“American Idol” Season 21 delivered another shocker in its tense finale.
Sunday’s three-hour broadcast, which aired live on ABC coast-to-coast, saw the final three contestants Megan Danielle, Colin Stough and Iam Tongi − each take the stage one last time to win the votes from viewers. Judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie gave feedback as usual, but in the final part of the competition, all they had to offer was praise and well wishes as the singers left the show to begin the their music career.
The final three sang two songs: one by guest mentor Keith Urban and another in tribute to their hometowns. Then, host Ryan Seacrest revealed which contestants made it to the Top 2, and those singers went head-to-head on original songs. Tongi got the crowd chanting his name after singing Urban’s “Making Memories of Us,” Danielle belted to the heavens with a Journey classic and Stough brought his good country boy charm to a Chris Stapleton hit.
Here are the highlights, including the winner:
Megan Danielle rose to fame in the Journey classic
Danielle began the show borrowing from her religious roots with Urban’s “God Whispered Your Name.”
Danielle said she chose the song because it implies that “God is always reaching out to you and sending people to help.” She added that her goal for the night was to “turn off all the negative stuff in my head and have fun.”
The judges raved about the 21-year-old server, with Richie praising the signature “cry” in her singing voice. “It’s everything,” he exclaimed. “As far as I’m concerned, we have three No. 1’s on this stage tonight.”
Perry added: “Our work here is done, because that’s the gift.”
Bryan said he never heard Danielle “make one bad vocal decision” during the entire competition. “You’ve done it in style your way,” he added. “It’s inspiring to watch you grow up.”
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Danielle returns for a song dedicated to her hometown of Douglasville, Georgia: “Faithfully,” by Journey.
To say he killed it would be an understatement. Her soaring voice wowed the crowd on the song’s climactic note, bringing Perry to tears.
“I think this is what parents do when their kids graduate,” Perry said, drying his eyes. “She’s the valedictorian. You aced this class.”
Iam Tongi gets crowd chanting his name with Keith Urban hit
Tongi gave a smooth and groovy rendition of Urban’s “Making Memories of Us,” as the crowd chanted his name. “Whenever you come and you sing, the vibration that comes out of your mouth, it goes through the weeds of people’s hearts,” Perry said.
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Bryan described Tongi’s talent as “a natural gift from God.”
The 18-year-old high schooler returned to perform Kolohe Kai’s “Cool Down” as a dedication to his hometown of Kahuku, Hawaii.
“Iam, you are the culture,” Perry said after the moving performance. “Welcome to paradise, my friend.”
Colin Stough channels country-boy charm on the Chris Stapleton classic
Stough had a blast with Urban’s “Stupid Boy,” delighting the audience with his gruff voice.
“You develop your artistic look, your style,” Bryan said. “You’re so far from the kid who went to the auditions.”
“It was so sweet, Colin,” Perry said, praising the tenderness in his voice.
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The 18-year-old HVAC technician sang Stapleton’s “Either Way” as a tribute to his hometown of Amory, Mississippi.
“What I love about you is you are so much better than I originally thought you were,” Bryan told Stough, praising his growth as a country music star.
Colin Stough cut out of the Top 3 in a surprising twist
On “American Idol,” it’s become somewhat of a norm for rugged country crooners to sweep the competition to victory, as Noah Thompson did last year and Chayce Beckham the year before.
That’s why the studio audience gasped when host Seacrest announced that, after a nationwide vote, Stough had been eliminated, leaving Tongi and Danielle to appear as finalists.
Iam Tongi breaks down on stage, Katy Perry sobs with James Blunt duet
As usual, the “Idol” finale included a lot of filler as viewers patiently waited to find out the winner.
There were great performances from former contestants, including a medley with Lucy Love and TLC, a Bryan-Stough duet on the Conway Twitty classic “Slow Hand” and a duet from Danielle and one of her musical heroes, Lauren Daigle, in Daigle’s “Thank God.” Perry and Haven Madison also provided a rousing mashup of Madison’s original song “Still Need You” and Perry’s “By the Grace of God.”
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But the most heartbreaking performance came from Tongi and James Blunt in Blunt’s “Monsters.” Tongi auditioned for the judges with the song, which she sang as a tribute to her late father.
Tongi was overcome with emotion during the performance, breaking down in tears and, at times, unable to sing. Perry was also sobbing behind the judges’ table.
Was the special moment enough to push Tongi over the edge to win the competition?
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Iam Tongi, Megan Danielle faced off in an intense Final 2 showdown
Tongi and Danielle took the stage one last time to sing their original songs, which were recorded and aired on “Idol.” Danielle belted out “Dream Girl,” and Tongi jammed with her song “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
After the final commercial break, the votes are locked, and Seacrest announces the winner.
It was Tongi. He sang Spawnbreezie’s “Don’t Let Go” as his fellow contestants rushed the stage and showered confetti. She is the first non-country singer to win the show in three years.
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