“American Idol” Season 21 delivered another shocker during its tense finale.
Sunday’s three-hour telecast, broadcast live coast-to-coast on ABC, saw the final three contestants – Megan Daniel, Colin Stough and Iam Donkey – each take the final stage to receive votes from the audience. Judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie delivered comments as usual, but in this final stage of the competition, all they could offer was praise and well wishes as the singers left the show to embark on their musical careers.
The final trio performed two songs each: one with guest mentor Keith Urban and another as a tribute to their hometowns. Later, host Ryan Seacrest revealed which contestants made it to the top 2, and the singers went head-to-head with original songs. After a rendition of Urban’s “Making Memories of Us,” Donkey chanted his name, Daniel Belted Journey to Heaven with the classic, and Stuff brought his good ‘ol country boy charm to Chris Stapleton’s triumph.
Here are the highlights, including the winner:
Megan Daniel rose with the Journey Classic
He opened the show by borrowing from his religious roots in Daniel Urban’s “God Whispered Your Name.”
Daniel said he chose the song because it conveys 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 negativity in my head and have fun.”
Judges praised the 21-year-old server, with Richie praising her signature “cry” in her singing voice. “That’s all,” he snarled. “As far as I’m concerned, we have three No. 1s on this stage tonight.”
Perry added: “Our work here is done, because that’s the prize.”
Bryan said he never heard Daniels “make a bad vocal decision” during the entire match. “You’ve done it your way stylistically,” he added. “Watching you grow is inspiring.”
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Daniel returned to his hometown of Douglasville, Georgia for Journey’s “Faithfully.”
To say she killed it is an understatement. Her soaring voice wowed the crowd on the song’s climax, 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 passed this class.”
Iam Donkey Chants His Name With Keith Urban Hit
Donkey gave a smooth, groovy rendition of Urban’s “Remembering Us.” “Every time you come and sing, the vibe that comes out of your mouth, it goes through the weeds of people’s hearts,” Perry said.
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Brian described Donkey’s talent as “a natural gift from God”.
Kolohe Kai, an 18-year-old high school student, returned to dedicate “Cool Down” to his hometown of Kahuku, Hawaii.
“Iam, you are the culture,” Perry said after the touching performance. “Welcome to heaven, friend.”
Colin Stuff brings country boy charm to the Chris Stapleton classic
Stuff performed to Urban’s “Stupid Boy” and the audience was mesmerized by his gruff vocals.
“You’ve grown into your artistic look, your style,” Brian said. “You’ve come a long way from the kid who walked in the audition.”
“That was so sweet, Colin,” Perry said, appreciating the softness in his voice.
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The 18-year-old HVAC technician later performed Stapleton’s song “Either Way” as a tribute to his hometown of Amory, Mississippi.
“What I love about you is that you’re a lot better than you first thought,” Brian told Stowe, who praised him for growing into a country music star.
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On “American Idol,” it’s become somewhat of a norm for gritty country crooners to take the competition to victory, as Noah Thompson did last year and Choice Beckham the year before.
That’s why the studio audience let out a collective gasp when host Seacrest announced that Stowe had been eliminated after a nationwide vote, leaving Donkey and Daniel as the finalists.
Iam Donkey breaks down on stage and makes Katy Perry cry with a James Blunt duet
As usual, the “Idol” finale included plenty of filler as viewers patiently waited to find out the winner.
A medley with Lucy Love and TLC featured performances from former contestants, including a Brian-Stuff duet on the Conway Twitty classic “Slow Hand” and a duet between Daniel and one of his musicians, Lauren Daigil, on Daigil’s “Thank You.” God I do.” Perry and Haven Madison delivered a moving mashup of Madison’s original song “Still Need You” and Perry’s “By the Grace of God.”
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But the most heart-wrenching performance came from Donkey and James Blunt in Blunt’s “Monsters.” Donkey auditioned for the judges with a song he sang as a tribute to his late father.
Donkey became emotional during the performance, breaking down in tears and unable to sing at times. Perry was also screaming behind the judges’ table.
Will the special moment be enough to push Donkey over the edge to win the match?
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Iam Tongi, Megan Danielle face off in an intense final 2 showdown
Donkey and Daniel took the stage one last time to sing their original songs, recorded and released by “Idol”. Daniel belted out “Dream Girl” and Donkey sang his “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
After the final commercial break, the votes were locked, and Seacrest revealed the winner.
It was Tongi. He sang Spawnbreezy’s “Don’t Let Go” and was showered with confetti as his fellow contestants rushed to the stage. He is the first non-country singer to win the show in three years.
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