American Idol Series Finale Recap: Did the Right Contestant Win? Plus: TVLine's Series Finale Awards!

American Idol Trent Wins

Kieran, turn out the lights.

Our American Idol “journey” has come to an end, but let us not weep for what’s been cancelled, let us instead go to iTunes and download the Season 15 winner’s new single. Hey, from a songwriting vantage point, it may not be “Home,” but it definitely ranks above “No Boundaries” and “Inside Your Heaven” — and we bought those, too. And if this show can produce one more bona fide radio/touring superstar, maybe the inevitable reboot will happen sooner than expected, no?

While we’re in download mode, maybe we can all pick up an album or a song by Kimberly Caldwell, Kimberley Locke, Fantasia, J.Hud, Aloha Mischeaux, Elliot Yamin, Melinda Doolittle, Blake Lewis, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Brooke White, Carly Smithson, Alexis Grace, Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta (and her badass band Halo Circus), Megan Joy, Mishavonna Henson, Lee DeWyze, Crystal Bowersox, Didi Benami, Katelyn EpperlyHaley “The Slayer” Reinhart, Stefano Langone, Kendra Chantelle, Deanna Brown, Pia Toscano, Paul McDonald, Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips, Joshua Ledet, Skylar Laine, Elise Testone, Erika Van Pelt, Candice Glover, Kree Harrison, Janelle Arthur, Jena Irene, Jessica Meuse, Nick Fradiani, Rayvon Freakin’ Owen, Joey Cook, Quentin Alexander, Savion Wright, Jax, MacKenzie Bourg, Trent Harmon, Dalton Rapattoni, La’Porsha Renae, and Michael Johns (R.I.P., buddy — and a raised middle finger to whomever decided the finale couldn’t spare five seconds to acknowledge his passing). Oh, and (not that they needs the sales boost) but you really can’t go wrong with some Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or Chris Daughtry, either.


I’ve got jams from each and every one of those artists in my iTunes library — click those hotlinked names if you want help building your own playlist. And while it’s going to be hard to see them pave over The House That Kelly Clarkson Built and put up a parking lot (aka probably something less funny than Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life), as long as the aforementioned names are still SANGIN‘ and writing and taking home Oscars, then American Idol will never die.

The Season 15 finale went heavy on nostalgia and light on its current finalists — La’Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon, a powerhouse duo worthy of having their names etched in stone alongside Kris-Adam, Candice-Kree, Kelly-Justin and all those formidable duos from the past 14 years. (Season 15’s third-through-10th-place performers were all but locked in their dressing rooms.) And while part of me is bitter that Fox chose to pull the plug in early April rather than mid-May — fumbling the opportunity to bring back all these crazy-talented alumni for full performances rather than quick song snippets – I still found myself fighting back tears of joy over the entire two-hour telecast.

Pretty much every Idol grad who took the stage proved utterly delightful — doing proud the legacy of the show that launched them into their careers as musicians.

Let’s not talk about “Seacrest out” (too soon) or J.Lo’s “Ain’t Yo Mama” (too ridiculous). Let’s instead get to the results. Ryan, you wanna do the honors?

“After the nationwide vote, the winner of American Idol Season 15 is… Trent Harmon!”

La’Porsha is our runner-up.

Our winner is on the floor, sobbing like a baby and trying to get through his new single “Falling.” (He barely does, but that puts him in company with pretty much all the prior winners of the show, no?)

Oh and what in the actual hell? Ryan is telling us, “We say to you from Hollywood, ‘Good night, America… for now.” RYAN, YOU ALREADY UNLEASHED THE KARDASHIANS ON US — DO NOT PLAY WITH OUR EMOTIONS, MISTER!

Before I turn it over to you, let me hand out some American Idol Series Finale Awards, yes?

I wasn’t expecting President Barack Obama’s pre-taped intro — although I probably should’ve — but regardless of your political leaning, you’ve got to give POTUS credit for deftly using the end of Fox’s fan-driven as a jumping-off point to remind viewers that “voting [for elected officials, not just reality-show singers] is the most fundamental and sacred right in our democracy.”

I love Trent. I love La’Porsha. But the choice of “It Takes Two” — a nod to Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini’s Season 1 finale duet – didn’t bring out the best in either of their voices. (And shouldn’t that qualification have trumped all else when it came to choosing their ditty?)

Trent Harmon + Black Leather Pants = Alrighty, then!

OK, so his “looks like tonight, you’re out of a job” jab at Seacrest wasn’t the freshest, but let’s give a slow clap to Brian Dunkleman for not only poking a little fun at himself, but unexpectedly squeezing a tear or two from my eyes when he went in for a hug with his erstwhile co-host.

Had the telecast been the six-hour extravaganza of our dreams, maybe finale producer Nigel Lythgoe could’ve justified passing the mic to two-season judge Kara DioGuardi, the woman who wrote “No Boundaries” and droned on endlessly about “package artists.” But seeing as there were several winners, runners-up and third-place finishers who barely got a solo note (or didn’t make the stage at all), Kara’s rendition of “Sober” was as welcome as a raspberry seed in the back tooth.

Carrie Underwood kinda stole the number, but props to Keith for choosing a duet (“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”) and choosing a preternaturally talented alum to join him!

BIGGEST FINISHING-POSITION-TO-AIRTIME DISCREPANCY | Congrats to Season 11’s 7th-place finisher Colton Dixon for scoring a slot to showcase his single “Through All of It,” but the decision seemed… perplexing, considering that actual Idol winners Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze were in the house, have fresh singles on iTunes and never got an opportunity to perform ’em during the course of the season.

