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AI 20

It’s here. It’s now. It’s the grand finale of American Idol. The hit TV show’s 17th season – or Season 2 on ABC Network – is about to hit the final note tonight with one of the Top 3 that include the incredibly talented singer-songwriter Alejandro Aranda, Season 1 comeback king Laine Hardy, and powerhouse voiced Madison Vandenburg being crowned the new winner.

Expect the return of our finest group of Top 10 finalists – Wade Cota, Laci Kaye Booth, Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, Walker Burroughs, Alyssa Raghu, Dimitrius Graham and last but certainly not least Uche – and special guests that include famous Idol alum Adam Lambert who was also invited to mentor during Queen Night, Weezer, Dan + Shay and Idol‘s trio of judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. Note to Idol producers: WHY did you deny Season 1 champion Maddie Poppe a slot at the finale especially since she has a wonderful debut album Whirlwind that is charting high on iTunes!? Don’t you want to support your winners!?

Here I present you my Season 2 highlights in the form of my favorite Top 10 and Top 20 performances and brief notes on Season 2 itself.

TOP 3

Having Alejandro, Laine and Madison as the last three contestants standing is actually an inspired choice by America. If we look at the bigger picture, each win would give the show credibility. Alejandro and Laine are not only bringing the best of their musicality and natural charm onstage but also diversity, and either one of them winning would change the game in the American Idol universe. Laine has been a personal favorite of mine from last year besides Michael J. Woodard, Catie Turner and Garrett Jacobs (who got in over Laine back in the Top 24 announcement), so his transformation was truly impressive to see. Alejandro’s originals are testament to his massive talent and artistry. From “Out Loud” to “Cholo Love” and “Blesser”, he’s making music that his idol Bach would’ve been very proud to see, and America and the world are embracing him. Madison may only be 17 but she does have a stunning voice that’s suitable for today’s pop industry. Here are my favorite performances from the Top 3.

TOP 10

Laci Kaye Booth ~ This stunning lady always has a voice like crispy waffles. Delightfully raspy and all about the story in every lyric she conveys. So underrated! A modern Stevie Nicks. “Dreams” was one of my many Laci favorites. Ethereal, divine and out-of-this-world lovely.

Wade Cota ~ Wade has a very special voice and story. A unique performer, he always sings with so much sincerity. That signature rasp is one only he can pull off. He also shows a lot of support and appreciation for his fellow idols, and that shows how great he is as a person. Twas a pleasure seeing his transformation from his audition all the way to “Rocket Man” and his other Top 5 performances.

Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon ~ Divine and timeless voice! We’re all very lucky to have him on the show. A truly dedicated artist who always tells a story with every song, be it a cover or his own original “Almost Heaven”. One of the biggest robberies in the history of the show, but he is bound to be a success story. Even Sir Elton John has showered him with praises. He has a jazz EP on iTunes that I recommend. It showcases his versatility.

Walker Burroughs ~ Charming guy with a charming voice that’s reminiscent of the golden years of Idol, where males with velvety voices reigned. Idol viewers seem to have a problem with talented gingers, because eliminating Walker and Jeremiah within the span of a week was a big mistake. Need your Walker fix? I recommend his luminous original “The Moon Song”. Simply magical!

Alyssa Raghu ~ Like Laine, Alyssa has always been a fan fave dating back to Season 1, which made her return very inspiring. She did display a more intriguing side of her this year and really fought for her place on the show. The ultimate comeback queen and such a pop star!

Uche ~ Electric, exciting and enjoyable to watch. Mr. Uche’s performances pack a lot of punch. Bonus point: he really knows how to rock the stage. Him not making it to Queen Week was a travesty but he will prove America wrong, because he’s the entertainer the music industry needs.

Dimitrius Graham ~ He should always be in our hearts, ’cause he always puts his heart and soul in every performance. Plus Dimitrius is such a star name. The only way for him is up. Meechi gang forever! Look out for his duet with Adam Lambert at tonight’s finale.

MORE IDOLS

Evelyn Cormier ~ She’s got the voice of a goddess. Haunting, magical and ethereal. With a mix of Cher, Florence Welch and Alison Sudol, Evelyn truly has a divine and timeless sound. Personally, she’s my favorite female voice from this season. What a kind, divine personality too. She always finds a way to keep in touch with her supporters and treats them like friends, which is a wonderful bonus. I invite you to give her Ghost EP and other originals a listen.

Shawn Robinson ~ There’s something super special about Shawn’s voice. His acoustic version of “Who You Are” from the audition rounds was lovely, and his other performances like “Don’t You Worry About a Thing” and “Jealous” showed how versatile he can be. Had he been given the chance to advance to the Top 14, his growth arc would’ve been compelling to see. Still, he’s such a pop star, and I’m so ready for a Shawn record.

Ashley Hess ~ I’m sure we were all charmed by Ashley’s Idol debut: her Norah Jones cover that she sang in her audition – “Don’t Know Why”. Her voice is like syrup and honey, and there’s a singer-songwriter quality to her like Sara Bareilles. Honestly, she should’ve made it way farther than the Top 14. Like Sara, she will do big things in music. I would want a Sara x Ashley collab.

Ryan Hammond ~ One of the best male vocals out there. Ryan’s powerhouse voice sets him apart, and he always sings from his heart. Inspiring story as well. You can tell he’s got a big love of music, and his passion shows in every performance. I would want him (and Shawn) to be the comeback kings in the next Idol season, but no matter what, his talent is undeniable.

Kate Barnette ~ So refreshing, unique and relaxing. Kate is an original and deserves more appreciation. Her tone is delightful and gives you that blissful feeling. You can download her EP on iTunes and enjoy her original tunes.

Margie Mays ~ Miss Margie is mesmerizing. Her lively audition and her quirky personality have made her an instant fave. That talent got her into the elite Top 40, though her journey was short-lived when she did not make the Top 20, Margie is so unforgettable that it’s not a question why she gets an invite to tonight’s finale. Be sure to look out for her appearance.

NOTES

* My overall favorites: Jeremiah, Laine, Walker, Shawn, Alejandro, Uche, Wade, Dimitrius, Ryan, Evelyn, Laci, Ashley and Kate

* This season had one of the best Top 20 in American Idol history and is still one for the books. It all became a mess when America started to vote, but at the end, it still gave us a solid Final 3.

* No tour for this season, which is disappointing, especially considering most of the finalists are fan faves. Plus they can capitalize on Alejandro’s massive fanbase with him being the only contestant with tons of followers, more than anyone in the last five to six seasons.

* Like last year and the final FOX season, a rushed format with double eliminations per week didn’t give audiences enough time to get to know contestants. Hopefully with the budget they are saving for next year, we’ll be able to get longer live shows with single eliminations and proper farewell packages for all finalists.