The Iowa native has been a fan favorite with her folksy vocals and became this season’s winner of the reality singing competition revived by ABC in March.
The judges have spoken, and it’s time for America to decide who will be crowned the next “American Idol.” As ABC’s reboot of the singing competition enters its final weeks with two more eliminations Sunday (8 EDT/PDT) – after a night of inspirational “showstoppers” and songs from the 1969 Woodstock music festival – we rank the top 6 contestants.
6. Laine Hardy
Laine has all the makings of an “Idol” champion, with devilish good looks that earn him votes from younger female fans and a throwback singing style that appeals to older, more conservative viewers. But he’s also the blandest of the bunch and has yet to show us much personality outside of the hip-swiveling Elvis persona he trots out weekly.
5. Alejandro Aranda
Look, we realize we could do a lot worse than Alejandro, this season’s viral sensation who’s now widely predicted to win, according to online polls. And like many of you, we were mesmerized by his early performances, in which he stripped songs down to their bare bones and rearranged them to fit his mellow, coffeehouse vibe. But dexterous guitar skills and warbling falsetto can get you only so far, and Aranda has quickly turned into a one-trick pony who seems content to rest on his laurels rather than stretch himself as an artist.
4. Wade Cota
It’s impossible not to root for Wade, the gravelly voiced teddy bear from Phoenix who endured a rough upbringing and got his start in a metal band. His wildly different song choices are hit and miss – he blew the roof off “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” last week, only to fall flat with “We Are the Champions” – but it has been a joy to watch him gain confidence over the course of the season.
3. Laci Kaye Booth
Far and away the most distinct remaining contestant, Laci has smoky vocals and mature stage presence give her a timelessness reminiscent of last year’s “Idol” winner, Maddie Poppe. But like Maddie, who has spoken openly about her struggles adjusting to the spotlight, Laci’s sweet, unassuming personality could hinder her ambitions as a crossover country superstar.
2. Madison Vandenburg
At just 17, Madison is already a force of nature. With Top 10 finalist Uche now out of the running, she’s easily the most dynamic performer left, comfortably moving around the stage and playfully connecting with the live audience. She’s also a vocal powerhouse, with a thrilling belt that has rightfully been compared to original “Idol” champ Kelly Clarkson’s. Even if she doesn’t snag the crown, we hope for (and expect) a long career ahead for this natural talent.
1. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
Believe it or not, there has never been an openly gay “Idol,” although Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken each came close during the show’s original Fox run. That could very well change this year with Jeremiah, whose coming-out story and struggle for acceptance from his religious parents has been this season’s emotional through line. While important, the focus on his personal life has occasionally overshadowed just how gifted he is as a singer and songwriter. His original song “Heaven” is leagues better than any coronation anthem “Idol” has given its winners at the end of each season. And no contestant more consistently imbues every lyric with as much raw feeling as Jeremiah, whose crystalline, soul-stirring voice is endlessly listenable. He may not have Laine’s roguish charm or Alejandro’s recognizable shtick, but Jeremiah absolutely has our vote.
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