‘American Idol’ finale recap: Trent Harmon and La’Porsha Renae vie for final crown

“American Idol” is definitely going out in style – and at the end of the day (and the season and the series) and after much farewell talk about stardom and success, it’s all coming back to good singing.

America chose two remarkable vocalists as its season 15 finalists, we learned Wednesday, as we settled into part one of the last two-night “Idol” finale ever.

FULL COVERAGE: Saying farewell to ‘American Idol’

Dalton Rapattoni, he of the charming smile, Billy Idol hairdo, urgent lyrical delivery and uplifting message about surmounting the difficulties of mental illness, was sent home by voters, leaving vocally gifted Mississippi farm boy Trent Harmon and breathtakingly talented single mom La’Porsha Renae, also from Mississippi, to compete for the final “Idol” crown.

That Rapattoni -- an adroit performer, with a knack for playing to the audience and the cameras, but the least skillful singer in the Top 3 -- was the contestant sent home ahead of the final two likely surprised no one, least of all, perhaps, Rapattoni himself, who, upon hearing the news that Harmon would advance alongside Renae, whooped and hopped and almost seemed more pleased for Harmon than Harmon himself.


Rapattoni had had a chance to sing, as did Harmon and Renae, in round 1 of the three-round performance show: Each singer performed the song that would be released as his or her first single, should he or she emerge the winner. Harmon’s song, “Falling,” prompted him to do some enthusiastic head wagging. Rapattoni’s “Strike a Match” had a suitable retro vibe. And Renae’s “Battles” was anthem-like and upbeat, if a bit poppier than we’re used to hearing from the passionate, soulful vocalist.

Then, after Rapattoni’s highlight reel had run its course and he had taken his leave (Ryan Seacrest seemed genuinely sad to see him go), Harmon and Renae stuck around for round 2, in which each sang one song chosen for them by “Idol” creator Simon Fuller.

Harmon, 25, dug into “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” prompting Urban to marvel at “how far” Harmon had come and the “run for her money” he was giving Renae, who had emerged early on as the one to beat. (Kelly Clarkson gushed about her when she sat in as a guest judge and has continued to support her on social media.) “It’s gonna be the closest race in ‘Idol’ history, I think,” Urban predicted. Lopez said Harmon had shown he was “not going to lay down and take it.” Connick quipped that he really did feel like, by know, he knew Harmon.

Renae, 22, brought a much more chill vibe to “A House Is Not a Home,” but the judges still went nuts for her. Lopez put her in the same category as Luther Vandross and Dionne Warwick, who had both sung the song. Urban called Renae’s performance “smoldering,” and declared that, after hearing it, though he didn’t smoke, he still felt like he needed a cigarette. (Are you even allowed to say that word on TV anymore?) Connick commended Renae on her understated lyrical “believability.” “Melodically and harmonically, that’s the most complex piece of music you’ve done this entire season, and it told me a lot … about how much you know,” Connick said, noting that he had been “moved” emotionally by the piece as well, which was “about all you can ask for.”

Urged by Seacrest to pick a winner for the round, Lopez, with some reluctance, chose Renae.

In round 3, Harmon and Renae each selected a song they had sung previously during the season. Harmon again gave everything he had to Sia’s “Chandelier.” It was certainly among his best performances on the show – maybe the best of all. And by the end, the hard-working young man – who, we learned, has earnestly written every word the judges have ever said to him in a leather-bound notebook -- looked emotionally spent, ready to cry.

Connick told Harmon he “should be very proud of” his “really, really strong” performance, adding that he had made it “the hardest decision probably in the history of ‘American Idol.’” Urban countered that, for some, Harmon may have “just made it a really easy decision,” calling the performance “extraordinary” and “magnificent” and his vocal transitions “gorgeous.” Lopez claimed credit for predicting Harmon would make it to the top 2, saying she had seen something “special” in him “from the very beginning.” “It is up to America now but honestly … you deserve to win. You do,” she said.

But that was before she heard Renae reprise Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” on which – despite the audience clapping in time (won’t miss that) -- she sparkled. Urban said both Renae and Harmon had sung as if they were skiers sailing down “multiple-black-diamond runs.” Lopez complimented Renae on the “control and composure” she had shown all season long, and said she could not wait to go to a show of hers someday and see her “let loose.”

Connick called the performance “incredible,” and then threw Renae a softball, asking her whom she had been singing about. When Renae, tears streaming down her cheeks, responded that she’d been thinking of her baby daughter as she sang, the cameras flashed on that cute, cute baby, who seems to have inherited her mother’s even-keeled disposition and dignity.

So, America, will it be the sincere, dedicated farm boy who never thought musical success would be within his reach or the single mom who got out of an abusive relationship and wants to make a better future for her baby daughter?

“Kelly, a woman started it, and a woman’s gonna finish it,” Renae had said in a pre-taped interview early in the show.

“Yes ma’am @laporsharenae you are right! A woman started it and a woman’s gonna finish it!! Can’t wait to watch you win!! #youareblessed,” Clarkson tweeted in response.

Then the first “Idol” winner added about the woman she would like to be her final successor, “I have never voted for anyone on @AmericanIdol not even 4 myself BUT I will be voting for @laporsharenae tonight. I need her future record!”

That’s quite an endorsement. We’ll soon find out whether the voters agree.


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