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Who won the final 'American Idol' featuring 50 alums, cheesetastic group sings, tears

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Thursday, April 7, 2016

The winner of the final "American Idol" is Trent Harmon.

"I worked so hard," said a tearful Trent. "I know I have a God-given ability. I didn't take it for granted. She pushed me to do it."

He beat La'Porsha Renae in what I presume was a close fight. While she was a favorite from early on, Trent rose to the occasion near the end with some incredible performances. He really grew on me. By the end, I don't get a sense people would be disappointed with either.

My colleague Gracie Bond Staples grew up in La'Porsha's hometown. Her latest column about her.

But tonight was really all about the alums. And executive producer Nigel Lythgoe came back to direct the show tonight and did a fabulous job. The cheesy group sings, the fun combos, the blink-and-you-missed-it alum appearances.

I teared up four times tonight, notably the opener, when Kelly sang "A Moment Like This" and the end when Ryan Seacrest could barely keep it together.

"We've had some incredible talent on the show like that," Seacrest said in the closing moments after Trent sang his coronation song. "Whether it's the stars we created or the judges behind the desk. The real reasons our lives have changed forever is you at home. We know that. We appreciate that. And one more time, this is so tough. We say to you from Hollywood goodnight America.... for now."

We all know Fox or some other network will bring "Idol" back at some point in the future. Seacrest even teased it by saying "goodbye... for now." It might be three years, five years, eight years, but it will happen. But the original is the original and this is the only time we can truly celebrate the Kelly Clarkson era.

Will Scott Borchetta be able to turn Trent into a star? Who knows? Good luck with that, Scott.

Opening: Pres. Barack Obama gives the speech and encourages people to vote like they did on "Idol." "I believe it should be almost as easy as voting on 'American Idol' and I'm working on that," he said. "Not everyone can sing like Kelly Clarkson but everyone's voice matters."

Even better opening: "Idol" reprises "One Voice" starting with La'Porsha, then the top three, then season 10. Then Kat McPhee and more and more. Yes, even Mikalah Gordon as well as Diana DeGarmo and Tamyra Gray.

The Dunk has a sense of humor:  "Looks like after tonight you're gonna be out of a job," he said to Ryan Seacrest. "Trust me. Nobody knows the pain of life without Idol more than me. Don't worry, buddy. Being unemployed is not that bad."

Seacrest: "I actually have a radio gig and other stuff going on..."

Dunk: "That's what I said, too."

Seacrest: "What brings you here tonight?"

Dunk: "I just wanted to congratulate the show for struggling 14 more seasons without me." He then sincerely congratulated Seacrest for his fine work hosting the show and hugged him.


Take two: La'Porsha and Trent reprise "It Takes Two" that Justin and Kelly did 14 years ago. Hopefully, they had a better handle on the words. (Apparently, that was a last-second add during the first finale.)

Stephen Tyler says wha???: Not sure if his pre-taped video made any sense whatsoever!

Kara DioGuardi returns: She sings a Pink song "Sober" with Jordin Sparks and Tamyra Gray. She's not bad but there's a reason she's a songwriter and not a performer.

Colton Dixon! Season 11 finalist Dixon has become a Christian pop star and sings part of his single "Through All of It."

Duet time: Jordin joins Justin Guarini on her biggest hit "No Air."

Season 2 recall: Kimberley Locke, third place finisher season two, sings her big hit "Eighth World Wonder."

Tamyra baby! Season one fourth place finisher and former Atlantan works "Girl Crush" from Little Big Town.

No backup: Allison Iraheta from season 8 has been doing back up but "Idol" gave her front stage for quite awhile. Good for her! Then Larry Platt of Atlanta did a bit of "Pants on the Ground." This was followed by more Allison, who deserved some lead time. Then Pia Toscano brought back "All By Myself." Phew!  So much going on!

How many hits did she have? After the break, Kelly Clarkson was pre-taped to sing a medley.  (Too pregnant to be there for the finale unfortunately.) She does bits of "Miss Independent," "The Trouble With Love Is," "Breakaway," "Since U Been Gone," "Behind These Hazel Eyes," "Because of You," "Walk Away," "My Life Would Suck Without You," "Already Gone," "Don't You Wanna Stay," "Stronger," "Heartbeat Song," "Invincible" and... "A Moment Like This."  I got teary eyed watching her bring back the original coronation song, however cheeseball it is.

Rockers rock it: Bo Bice with short hair begins a six-minute medley of hard rock tunes with James Durbin, Chris Daughtry, Constantine Maroulis and Caleb Johnson. This was a true "Idol" super group.

Petty/Nicks, take that! Keith Urban joins Carrie Underwood for a little "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." Carrie sounds and looks fabulous. She was always a rock chick at heart!

Sanjaya alert: He brought back the faux hawk, just for the heck of it.

Country ladies and guys: Not all of them are truly country but close enough. Diana DeGarmo, Skylar Laine, Kree Harrison do Taylor Swift. Then Bucky Covington, Ace Young and Constantine (filling in for Josh Gracin, who had a death in the family) come on, followed by Lauren Alaina and Kellie Pickler.  Scotty McCreery finally arrives.

Didn't miss ya: Nicki Minaj does a quick video.

What a wonderful world indeed: Harry Connick Jr. with a fellow New Orleans resident in honor of "Idol Gives Back."

Vocalist special: Katharine McPhee with Casey James. Carly Smithson. Clay Aiken, earnest as ever. Then Ruben Studdard with Amber Holcomb. (I must have really blocked out season 12. I didn't recognize her til they IDed her.) And then Jessica Sanchez just blew everyone else off the stage!

JLo strips down: We then have an extended advertisement for JLo's Vegas show with dancers, feathers and a very bad attempt at twerking.

Triple diva!  Both Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia get solo moments and sing with LaToya London, all from season three.

More R&B: Brandon Rogers (how did he make the cut?), Elliott Yamin, George Huff, Clark Beckham and Danny Gokey do a quick "Ain't Too Proud To Beg."  Taylor Hicks and LaToya London do a bit of "I Knew You Were Waiting." Joshua Ledet from season 11 appears with a solo of "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." Then we get Melinda Doolittle and Candice Glover, the only reason for me to remember season 12.

Fame! Five "Idol" winners do a Bowie tribute. WGWG magic with Phillip Phillips, Lee DeWyze, Nick Fradiani, David Cook and Kris Allen!

Video memories: Moments from the first few seasons, mostly comical and focused on the original three judges.

And the original trio comes back! We get a few minutes of thanks from the trio Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. Sniff.

The best "Idol" ends the musical performances: Carrie Underwood closes out with "Something in the Water." Sublime.

Who was missing: Adam Lambert is on tour. As noted, Josh Gracin had a family bereavement issue. I'm bummed Crystal Bowersox didn't make it.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.