MOST SATISFYING SOLO | After working all season as a background vocalist for the in-house Idol band, Season 8’s incomparable Allison Iraheta finally stepped into the spotlight during the pop-songs medley — and her vocal on Meghan Trainor’s “No” proved jaw-droppingly good. Now, here’s hoping the millions of folks who tuned in will check out her band Halo Circus when they tour the states this summer.

Tackling “All By Myself” on a live broadcast is like running upstairs in a horror movie: It never ends well. But brave, beautiful Pia Toscano ripped into the devastating ballad as easily as I just tore open a bag of Smartfood — Ugh. #LifeChoiceFail — and reminded us why her early ouster in Season 10 remains one of the greatest injustices in show history.

A pregnant Kelly Clarkson’s pre-taped medley was predictably perfect — but damn, her a cappella ending on “A Moment Like This” had me looking like I’d just taken a chainsaw to the world’s largest onion.

CRUELEST TWIST | I’m pretty sure I saw Top 5 finishers Dalton Rapattoni, MacKenzie Bourg and Sonika Vaid lurking in the shadows, but was there really no time for any of ’em to get the standard all-star duet treatment? And even if there was no way around those disses, shouldn’t Trent and La’Porsha, at least, have gotten one more performance apiece on the Idol stage — perhaps paired with current chart-toppers who could’ve helped to get ’em get a little added buzz on Friday’s morning-show express.

Bo Bice — almost unerecongnizable with buzzed hair and glasses… that is, until his trademark rocker howl kicked in on his Idol standard “Vehicle.”

No disrespect to Bo, James Durbin, Caleb Johnson, Constantine Maroulis and Chris Daughtry — who proved loud and fun and raucous on a medley of guitar-heavy hits. But how come their female counterparts Carly Smithson, Elise Testone, Jena Irene Asciutto, Amanda Overmyer (and Allison and Carrie, for that matter) weren’t invited to the party? Did Nigel not get the memo that you don’t need a penis to rock out?

I dug the country a lot — though where the heck was Janelle Arthur? — but I wish that Scotty McCreery and Kellie Pickler (if not Kree Harrison and Lauren Alaina) had been allowed to show off their own originals rather than covering other people’s hits.

Heck, if Nicki Minaj managed to tape a goodbye message to the show she judged for one season, how come Mariah Carey couldn’t take 30 seconds out of her schedule, daaahhhhlings, and do the same? Actually, scratch my righteous indignation. Had producers been forced to squeeze her in, we might not have gotten that “Pants on the Ground” dude cutting into Allison’s performance. (Sorry — I have chronic active bitch face!)

It lasted all of 30 seconds, but Carly Smithson’s “Here You Come Again” — accompanied by a simple harp — was monumentally, inarguably, life-alteringly beautiful. It made me weep — and wonder if the badass Irishwoman is going to get back in the studio — since it’s been more than a minute since her time as frontwoman for We Are the Fallen.

The juxtaposition of Jessica Sanchez’s fragile upper register and booming glory notes on “The Prayer” actually took my breath away… and then got me next-level furious, since far less talented vocalists than her are currently occupying her rightful place on Billboard’s Hot 100.

No, I still don’t think William Hung’s “She Bangs” is funny. But J.Lo’s ridiculous new single “Ain’t Yo Mama” — performed in skimpy maid drag — sure gave me a giggle. The exiting judge’s Vegas-tastic “Let’s Get Loud” was better — and also not as obviously lip-synched as the preceding track — but must all of the Shade of Blue star’s on-stage moments include that bent-over, booty-up-and-out, looking-through-my-legs-and-into-the-audience ridiculousness?

I’m gonna need Season 3’s “three divas” – Fantasia, J.Hud and La Toya London — to drop everything on their schedules, go directly to the nearest recording studio and cut a 23-minute, a cappella version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” You feel me on this one, Idoloonie nation, don’tcha? The only way it could’ve been better had been if Melinda Doolittle and Candice Glover jumped in, too.

Oooh, I think Fantasia got herself a song worthy of her all-time-greatest abilities. (Yep, I’m listening to “Ugly” on repeat as I write this.)

Joshua Ledet definitely “caught the ghost,” as the saying goes, on “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” I mean, talk about going from zero to 60 in 5 seconds. [Insert praise hands and fire emojis here.]

STRANGEST CHOICE OF MATERIAL THAT MANAGED TO WORK ANYHOW | The David Bowie medley for previous winners David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Phillip Phillips and Nick Fradiani seemed to not quite fit any of their aesthetics, but the dudes sounded really good in spite of it.

LEAST EFFECTIVE SUPPORT OF A SPONSOR | I know they were probably fighting down nausea and sweating as they waited to hear the final results, but Trent and La’Porsha greeted the news of getting new Ford Focuses with all the excitement of my five-year-old twins finding Brussels sprouts on their dinner plates.

LEAST-SURPRISING CAMEO | Oh, come ON, we all knew Simon Cowell was going to make an appearance — so how come Ryan, Paula and a hideously bespectacled Randy dragged out the ruse for so long that he wasn’t in the building?

So you have Melinda Doolittle and Candice Glover on the stage — both of whom have to rank on any sane person’s list of the Top 5 most naturally gifted vocalists in show history — and let them literally set the stage on fire with their celebratory take on “Joy to the World.” But why, Uncle Nigel, didn’t this go on for at least three (or 30) minutes? And why did you let all those other singers jump in to the background when I WAS TRYING TO PROPERLY HAVE A MOMENT WITH MY QUEENS?! (Side note: Can we also agree my Reality Check co-host’s body looked absolutely bangin’? Melinda, get Seacrest’s digits while you’re on the west coast, mmmkay?)

Your turn. What did you think of the Idol series finale? Grade it in our poll below, then sound off in the comments with your thoughts on the telecast — and Trent’s win!

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