performance one of truth and achievement. Lionel says our little girl has grown up, this is Look-At-Me-Sam, you killed it. Katy says the lord will not give you more than you can handle, you're never going back unless you want to sing on the subway for fun. Luke says you are a wonderful, blessed singer and that performance showed why you are here.


Aurthur Gunn has his celebration song for you next, so let's check out his journey, living his dream, from Nepal to the Finale. Singing I Don't Want To Be (Gavin DeGraw), his pent-up energy and camera interaction plus up his solid take-on-the-world vocal, the edginess of his voice putting an exclamation point to his uniqueness. Katy says you can tell it's the Finale because of that performance; you are leaving it all on your Living Room floor, you've grown so much. Luke loves how he connected with the camera, then went into your own Rockstar moves-like-Jagger world. Lionel says just drop the mic, you let us into your world, unbelievable and so magical.


Jonny West closes out Round 1 after we relive his best moments from this season. Singing Can't Keep A Good Man Down (Eddie Money) from his living room, from behind the keyboards, with his background vocals on the wall hangings behind him, his voice is solid and steady, the vocal just rolling and flowing along, a rollicking if low key pop performance. Lionel says you can take any song, any style, and make it yours; I want to know what vitamin you're on. Luke says you navigate these songs like a seasoned 40yr performer, it's given from upstairs and you have it. Katy says I was getting lost in your performance, thinking of your future and meeting you back stage and saying, what's up Jonny!


For Round 2 of tonight's Finale competition, each contestant will perform the song they will debut should they win, a familiar song from the show that struck a cord with the fans early on. Mentor Bobby Bones has followed the Top 5 closely as he helped guide them through the season. Bobby says the talent this season has been amazing, better than last season. It's been amazing to see them grow, especially Dillon, if he can pour all his struggles into his next performance.


Singing The Times They Are a-Changin' (Bob Dylan) next to the fire pit in his backyard, his voice is a perfect rendition of this classic campfire song, his vocal as professional a performance as a seasoned veteran. Playing his acoustic, he slows down for the second verse and ignites the flame with even more emotion. The only problem was that the music stopped. Lionel says you turned that into a Dillon James version like a true artist. Katy says this time, it was a more confident performance, more talent vocally. Luke says you had more grit on your notes, a better performance, stay strong, healthy and inspirational.


Bobby says Francisco Martin has to put the nerves aside and believe in himself. Singing Alaska (Maggie Rogers) in his backyard full of trees of light, wearing a white t-shirt and purple sweater, his vocal is more laid back and reflective, his pure, joyful voice soaking in the moment as much as the neighbors from their balconies. That was an elevated version of what you gave us in the beginning, Katy says, you're so smooth, like a professional studio recording. Luke says he's heartbroken this the last time they'll hear him perform on American Idol like this, the sky is the limit for your career. Lionel says my mother, an elementary school teacher and principal, said what makes a great teacher is great students and you have been a model student, taking all our notes and making me smile when you perform because you delivered the goods on graduation day.


Bobby's take on Just Sam is to remember the heart from her first audition performance. Singing Rise Up (Andra Day), Sam has added a gazebo and candles to her stage room, but her voice remains pure and honest, her vocal poignant and positive during this period of pandemic, just honey on the ears. Luke says what growth through all levels of the competition. Lionel says there are inspired kids out there now trying to figure out their lives who can relate to you, where you've been, your commitment to your grandmother, you've won in life. Katy says you just rose up, the world is what you want to make of it.


Bobby says Arthur Gunn traveled over 7000 miles to achieve his dream, and his individual spin could help him realize his dream. Singing Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Creedence Clearwater Revival) on a chilly rainy afternoon from his back porch, he has turned this southern rock anthem into a completely original song, with his quick tempo vocal full of the grit life experience, his voice pushing out the song like it just can't wait to be heard. Lionel says he's an absolute star, he's carved his place with the best vocals, best performance, best style and best personality. Katy says whatever pill you took, it was the winning pill, you played the last ace up your sleeve. Luke says way to nail every aspect of American Idol, you've checked every box, a star, authentic, if there are any more like you in Kathmandu, get them on the phone and get them out here.


