Last night (May 22), “American Idol” crowned a new champion. Noah Thompson, a 20-year-old from Louisa, Kentucky, clinched the title with a captivating performance of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and his original composition, “One Day Tonight.” He emerged victorious over fellow country artist HunterGirl.
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Following Thompson’s rendition of “I’m on Fire” from Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” album, judge Katy Perry hinted at his impending triumph. “So many people have fallen in love during that song, used it as their first-dance song,” she remarked. “I think you just swooped in and grabbed every heart in America by singing that song.”
Thompson additionally showcased Rihanna’s “Stay,” an unconventional choice he made earlier in the season, and delivered an impeccable duet with the powerhouse Melissa Etheridge for her hit, “I’m The Only One.”
“Oh my God… my heart is beating out of my chest, this is crazy,” exclaimed a stunned Thompson after being declared the winner.
Thompson’s triumph marks an extraordinary journey that commenced while he was working on a construction job, laying down sheetrock, and his friend Arthur enrolled him for the show’s virtual “Idol Across America” online auditions.
“As a kid, all I thought about was just playing music, being famous,” Thompson expressed in his initial “American Idol” audition. “But where I’m from, you don’t really get many opportunities. My family, they believe in me. The guys I work with believe in me. But I’ve just never believed in myself… I would have never signed myself up for something like this. I’ve never had that confidence. It’s pretty cool to know that somebody believes in you more than you believe in yourself.”
To his surprise, he advanced through that round and secured a spot in an audition in front of the judges, who also recognized something special in Thompson.
Week after week, Thompson discovered his unique voice, whether through the bluegrass vibes of The Steeldrivers’ “Blue Side of the Mountain” or by diverging from the country norm with Harry Styles’ “Falling.” His musical journey continued with Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.”
In the show’s 20th season since its debut on Fox in 2002, “Idol” judge Luke Bryan threw a curveball at Thompson, assigning him John Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare.” Perry quipped, “Who’s going to pay for an extra hour of therapy?” as Thompson, unaware of Perry and Mayer’s past relationship, thought Perry chose the song for him.
Disney Week added a special touch as the at-home audience witnessed Thompson’s surprise reunion with his girlfriend, Angel, and son in Disneyland. This led to an adorable performance of “You’ve Got A Friend in Me,” dedicated to Arthur.
However, Thompson’s standout moment occurred during quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19. Despite the challenges, he delivered moving performances from his hotel room, including “Painted Blue” by Sunday Best and Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” dedicated to his grandmother.
“You know, when you’re sick, you’re sounding a lot better,” remarked judge Lionel Richie. By May 15, Thompson had recovered but was still obligated to participate in his mentor session with Carrie Underwood via Zoom. For his shot at the top three, he tackled the ambitious “So Small” and Larry Fleet’s “Working Man.”
In the final standings for the finale, HunterGirl, 23, secured the second spot with “Dancing in the Dark,” her original song “Red Bird,” and a reprise of “Riot.” Leah Marlene, 20, claimed third place after performing “Cover Me,” a Springsteen song Richie deemed too obscure.
Richie emphasized, “I’m telling you, it is important: Song choice is everything now. Familiarity — you want the audience to be singing along with you.”