‘American Idol’ Season 20 Finale: Did the Right Person Win? (RECAP)

Leah Marlene, Noah Thompson, Huntergirl
Spoiler Alert
ABC/Eric McCandless

American Idol

Grand Finale

Season 20 • Episode 19

The milestone Season 20 of American Idol crowned its winner. 

Host Ryan Seacrest revealed Noah Thompson after almost 16 million votes were cast.  The blue-collar construction worker turned Idol sang his new single “One Day Tonight” to close the show as confetti blasted in celebration. Noah better be buying his best friend Arthur something nice, after he encouraged him to audition.  

Viewers had their work cut out for them as the Top 3 put everything into their performances during the grand finale. In the first round Leah, Noah, and HunterGirl took on the songbook of “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen. Round 2 gave them the spotlight to showcase their own singles. Days before the trio traveled back to their respective hometowns where they were met with a hero’s welcome. Leah was eliminated earlier in the night, leaving Noah and HutnerGirl to earn America’s vote in the final showdown.

The three-hour show also saw Idol finalists share the stage with judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and other music titans for some truly star-studded collabs. Carrie Underwood was unable to participate due to a COVID exposure in her group. 

Did America get it right in your eyes? Here’s how the night unfolded. 

Hunter Girl

HunterGirl went for the familiar  “Dancing in the Dark” for the Bruce round. Katy said she brought the electricity. In round 2, the budding country star performed her hit “Red Bird.” Luke was touched and appreciated the uplifting symbolism of red birds. Lionel applauded her work with veterans using musical therapy. HunterGirl chose Rascal Flatts’ “Riot” for her final performance. It initially secured the platinum ticket during the auditions. Katy dubbed her “HunterWoman.” Luke has no doubt his protégé will go far.

Noah Thompson

Noah shined on “I’m on Fire.” Luke credited him for coming so far and bringing such humility to the process. The smalltown construction worker followed it up with his single “One Day Tonight.” Katy summed it up by saying “You came from working on the arc and from a place where all your heroes are from and you’re about to do something really big. Do not stop dreaming.” Noah came out swinging in the final round by bringing back his “Showstopper” week pick “Stay” by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko. Lionel was left with two words: That’s It. Katy and Luke loved the growth from when he last heard the song from him to now.

Leah Marlene

Leah was out first with “Cover Me,” a Springsteen track that Lionel felt she made her own. During round 2 she performed the original “Flowers.” Lionel gave props to the songwriting. An emotional Katy called Leah a brilliant messenger. Leah was emotional receiving the love, reflecting on the journey she took to the stage. 

Flo Rida & Top 10

The Miami hit-maker kicked off the show with “Good Feeling”  alongside the finalists on the rooftop of the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Earth, Wind & Fire & Jay Copeland

Jay was in his element with the legendary group as they performed “Let’s Groove” and “September.” The band also broke out another popular in “Shining Star.”

Deana Carter & Mike Parker

Mike Parker did pretty well on the show with “Strawberry Wine. So, it made sense for the R&B country crooner to duet for the finale with Deana herself.

Benn Platt & Lady K

Lady K joined the multi-faceted entertainer for Elton John’s “Take Me to the PIlot.” The transformation of Lady K has been truly incredible.

Gabby Barrett & Emyrson Flora

Gabby returned to the stage that first gave her the platform to superstardom. She sang her new hit “Pick Me Up.” This season’s youngster Emyrson joined Gabby on the smash “Good Ones.” Gabby’s husband and fellow alum Cade Foehner played guitar. 

Tai Verdes & Idol Contestants

Everything was “A-O-K” when Tai Verdes gave a fun collab with some finalists.

Sara Bareiles & Nicolina

Nicolina revisited “She Used to Be Mine” from earlier in the season with the artist herself. Magical stuff.

Thomas Rhett & Katy Perry

In a duet I didn’t know I needed, here is “Where We Started.” A match made in pop-country heaven. 

James Arthur & Fritz Hager

Fritz was in his element, guitar in hand, duetting with James on “Can I Be Him.”

Michael Bublé & Christian Guardino

Michael was true to his word after inviting Christian to join him for the finale a few weeks ago. They came together for the timeless “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin.

Melissa Etheridge & Noah Thompson

Noah got to rock out paired with one of the greats on Melissa’s “I’m the Only One.”

Lionel Richie & Top 10

It was a moment that was like a dad or teacher with all his kids or students. The talented group shared the stage with the Hall of Famer on “You Are.”

Ben Platt & Sara Bareilles

With Carrie unable to perform, we were treated to a collab of Ben’s “Grow As We Go.”

Katy Perry & Leah Marlene

The show aired footage of Leah performing “Firework” in 2011 on a school stage. Fast forward to today and Leah’s singing with Katy. If that ain’t American Idol, in a nutshell, don’t know what is. 

Luke Bryan & HunterGirl

HunterGirl has gone from performing at Luke’s place on Broadway in Nashville to actually stepping on stage with the judge. The two came together for Randy Travis’ “I Told You So.”

American Idol returns for another season in 2023 on ABC