Season 18 of American Idol has been a real rollercoaster. From the elation of making it to Hollywood and then getting ground to a fine dust by the grueling tinsel town cuts, to the joy of hitting the beaches and stage in Hawaii. And then, the shutdown. The contestants on this year’s Idol have had to contend with a working environment like no other, forced to become overnight lighting and sound technicians as they’ve converted their bedrooms, living rooms and backyards into remote TV studios.
But tonight (May 17) they have reached the final stage. It’s not the big, Hollywood soundstage they dreamed of when they auditioned last year, but for the top seven — Arthur Gunn, Dillon James, Francisco Martin, Jonny West, Julia Gargano, Just Sam and Louis Knight — it’s the closest they can get in lockdown to the glitz and glamour of a traditional Idol coronation.
While we await the results on tonight’s two-hour, star-packed finale (8-10 p.m. ET, live results on the East Coast), Billboard asked the final seven to dream a little dream and make their final argument to America while imagining what their debut album might sound like.
Make your final argument to America for why you should be the next American Idol.
Jonny West: “I have no argument to make. I’m so grateful for how far I have come and I am ready, win or not win, to go out and keep sharing and writing for anyone who wants to lend an ear.”
Arthur Gunn: “I don’t see a point as to make the argument, but the way I see it, it is a great platform that has created amazing, talented artists from a variety of genres while allowing them to be themselves. It is also a platform that allows people to discover and listen to new artists in hopes of helping them become the next American Idol.”
Julia Gargano: “The six other finalists that I am up against deserve this title just as must as I do. All of us have a different sounds and strengths, and whoever comes out on top will absolutely kill it. Sunday is going to be a beautiful day because no matter who takes the title, there will be a huge celebration on my end.”
Just Sam: “I am so grateful to have made it as far as I have and honored to be headed into the finale! That is winning to me!”
Louis Knight: “An American Idol is an artist that is living the American dream, someone that speaks from their heart and carries the emotion through the music. An Idol is also someone who can listen to those around them and continue to learn and grow. Lastly, is the ability to connect with an audience through your message and music. These are all things that an American Idol does along their journey, and that’s the journey I’m on right now.”
Francisco Martin: “The way I see it is that we all came into this competition to chase our dreams and have a successful career out of it. Each and every one of us are deserving and worthy of the title. The talent is unreal. We are all unique in our own ways and there aren’t any side-by-side comparisons. Having a very strong artistic character is what matters most to me. And I feel like all of us have our own artistry. Basically what I’m saying is, anyone who is crowned the title in this insanely unique bunch is absolutely deserving of it.”
Dillon James: “I am so grateful for the opportunity American Idol has given me. I hoped to use this platform to help people struggling, going through the same things that I have been through. I want them to see that there is always hope and not to give up, but to reach out and ask for help.”
Can you describe the vibe/style you’re dreaming of for your debut album and a potential title?
Jonny West: “I’ve known what my debut album would be for a while now. I have so many songs locked and loaded to open up the door to my mind and the way I see the world. [I] can’t disclose the title just yet because I want to make sure it is fresh for when the record eventually does come out. I am just beyond excited to get to share more of my songs with people and I hope they’ll be eager to blast in their car and show all their friends!”
Arthur Gunn: “I think my first album would be very diverse, I don’t know what particular vibe it will be, but the most important thing will be that it’s very personal to me through my songwriting. I don’t have a title for it yet, but it will come to me as I write the album.”
Julia Gargano: “I’ve been thinking about this question my whole life it feels like. I want my debut album to be a record that you can get lost in — sonically and emotionally. Radiohead has always been a giant inspiration of mine, and I always found their combination of raw lyrics and wall-of-sound production style has me completely entranced. That is totally the vibe I am striving for. I thought a title could be Conversations. That is ultimately what I want to this album to feel like.”
Just Sam: “At first I was thinking about putting something out about my life and I wanted it to be something that expressed my struggles. But now I am living this new life thanks to Idol and I don’t want to go back to that life, but grow from it. Now that the world has experienced COVID-19, it needs more music that encourages people to unite together, so I want my album to encompass that and bring people together. The title for now is to be continued…“
Louis Knight: “My debut album is going to be a mix of songs that speak to the heart, and some that get you moving. All of them written from personal experiences, and some even from my American Idol experience. I think I would name it Twisted Conversations, after one of the songs I’ll be putting on that album.”
Francisco Martin: “The vibe I’m dreaming for my debut album would probably have a rather vulnerable approach to it. I’m looking to take in emotions from my songs and have them resonate with the listeners. In terms of “style,” I would love to have a more indie/alternative sound to it. Some acoustically driven songs I would love left natural and untouched.”
Dillon James: “I have always seen my debut album as one that represents my life, my values and all of the things I have been through. I hope that my music helps bring people together and helps the ones who may be lost to find their way. Whatever my music is or becomes, I just hope to stay true to myself and my artistry while on this journey called life.”
After the top seven are cut down to five at the top of the show on the East Coast broadcast, voting for the winner will open. Though the results will air live only on the East Coast, all time zones can vote for their favorite — up to 10 times per contestant, per method — here, as well as on the Idol app and by texting the contestant number to 21523; voting closes at approximately 9:15 ET. The season 18 winner will be crowned live on the East Coast at the end of the night.