After three months, endless tears and triumphs and a massive three-hour, star-studded finale on Sunday night (May 19) that featured solo performances and collaborations with Weezer, Carrie Underwood, Dan + Shay, Daddy Yankee, Kool + The Gang, Idol alum Adam Lambert, Jon Pardi, Kane Brown and Montell Jordan, Laine Hardy emerged victorious as season 17's champ.
In a first, the winner was crowned in front of judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie after America voted in real time during the action-packed, 180-minute show, with Hardy having his hand raised in triumph by host Ryan Seacrest, besting Alejandro Aranda and Madison VanDenburg.
It was a tight competition between Pomona, California, dishwasher Aranda, 24, who consistently wowed the judges with his finger-picking guitar style and stunning original compositions sung in a keening falsetto, 18-year-old Livingston, Louisiana, student Hardy, who unexpectedly made it all the way to Sunday after auditioning for a second year in a row, charming the panel with his easy charm and charisma, and bubbly 17-year-old Cohoes, New York, student VanDenburg, who rode her consistency and powerful vocals all the way to the finale stage.
Hardy, who closed the show with his debut single "Flame," is the seventh 11th male finalist to win Idol. The other male winners include Ruben Studdard (season 2), Taylor Hicks (season 5), David Cook (season 7), Kris Allen (season 8), Lee DeWyze (season 9), Scotty McCreery (season 10), Phillip Phillips (season 11), Caleb Johnson (season 13), Nick Fradiani (season 14) and Trent Harmon (season 15). The women who have claimed victory include: Kelly Clarkson (season 1), Fantasia (season 3), Carrie Underwood (season 4), Jordin Sparks (season 6) and Maddie Poppe (season 16).