The “American Idol” finale got underway Sunday night with its final three contestants — Pomona’s Alejandro Aranda, Louisiana lad Laine Hardy, and upstate New York teen Madison VanDenburg — getting right to work with their opening songs.
Hardy, 18, stayed true to his southern roots with a swampy take on Marc Broussard’s “Home,” while VanDenburg aimed high — and missed a note or two — with “Shallow,” the Oscar-winning song by Lady Gaga from “A Star Is Born.”
But it was Aranda who took the biggest risk, opening his finale with an original song, “Millennial Love,” though it seemed like the risk paid off in both the response from the crowd in the theater and the first-round rankings of the judges.
While judge Luke Bryan gave his first round to VanDenburg, both judges Lionel Richie and Katy Perry said they found the 24-year-old Aranda to the best of the bunch in the opening round.
“I’m a sucker for a songwriter, the beauty of touching someone’s spirit and soul,” Richie said.
“There is something otherworldly and holy about what Alejandro does,” Perry added.
This is the first time the show is airing its finale live on both coasts where fans will vote in real time. One contestant will be eliminated during the finale.
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