Radio and TV Talk

Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

Who won 'American Idol' season 16?

Posted Monday, May 21, 2018 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Maddie Poppe, in a bit of an upset, took home the "American Idol" crown tonight, beating out Caleb Lee Hutchinson, the Paulding County country singer.

The 19-year-old Iowa singer songwriter was so overtaken by emotion, she couldn't finish her original song "Going Going Gone." The rest of the top 10 plus Katy Perry joined her on stage. Caleb even sang a few lines himself. It was a super touching way to end the season.

And the cliche is right in a sense: they are both winners because they are (gasp!) dating! The reveal shocked the audience and the judges just minutes before Ryan Seacrest named the winner.

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Keith Stell, Caleb's pastor, said in an interview tonight that he had kept the little secret for weeks and was surprised that they chose to reveal it on air. "They just made this connection during Hollywood week," Stell said. "Their characters melded together. They share a lot in common."

Indeed, they are both from small towns and are the same age to boot.

Harley Fuller, Caleb's best friend, made it for the live finale. "I knew there was something budding there," he told me by phone late Monday. "I didn't know how official it was. The reveal was very cool."

Maddie is the first female to win since season 12 and only the second in the past ten seasons. She is also the first quirky singer songwriter type to take home the prize.

At 10:16 p.m., the show eliminated Gabby Barrett! The versatile singer came in third. Her inability to define clearly herself and her somewhat muddled original song hurt her.

Poppe will appear on "Good Morning America" Tuesday morning, followed by "Live With Kelly and Ryan," both locally on Channel 2 WSB-TV.

Overall, despite the truncated schedule and the judges being too nice (until the end), this was a solid "Idol" season in terms of talent. Despite my skepticism, I'm glad it's back next year. I'll write more of my thoughts tomorrow.

Lionel Richie opened with a spirited "All Night Long," but the best moment came a few minutes later when Caleb did a dead-on imitation of Lionel! He has a back-up career for sure as the next Rich Little. (Anybody under the age 30 can look him up on YouTube.)

Caleb's dad Hutch later tried to imitate Katy. Not quite as dead on but nice effort!

Nick Jonas teamed up with Jurnee for "Jealous" and reminded me why I didn't find Jurnee all that compelling.

Luke Bryan was up next with Gabby. They melded together really well. She seemed far more comfortable than she was on finale night.

Gary Clark Jr.'s trio with Cade Foehner and Dennis Lorenzo was super bluesy in a good way.


There was then cross promotion with the next Bachelorette Becca Kufrin. For some reason, Katy was all over her, seeking an Over-Acting Emmy.

Fortunately, we were saved by Kermit the Frog joining Maddie for her audition song "Rainbow Connection."


And they brought Noah Davis back so he could get his own alpaca live.

Caleb gets his duet in with the incomparable Darius Rucker and "Wagon Wheel."

Then Jimmy Kimmel shows up for some comedy fill-in time. He brought a fake time capsule which included the actual Sanjaya from season six! Plus, the crying girl came back smiling this time. Glad to see Sanjaya was willing to take the joke.

The three finalists join Bebe Rexha for another rendition of former No. 1 hit "Meant To Be."

Layla Spring, the irritatingly precocious semifinalist, pops up with her sister to sing "Blue." Then LeAnn Rimes showed up to Layla's surprise. That was diabetic shock cute.

The duet between Katy Perry and Catie Turner with "Part of Me" is a definite highlight. I wish Catie sang with this much conviction every week. She might have lasted longer.


Michael J. Woodard, who adores Yolanda Adams, gets to sing a gospel-tinged version of "What the World Needs Now' with her.

Then we get the surprise that Caleb and Maddie are dating. So they sing a touching combo of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World." And the show is giving them a vacation to Hawaii!

To finish out the performances, Ada Vox joins Patti LaBelle for a rousing "Lady Marmalade."

And here are some higlights from Katy's time on the show:

About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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