The virtual two-hour episode will kick off with an elimination, narrowing the top seven down to top five. Each of the remaining contestants will perform three songs from their homes: a group number as well as two solos, which will include a previously performed track and their American Idol single. Fans will vote live to choose a winner.
The American Idol finales of past years have been known for their grandeur, and the season 18 conclusion will only be slightly different. Judge Lionel Richie will perform “We Are the World,” the 1985 Grammy-winning song he cowrote. In the spirit of the anthem, the crooner, 70, will not sing it alone. Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and American Idol alums — including Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Lauren Alaina, Jordin Sparks, Phillip Phillips, Ruben Studdard, Scotty McCreery, Laine Hardy, Gabby Barrett and Alejandro “ScaryPoolParty” Aranda — will join in.
Cynthia Erivo, who stars in Genius: Aretha, is set to perform a medley of Aretha Franklin hits. Perry, 35, and Bryan, 43, will sing their singles, “Daisies” and “One Margarita,” respectively. Rascal Flatts will duet on “Bless the Broken Road” with former contestant Doug Kiker, and Lauren Daigle will sing “You Say.” Additionally, the top 11 from season 18 will return.
American Idol was one of several shows forced to switch to a virtual format amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Voice, Saturday Night Live and talk shows did the same.
Perry, who is expecting her first child with fiancé Orlando Bloom, opened up to Us Weekly in April about judging through her emotions. “I’m a feelings person and I always have been before this period of my life, so I’m always looking to not just hear the song [but] to feel the song,” she explained. “When a contestant gives me chill bumps or, like, lights up my back or my cheeks or physically moves me and I viscerally feel it, is when I know that they have something special. It’s a physical reaction.”
Scroll down to learn more about the seven finalists who will be competing to win it all during the American Idol season 18 finale.