‘American Idol’ Series Finale: Review Roundup, Video Highlights

April 8, 2016

American Idol’ has had its series finale, ending in the 15th season with nostalgic night that saw the final winner crowned and numerous Idol alums return to the stage that brought them fame. Find out what the critics have to say in their reviews and check out some video highlights.

American Idol Judges

What a night. How to rap up 15 seasons of American Idol and crown a new winner? And not only that, but to give more than a nod to the cultural and social impact the show has had since its premiere in 2002, years before Facebook and other social media.

The producers chose the nostalgic road, with an introductory video from none other than President Obama drawing the parallel between voting on American Idol and voting in elections. Not a surprise that somehow the President would figure in on this cultural phenomena.

And with that as an opener we were now in the midst of a reunion show, as countless Idol winners and contestants returned to perform. Kelly Clarkson, the original American Idol, and as a three-time Grammy winner who’s sold millions of records worldwide, arguably one of the most successful, performed a medley featuring a staggering number of her hits, concluding with her coronation single from way back in the day, “A Moment Like This.” The very pregnant superstar had recorded the performance back in February when she was a mentor on the show and, as we’ll all remember, delivered a tearful performance of ‘Piece By Piece.’

She was just one of many winners and notable alums who returned we had the likes of Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia Barrino, Chris Daughtry, Jordin Sparks, Taylor Hicks, Phillip Phillips, Kris Allen, Caleb Johnson, Pia Toscano, and many others. We had various group performances grouped by genre from rock to soul and gospel and more.

We also got an onstage reunion of original judges, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson reminiscing alongside Ryan Seacret when suddenly, there appeared Simon Cowell — a mock surprise moment of course — although who in the days leading up to the finale had been noncommittal, to say the very least, as to whether he would return that night. Return he did. For many, it’s Simon Cowell along with the other two original judges — all pictured together in 2002 — who made American Idol what it was and, arguably, since his departure in 2010 it was never the same. Future judges panels saw many iterations including the current slate, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. who at the very least we can say didn’t bring any drama and feuds, à la Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.

Yes, and finally, at the very end — yes, obviously spoiler alert here! — we had our final iconic “Dim-the-Lights!” moment as Ryan Seacret announced the winner…

…Trent Harmon in what some might consider an upset victory over the more favored-to-win La’Porsha Renae Jennings who had been wowing audiences week after week with powerhouse performances. Harmon, full of an unbridled emotion, pulled himself together to sing his coronation single, turning it into a group singalong. And, as credits rolled Seacret was also a bit emotional as he said “Good night America…” and, after a long pause, “….for now.”

It was a long night and much was going on, and now will survive as those highlights we’ll see and the viral videos we’ll share. Now too critics have had their say and here’s a roundup of reviews.

“….Thursday night’s farewell episode of American Idol was poorly produced, at times slack in pace, and subject to simply bizarre decisions as to staging and song choice. It was, in short, American Idol, and even those who tuned into the juggernaut show after years away found something they knew they were going to miss. […] Singing (often beautiful) group covers of retro songs, the Idol alumni were existing, in some cases more than a decade after their TV run, in a competition bubble that looks nothing like modern music. It’s time to let them, and Idol‘s fusty concept of old-fashioned showmanship, go…..” — Time

“….“American Idol,” even in its current, weakened state, is no zombie, as it proved again in delivering a little farewell pop Thursday night. But let’s be careful, in our goodbye fanfare, not to make it into something more vibrant, more resonant, than it has been either. And then let’s find out what Brian Dunkleman is up to these days. …..” — Chicago Tribute

“….All series finales attempt to mark the passing of time in all the years they’ve been on the air, and Idol did this best through the performance of a very pregnant Kelly Clarkson. This, more than any clip package or platitude, drove home the point of the show’s longevity, and the passing of time in a communal experience. It spoke to how Idol not only ushered in the notion that a talent show could become a cultural phenomenon, but the way that in which viewers wanted a bigger say in creating and adopting its heroes. …..” — Deadline

“….The Season 15 finale went heavy on nostalgia and light on its current finalists — La’Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon, a powerhouse duo worthy of having their names etched in stone alongside Kris-Adam, Candice-Kree, Kelly-Justin and all those formidable duos from the past 14 years. […] Pretty much every Idol grad who took the stage proved utterly delightful — doing proud the legacy of the show that launched them into their careers as musicians…..” — TV Line

And now inevitably, American Idol sails into music and pop cultural history with a sendoff that, like much of the show itself, leaves fans and critics alike with much to agree with and disagree with even as the viral moments will live on and on. Check out the video highlights from the American Idol series finale below!

Pictures: PR Photos

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