Emotions were running high as season 17 of America’s favorite singing competition drew to a close. Who would take home the top prize? It was anyone’s guess as favored-to-win Alejandro Aranda and 18-year-old Laine Hardy waited for the news…

And the winner was… Louisiana native Laine Hardy! Here’s the path that led him to the crown.

Returning Favorite

Laine Hardy first appeared on season 16 of American Idol, but only made it as far as the Top 50. The judges cited his lack of confidence and experience in why Hardy didn’t make it past the Top 50. They urged him to grow and to comeback, saying he might be able to win it all one day. He came back in 2019, but was not even auditioning for himself. He accompanied his best friend’s sister Ashton Gill on guitar in front of the judges. But,  the judges urged him to try out himself. He agreed and sand “The Weight” by the Band. The judges were blown away by how much he’d changed in one year. Take a look:

Country Boy

Hardy is from Livingston, Louisiana, and is a self-proclaimed “country boy.” With an accent that will make you swoon and  his love of old school artists like the Beatles, Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Johnny Cash, it’s no surprise he has become America’s next Southern heartthrob.

Idol judge Luke Bryan joked at Hardy’s original audition and said that he could write a great country song about Hardy’s southern roots.

Growing up Livingston, Laine describes his free-time life as driving around in his truck or spending time on the bayou with his family. During his hometown visit, Hardy had a simple dinner with his family. They all expressed how proud they were of him. His mother mentioned how hard being away from his family has been on him. Grab the tissues as you watch this clip because it will make you cry!

Surprise Win?

Fans were shocked and some were outraged as they perceived expected winner Alejandro Aranda was robbed!

Katy Perry might have accidentally hinted earlier this season about why Aranda was never going to win, saying, “(American Idol)’s been a bit of a karaoke show.” Aranda who sang more original songs than anyone else this season significantly departed from the typical recipe of cover artistry. Fans like to see the special twists and flavor each singer brought to their covers. Aranda, unprecedentedly, sang four of his own songs during the finale, when most of the at-home voting occurred.

Fans of Young and Old

While Laine Hardy is clearly a hit with the young fans, credited to his Southern charm and good-looks, it’s the older generation that has begun to back him.

In between singing modern hits like ‘Grenade’ by Bruno Mars or ‘Home’ by Marc Broussard, his discography is filled with classic hits that everybody will love. In back-to-back rounds, he sang ‘Jackson’ by Johnny Cash, ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ by Ray Charles’, and ‘Johnny B. Goode’ by Chuck Berry. Watch his jaw-dropping performance of Johnny B. Goode below!

Tell us in the comments what you thought of Laine Hardy and which of his cover songs is your favorite!

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