• December 9, 2023

‘American Idol’ crowns winner, judges talk Arthur Gunn not performing

“American Idol” has crowned a winner after an exciting season finale.

The final three entrants, Grace Kinstler, Willie Spence and Chayce Beckham, made their last appearance on the “Idol” stage during Sunday’s show, which aired live from coast to coast on ABC. As always judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan offered feedback – but in the end it was the fans who voted from home who decided the winner.

Previous contestants from this season also returned, giving multiple performances to fill the three-hour show. However, the former runner-up was missing from among them Arthur Gunnwho returned to competition with a comeback this season. At the last minute, former candidate Graham DeFranco stood up for a duet with Sheryl Crow.

“He literally came to cheer,” Bryan said of DeFranco during a virtual Q&A post show. “He was there to support Chayce and we pull him out of the crowd and say, ‘You’re going to sing with Sheryl Crow.’ And he says, “Hell, yes!” “”

As to why Gunn was absent, Richie said the judges “don’t even know what happened.” Perry agreed that “American Idol” is “a spicy show”.

“It’s a three-hour live show. And honestly, we’ve had a very colorful season. Curveballs galore,” she continued. “But Graham DeFranco? I mean, I killed it. Sang so well and I was so glad he was there.”

Here’s what happened, including the surprise return of a fan favorite:

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Grace Kinstler

The 20-year-old Kinstler was the first to take the stage with Celine Dion’s “All by Myself”. Perry said the judges selected this song for the student so that, in addition to her powerful voice, she could show her vulnerability.

And according to the judges, Kinstler may have outdone Dion with her rendering.

“You not only took that higher than Celine even sings it,” Perry marveled. “This is a connecting song and, phew, I felt you.”

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Kinstler later returned with Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” after watching a touching video of her visit to her hometown in Illinois. During their visit, Kinstler read personal notes and reflections that her father had handwritten before his death.

The young singer started the classic song a cappella before building up to a booming crescendo with full accompaniment.

“Look,” Perry told the audience. “If you think your favorites are safe and you don’t vote, think again. Grace was just singing out her heart. I don’t want you to complain on Twitter if you want Grace to win.”

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For Spence's first song, the judges asked him to do Ray Charles'

Willie Spence

For Spence’s first song, the judges asked him to sing Ray Charles’ “Georgia on my Mind”. Bryan complimented the caretaker for bringing the crowd to the contestant’s home state with his smooth, jazzy performance.

“I can smell magnolias,” Bryan exclaimed. “We’re at the finals and you’ve been delivering since the day you auditioned. You’ve delivered every time, and I see you do that for the rest of your life, mate.”

Spence’s second performance, however, was the place where the waterworks could develop its full power. Spence sang Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” following an emotional video of him in his hometown of Douglas, Georgia, of the candidate holding his mother sobbing with joy in his arms.

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Perry, who became a mother herself last year, was a puddle of tears by the end of the song.

“We’re so proud of you. And then seeing you with your mother melted my heart. I love you,” she said, while choking.

21-year-old Spence started crying too, so Perry went on stage and was no longer socially aloof to offer him a handkerchief.

“It’s amazing,” said Spence’s mother from the audience, sobbing. “I just love him.”

Chayce Beckham, 24, selected the judges

Chayce Beckham

Beckham, 24, played The Beatles’ selection of judges “Blackbird”. According to Perry, the judges “chose this song for you because it is a classic, small, but powerful song”.

Richie praised the operator for his identifiable sound, while Bryan promised to hang out after the show.

“I’m telling you,” Bryan said to the gruff country crooner. “Me and you, you’ve earned your bass fishing trip. Book the date. We have it. Win or lose.”

In a video before his second appearance, Beckham returned to his hometown in the Apple Valley, California desert and got emotional while pondering how far he had come in his life. Beckham was open about his struggles with alcohol before “Idol” on the show.

He then sang Chris Stapleton’s “Fire Away” and was highly praised by the judges.

“Sometimes God has to turn the volume up in your life to see if you listen,” Perry said. “And you listen. So, Chayce, keep listening.”

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Before Seacrest announced the winner, previous entrants took the stage with celebrity artists such as Fallout Boy, Chaka Khan and Sheryl Crow.  Among the fillers was the return of Murphy, who won the hearts of fans before his shocking cut ahead of the top 24.

Murphy Medley stands out among the finalists

Before Seacrest announced the winner, previous entrants took the stage with celebrity artists such as Fallout Boy and Chaka Khan. Among them was the return of Murphy, who won the hearts of fans before his shocking cut ahead of the top 24.

The elimination “sent shock waves across the” idol “sphere,” said Seacrest, noting the Twitter outrage that erupted following the judges’ decision.

“I’ll talk to my lawyers!” Perry exclaimed as each judge jokingly blamed the other two for the unpopular verdict.

But during the finale, Murphy got his time on the big “Idol” stage, playing original songs “Am I Still Mine?” and “The Painted Man”. After the medley, the participant was just as humble and grateful as at the beginning of the season.

“Thank you,” he said. “It’s good to see you all again.”

The last two did it

The final two went to Spence and Beckham, with each singer giving one more solo performance before Seacrest announced the winner.

Beckham took afterglow from Ed Sheeran, which Perry sang “like a rock star”.

“Congratulations twice,” added Richie. “One to survive this amazing class of 2021 and second, welcome to your career. You have an amazing future, my friend. We are very proud of you.”

Spence played a rousing performance of Cynthia Erivo’s “Stand Up,” which he sang earlier this season, to the great praise of the judges.

The judges thanked Spence for the “Idol” blessing with his vote.

“We just love you,” said Bryan. “We love that voice and I love where it comes from. It comes from God and it comes from a soul within me that I pray that one day I can find it.”

And the winner is….

Eventually, Seacrest announced the results, revealing Beckham as the winner. He started a performance of his original song “23” to celebrate.

“This win means everything, not just to me, but to my family as well,” Beckham said on a virtual Q&A post-show, hoping his win can inspire other workers.

“That’s what I’ll do it for,” he continued. “It’s for these people. To me it’s the world, but I know it means more to these people. To have a champion in that sense.”


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