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‘American Idol’ Says Goodbye on a Night Full of Stars

Variety logo Variety 8/04/2016 Elizabeth Wagmeister

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"This show transformed television.”

Many have uttered some variation of those words in the weeks leading up to “American Idol’s” finale, but tonight — the night of the singing competition’s last episode — it was President Barack Obama, himself, who made the declaration to kick off the night, a sign of the show’s historic influence over the past 15 years.

The live show at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Calif., which led up to the final moment of crowning the last winner, felt more like a two-hour celebration of the show, rather than a showcase of one particular individual. (Find out who the winner is here.)

Following Obama’s taped segment, a less familiar face graced the stage: Brian Dunkleman, who co-hosted the first season of “Idol” along with Ryan Seacrest.

“I just wanted to stop by and congratulate the show for struggling along another 14 seasons without me,” Dunkleman cracked, in good spirits. Clearing up the possible ill feelings between the former duo, he added, “Ryan, there’s something I’ve been wanting to say to you for a long time: you’ve done an amazing job hosting this show.”

Dunkleman was just one of many “surprises” throughout the show. Everyone who you’d expect to be there was there — and their presence helped the once-unstoppable “Idol” bid farewell in style.

© Provided by Variety From bringing the original trio of judges — Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson — back together on stage to putting Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood under the spotlight for a show-stopping ballad, the show served as a great reminder to just how impactful “American Idol” has been. No other stateside show has turned out as many A-list artists, proving that “Idol” really was the search for a superstar.

Though not all “Idol” alums are as mainstream as Underwood, many of them were television staples, as proven by the reaction in the 3,500 person audience who oooh’d and awww’d as each singer walked across the stage — and there was an impressive amount of bodies on said stage. Even the less-known “Idols” harmonized so well that the show felt like a sold-out concert. (Not to disgrace Jackson, but tonight, no one was “pitchy.”)

The layout of the show was harmonious, too. Separated by musical genres, the finale kicked off with “Idol’s” pop stars, including Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, first season runner-up Justin Guarini and Season 10 alum Pia Toscano who finally had her moment with a stellar high note during “All By Myself.” After the pop medley, “Idol’s” influence was felt once again as Sparks belted out her chart-topper “No Air” on the very stage where she first broke into superstardom.

After the pop part, the “Idol” rockers, as Seacrest called them, rocked on, bringing about one of the show’s biggest talents Chris Daughtry, along with Bo Bice, Constantine and Season 13 winner Caleb Johnson. Then, Season 10 champ Scotty McCreery, Kellie Pickler and more of the reality competition’s country singers crooned along, following a duet between Underwood and judge Keith Urban. Ballads came next, showcasing a moment with once-competitors Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, and a total show-stopping solo from Jessica Sanchez who may have garnered the biggest reaction from the audience with her high notes — yes, that’s plural — singing “The Prayer.”

Another must-see moment came from Jennifer Hudson’s performance, though it was pre-taped, as was the medley from the other Jennifer — Lopez, that is. Made to seem live for at-home viewers, those at the Dolby were disappointed, but not by Kelly Clarkson’s taped medley because the original champ is days away from going into labor.

However, regardless of what was pre-taped or not, there’s really nothing to knock “Idol” for because aside from the complexities of putting on a jam-packed live show and despite when the performances may have been filmed, each of those performances proved one thing: no singing competition show has as much talent or as many stars as “American Idol.”

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