American Idol season 14 came down to WGWGs Nick Fradiani and Clark Beckham and tonight (May 13), one was named the latest winner of the long-running talent competition. Months of auditions, performances and live shows all led to Nick following up Caleb Johnson as the winner of the show.
But first... we had two hours of performances and celebrations in store.
The show kicked off with a really cool montage, reminding us of the WGWG-ness of Clark and Nick as they busked "Tom's Diner" on the side of the stage. Soon, you remembered that OH YEAH... Fall Out Boy sampled the Suzanne Vega classic for "Centuries," and because FOB cannot turn down a promotional appearance these days, they opened up the show performing that American Beauty/American Psycho single.
Though Janelle Monae was present at the finale, it turned out she wasn't performing a duet with Tyanna Jones, breaking my heart because HOW PERFECT WOULD THAT HAVE BEEN?! Instead, she just had to perform with The Jacksons. Not to discount the legendary family, but you know... the performance wasn't wholly in Tyanna's vocal range which is a real shame to the talents that she has, but it was so fun to see her back on stage. I missed her infectious teen presence. And she can do that old school choreography so insanely well.
The women of season 14 (remember Maddie Walker? Adanna Duru? Sarina-Joi Crowe?) joined with Nile Rogers and Chic for a medley of funky hits. The boys, meanwhile, got to perform alongside Ricky Martin for a medley of his hits. After he performed his new single "Put It Down" (like, really, who cares), it was a best-hits game with "Livin' La Vida Loca," "She Bangs" and "Cup of Life." The only question was... where was William Hung? If this was the promised all-star final season 15, you KNOW he would show up.
Maybe it's for the best that Tyanna was unable to perform with Janelle Monae, because when it was time for Adanna Duru to perform with her for "Yoga," she was little more than a glorified backup singer, sometimes being fully eclipsed by Ms. Monae. Embarrassing.
Joey Cook redeemed the ladies of Idol by joining Echosmith for "Cool Kids." It's a wonder that she never performed this song by herself on this season because it was so in line with what she does, and her voice blended in with the rest of the band's perfectly. My goodness, did I miss your quirky self on this show. (Remember when the contestants had personality?!)
It was also so refreshing to see Joey's BFF Quentin Alexander back on stage, performing "Riptide" with Vance Joy. Like Joey, his artistry was always so much fun to watch onstage, and it was such a shame that he got voted off in the manner that he did. That being said, he showed 'em what's what tonight.
And, had he been on any other reality competition, you just know that Daniel Seavy would have ended up in a boy band, a la One Direction or Emblem 3. So, it really came full circle for this lil' whippersnapper when he got to perform a medley with New Kids on the Block. Was the pitch off throughout the whole performance from all six guys?! Yes. But that was always kind of Daniel's thing (and to a certain extend, NKOTB's too). It was just nice to see him where he belongs.
As for Qaasim Middleton, he got his turn back on Idol with a pre-taped performance from Pitbull and Chris Brown. And by pre-taped, we don't just mean that it was filmed earlier in the day (though it apparently was). We mean that until Qaasim hit the stage, this performance was horribly lip synced. Luckily, Qaasim didn't just bring a dance-off to the show (when he delightfully held his own), we also got live singing! On a singing show!
After her shocking elimination last night, Jax finally made an appearance on the finale performing with Steven Tyler. At first, the former Idol judge performed his new "country" single "Love Is Your Name," and then magic happened when Jax joined him for a cover of "Piece of Your Heart." The performance was less of a duet and more of a match of screaming and performance, which we know Jax can do. She and Steven owned the stage, eventually taking over the judges' table for a mosh pit. WONDERFUL. Jax also gave us "closure" from the night before, thanking the judges and her fans for giving her the chance of the top three on Idol.
After a series of exciting performances, it was time for the finalists themselves to actually perform. In a feat of ultimate whiteness, Clark Beckham performed "Taking It to the Streets" with Michael McDonald. They dueled on pianos and crooned and it was super dated, but that's what we got with this dude.
Nick also got his turn on the microphone, reliving his performance last week of "Back Home" with Andy Grammer himself. Because he's comfortable in this song, Nick was, well, back home with this. They soon transitioned to Grammer's new single "Honey I'm Good." The song itself was awkward as hell, but you know this is exactly what Nick will do, so it worked out well enough.
The judges also got in on the action. Jennifer Lopez joined Pitbull and Prince Royce on stage for a performance that was not at all lip synced and totally live. Fellow judge Keith Urban later took the stage for a performance of "Even the Stars Fall 4 U" in something that was genuinely live and engaging! Yay KU!
At the end of the show, Harry Connick Jr. joined JLo and Urban for a stripped down performance of Rihanna's "Diamonds," wherein Jenny from the Block was looking as glamorous as ever. They turned it back up pretty quickly, with Urban and Lopez teaming up on "Locked Out of Heaven."
And then... after months of competition and 121 minutes of waiting... the lights were dimmed and NICK FRADIANI was named the big winner of American Idol season 14.
His confidence, his slow build... it all led to this moment. And, as he weepily went into the arms of his father, well, you can't help but feel like it's a "Beautiful Life," indeed.