Who is best positioned to win ‘American Idol’ season 20?

The three finalists on "American Idol" will perform for the crown on Sunday May 22, 2022. FOX

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The three finalists on "American Idol" will perform for the crown on Sunday May 22, 2022. FOX

Noah Thompson, Leah Marlene and HunterGirl are vying for the win.

“American Idol” is ending season 20 on Sunday night with a solid top three contestants, all of whom could credibly take home the crown. There is no obvious favorite.

Here are thumbnail sketches of each one and why they might win:

Noah Thompson

Age: 20

Residence: Louisa, Kentucky (population : 2,852)

Profession: construction worker

Synopsis: A friend sent in his audition tape, so he wasn’t even fully committed to this until he was. “My family believes in me, the guys I work with believe in me, I just never believed in myself,” Thompson said during first audition. He has battled nerves throughout the competition admitting he has felt like a fish out of water in Hollywood. He has expressed multiple times how much he misses his family and his young son. He also caught COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago and was sick when he performed in his hotel room during the top 7 episode. He was also unable to travel to Vegas to work with Carrie Underwood last Sunday, having to go remote. But he was able to perform live this past Sunday and should be ready to go for the finale.

Why he might win: He has a sweet, unassuming, humble persona. His vocal style is low key, authentic, unpretentious. He has sung everything from Ben E. King (”Stand by Me”) to John Mayer (”Heartbreak Warfare”) to Harry Styles (”Falling”).

His closest “Idol” winning peer: Scotty McCreery, also raw and young, won season 10 in 2011. McCreery has gone on to become a successful recording and touring artist.

Future career: It’s hard to say. He is young and clearly inexperienced. That didn’t stop McCreery and Underwood, the two other country “Idol” winners from small towns, to become successful. Can he fashion the right team around him, produce music people connect to and get used to being a full-time musician? Maybe?

Odds of winning: 4/1 (GoldDerby)

Leah Marlene

Age: 20

Residence: Normal, Illinois (population: 54,699)

Profession: singer/songwriter

Synposis: She is part of a musical family. Her dad Derry Grehan is a songwriter and lead guitarist with the Canadian band Honeymoon Suite, who had a few minor hits in the 1980s. He passed along his passion for songwriting and singing. She has been performing since she was 10 years old. She attended Belmont University in Nashville and worked with songwriters there. The judges loved her from day one and she has gotten through the competition relatively unscathed.

Why she might win: She brings a sweet quirky likable vibe that evokes a bit of Zooey Deschanel but is able to tackle weightier topics and a wide variety of stylistic vocal choices that keeps her from feeling predictable. She has covered Bob Dylan (”To Make You Feel My Love”), the Turtles (”Happy Together”), Avril Lavigne (”Sk8ter Boi”) and Journey (”Separate Ways”) as well as performed an original.

Her closest former “Idol” winning peer: Season 16 winner Maddie Poppe

Future career: She has already spent time in Nashville and could easily pursue a singer/songwriter pop career along the lines of a Colbie Callat or Sara Bareilles. She seems to have the chops, the creativity and the vision to find a place in the music world.

Odds to win: 4/1 (Goldderby)


Real name: Hunter Wolkonowski

Age: 23 (her 24th birthday is coincidentally on the day of the “Idol” finale)

Residence: Winchester, Tenneessee (population: 8,818)

Profession: Singer/songwriter

Synopsis: She grew up wanting to sing and began performing in front of audiences at age 14. She regularly works with veterans doing music therapy and writing songs with them based on their experiences of war. She was clearly ready for primetime from her first audition, so much so the judges gave her one of just three “Platinum Tickets,” a new prize that enabled her to move directly into the second round in Hollywood. She has covered Rascal Flatts (”Riot” and “Banjo”), Fleetwood Mac (”Dreams”), Sugarland (”Baby Girl”), Dolly Parton (”9 to 5″), Miranda Lambert (”Vice”) and Little Big Town (”Girl Crush”).

Her appeal: She has been consistently confident and appealing with a strong country voice and a warm persona. Her camera ready professionalism was evident the moment she showed up.

Her closest former “Idol” winning peer: Underwood.

Future career: She has all the tools to be the next Miranda Lambert, win or lose. It will all come down to execution.

Odds to win: 69/20 (Goldderby)