On April 7, Mississippians Trent Harmon and La’Porsha Renae competed for the “American Idol” crown in a two- hour series finale that featured nostalgic performances and celebrated the series’ 15-season run.
The final showdown included a surprise appearance by the original panel of judges: Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.
Season one winner Kelly Clarkson, who could not make the show because of her late stages of pregnancy, pre- recorded a medley of some of her biggest hits.
Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and many other popular judges, winners and contestants made appearances throughout the night and sang several medleys.
Both the judges and audience reacted with surprise when the results were announced. Harmon, a 25-year-old Armory, MS native, was crowned the final winner. Renae, with her strong vocals and constant lauding from the judges, was the runner-up and had been a fan favorite until the end.
A farm boy and waiter at his family restaurant, Harmon had to train himself to not make faces when he sang and suffered with mononucleosis during Hollywood Week, so no one was more shocked than Harmon himself by the results, as he fell to the stage floor after host Ryan Seacrest called his name.
“I haven’t been able to breathe in almost a year,” Harmon said to USA Today. “I feel that in that moment, I got to decompress for the first time in almost a year.”
Scott Borchetta, American Idol mentor and Big Machine Records President, announced that he would be making a record deal with Renae as well, who he will sign to Big Machine Records/Motown as the first artist on the label.
Renae, who told Billboard reporters, “[I] kind of in a sense won for myself already,” talked about the sort of artist she hopes to be.
“The kind of artist I would like to be is definitely versatile,” she said. “I don’t like being boxed in or put into a genre. I just write what I feel, so I can’t specifically say. I just want to be an artist of truth, and an artist that stays true to herself.”
Renae was sad to see American Idol end and reminisced on its many positive attributes in a Billboard interview.
“American Idol just gave regular old normal people like me and like Trent a chance,” she said. “I mean, [Trent and I are] both from Mississippi. We didn’t know what we were doing when we got here. We didn’t know anything about this kind of life, and American Idol was definitely that platform, so I really am gonna miss it. It was the Cinderella story, from rags to riches.”
In his final sign-off, Seacrest said, “One more time – this is so tough – we say to you, from Hollywood, goodnight America … for now.”
Seacrest’s words caused much confusion and speculation and were clarified by Simon Fuller, American Idol creator.
“There will no doubt be another format or refinement or elevation of the format,” Fuller said to Billboard. “Now I can actually revamp it and come up with a new version. And we can look back on fifteen seasons and think of some legitimate ways to allow people to enjoy them again, maybe adding another dimension to it.”
Fuller has some new ideas for the future.
“My head is exploding with opportunities,” he said. “The next generation of ‘Idol’ — and ‘Idol’ will certainly be coming back for sure — will have a youthful glow and it will be pioneering again, just as it was when we first began.”