Bobby says the only thing holding Jonny back is self-doubt; if he can realize what a singer/songwriter he is, he could win the whole show. Singing Makin' Love (Jonny West), his voice is jazzy, swinging in his upper octave, fingers dancing over the keyboard, then breaking unexpectedly into a rap-bridge to throw all expectations on their head. Not the vocal I was expecting, proving even Finale night can be full of surprises. Katy says you're already thinking about the future, your original song to be released if you win, it was so big, so much soul. Luke says it was radio ready, get it to the people. Lionel says you're a singer/songwriter/producer and as a fellow songwriter, you have a talent very few posses; you might come after all of us if you gain any more confidence. 


That is it, America, voting will close in just a few minutes as the competition portion of tonight's Finale comes to an end. Next comes our star-studded Finale celebration.


Whomever wins will release their first single overnight: Dillon James, Francisco Martin, Just Sam, Arthur Gunn or Jonny West. One of these Final 5 will be the next American Idol and release their first single overnight. Now let's take a look back at all the good times we had during this unforgettable season. Roll audition tapes!


So many great memories and now Luke Bryan will bring us another, with a drinkin' song, One Margarita!


Back in February at our first audition stop in Savannah, GA, we met a lovable garbage man by the name of Douglas Kiker, who quickly won the hearts of the judges and America. Since then, his audition has reached over 300m people worldwide. Douglas came to Idol to prove to his daughter that dreams do happen, and tht is the truth. We watch Luke Bryan video call Douglas to inform him he will reprise his audition performance of Bless The Broken Road with Rascal Flatts on the Finale. Ladies & gentlemen, from their homes, Douglas Kiker and Rasal Flatts!


Continuing on with the good news, last season's finalist Stacy K Booth just signed a deal with 19 & Recordings Big Machine Label Group. And next, American Idol's own AMA, Billboard, GMA and Grammy-winning alum Lauren Daigle pairs with Top 5 Finalist Just Sam finally complete her original audition performance of You Say.


She's created a ground breaking visual and audible treat with the debut performance of her brand new single, Daisies, please welcome the mother of all judges, Katy Perry!


Next on your Idol Finale comes a special celebration of the life and music of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, performed by Cynthia Erivo and the Top 10 Idols!


Now, coming to you live, we have the Final 2 results. Who will be your next American Idol? Normally I would say, "Dim the lights, here we go." but I'm at home and we can't, so...


In no particular order, after the nationwide vote, the first person to make the Top 2 is...   Arthur Gunn! Arthur's initial reaction is bleeped out as his family shoots confetti at him and mobs his porch, his family, friends and neighbors cheering from the backyard. 


The next person to make the Top 2, after the nationwide vote is...   Just Sam!  No way, she screams so loud her grandmother could hear her back home across the continent.  That means we say goodbye to Francisco, Dillon and Jonny.


Who will be our next American Idol? Will it be Arthur Gunn or Just Sam?


The biggest moment of the season is here. With Arthur from his porch and Just Sam with her grandmother on her tablet, who will be your next American Idol? Are you ready? Here we go.


After the nationwide vote, the next American Idol is...   Just Sam!  


Just Sam can not believe her ears, though it is not clear who screams louder, her or her grandmother. The celebration continues at Arthur's house for his second place finish. The judges are all on their feet cheering. Just Sam shows up the tablet with her grandmother still dancing and says my dreams have come true, my grandmother is good, thank you so much America, I never expected this. 


For her first role as American Idol winner, Just Sam takes the virtual stage with Lionel Ritchie with the first television performance of We Are The World (w/Michael Jackson) in 35 years along with the judges, the Top 11, and past Idol winners from around the country, including Alejandro Aranda aka Scarypoolparty, Gabby Barrett, Jordin Sparks, Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Laine Hardy, Lauren Alaina, Phillip Phillips, Ruben Studdard and Scotty McCreery and Fantasia!


From Our Idol Family to Yours, "We Are The World."


And from Morty's TV, thank you for joining us for this special Finale of American Idol!  Stay healthy, stay positive, and stay close.

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