American Idol' Chooses Its Final Two



The moment Kelly Clarkson became the first winner of "American Idol," she became a household name. Since her debut, "Thankful," she has released five additional studio albums and hit singles like "Because of You" and "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)." In 2013, she married talent manager Brandon Blackstock, and the couple welcomed a daughter in June 2014. She announced in October 2015 that she was pregnant with her second child.
Kelly Clarkson (past winner)
"American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, left, and judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban will soon be out of a job. Fox has announced that season 15 will be the show's last. Let's catch up with some of the stars.
Host, Ryan Seacrest and judges; Jennifer lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban

It will be the battle of the Mississippi residents for the championship of the final "American Idol."
Seacrest, left, named Nick Fradiani the winner of season 14 of "American Idol" in May 2015. Fradiani has yet to release an album, but his single "Beautiful Life" was <a href="http://fox13now.com/2015/05/14/american-idol-winner-fradiani-to-sing-official-song-for-fox-fifa-womens-world-cup/" target="_blank">the official theme for the seventh FIFA Women's World Cup.</a>
Seacrest, left, Named Nick Fradiani
La'Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon were announced Wednesday night as the show's final two contestants to battle in Thursday's series finale. The pair and second runner-up Dalton Rapattoni took to the stage Wednesday night at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for what was part of a three-day bonanza for "Idol."
Ruben Studdard was crowned the winner of "American Idol" on season 2, beating Clay Aiken in 2003. His first album, "Soulful," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 that year. Studdard has since released four more studio albums, gotten divorced <a href="http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/03/alabama_idol_ruben_studdard_re.html" target="_blank">and shed weight on "The Biggest Loser."</a> In December 2015, Studdard received <a href="http://www.theroot.com/blogs/the_grapevine/2015/12/ruben_studdard_graduates_with_master_of_arts_degree_from_alabama_a_m.html" target="_blank">an honorary master's degree from Alabama A&M University. </a>
Ruben Studdard (past winner)
Season 15 has been a big one as it's the swan song for the reality competition that was once the biggest thing on television and has launched the careers of some major stars, including Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.
Caleb Johnson never landed in the bottom three last season, and now we know why. The Asheville, North Carolina, native went up against Jena Irene and was crowned the winner of season 13. His debut album, "Testify," was released in August 2014 <a href="http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20160105_Remember_when__American_Idol__was_great__Yeah__me_too_.html" target="_blank">and had the lowest first-week sales of any winner. </a>
Harmon of Amory, Mississippi, and Renae of McComb, Mississippi, have been long touted by fans all season as the two expected to be the last ones standing.
Candice Glover won season 12, the first female contestant to win since 2007. Her debut album, "Music Speaks," was released in February 2014. She announced <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CandiceGloverMusic" target="_blank">on her Facebook page</a> that her sophomore album would contain songs written by her.
    Wednesday night's show consisted of three rounds: the song that would be the contestant's first single if they were crowned the winner; a selection chosen by "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller; and a song of the contestant's choice.
    "American Idol" started its new season in early January, but not all is well with past winner Phillip Phillips. In January 2015, the season 11 winner filed a claim against 19 Entertainment, the show's producers, saying he was "manipulated" into accepting jobs. <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/american-idol-winner-files-bold-767088" target="_blank">The Hollywood Reporter wrote</a> that he's trying to void various agreements.
    Philli Phyillips (past winner)
    First up was Harmon, who sang his tune, "Falling," followed by Rapattoni with "Strike a Match" and Renae with "Battles." The trio -- who were all discovered during the show's auditions in Little Rock, Arkansas -- were not judged on their first performances.
    Fantasia Barrino defeated Diana DeGarmo on season 3 of "American Idol" in 2004. She then released her debut album, "Free Yourself," which was certified platinum that same year. Barrino won her first Grammy Award in 2011 for the single "Bittersweet," from her third album, "Back to Me." She has appeared on Broadway in "The Color Purple," been the subject of her own reality show and in April 2013 released an album, "Side Effects of You." These days fans get most of their news about her via the singer's <a href="https://instagram.com/tasiasword" target="_blank">Instagram account</a>. She revealed in July 2015 that she and boyfriend Kendall Lamar had wed.
    Host Ryan Seacrest reminded the audience that someone would be "making 'Idol' history" as the last pair of contestants ever.
    The first to be declared safe was Renae, who has consistently been hailed by the judges and fans as the one to beat. Rapattoni yelled "Yes" a few times when Harmon was announced as the other half of the final top 2.
    Carrie Underwood went from college student to winner of season 4 in 2005. Her debut album, "Some Hearts," was certified seven times platinum, and she has gone on to win multiple Grammy Awards. In 2013, she starred in a live television version of "The Sound of Music." Married to hockey player Mike Fisher, Underwood gave birth to their first child, son Isaiah Michael Fisher, in February 2015.
    Fuller selected some throwback soul for both contestants to perform. Harmon sang "If You Don't Know Me by Now" while Renae offered her interpretation of "A House Is Not a Home."
    Since Scotty McCreery was crowned the winner of season 10 in 2011, the singer's debut album, "Clear As Day," has been certified platinum. He was named the Academy of Country Music's best new artist in 2012 and released his second studio album, "See You Tonight," in 2013. At the start of 2015, <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/scotty-mccreery-trades-pop-for-classic-country-on-new-lp-20150105" target="_blank">McCreery announced</a> his next project would be classic country.
    Scotty McCreery
    "It's going to be the closest race in 'Idol' history I think," judge Keith Urban said after Harmon performed.
    Lee DeWyze had released two albums before auditioning for season 9 of "American Idol." After his win, he went on to release a third album, "Live It Up," with RCA Records in 2010. But a year later, the record label dropped DeWyze when the album sold just over 146,000 copies. He has since married model Jonna Walsh, signed with a new label and <a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/1560115/former-idol-champ-lee-dewyze-finds-silver-lining-new-album-coming" target="_blank">returned to "Idol" to perform his song "Silver Lining."</a> In 2014, <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/idol-worship/dead-man-singing-lee-dewyze-699083" target="_blank">he also wrote a song</a> for "The Walking Dead" soundtrack.
    Lee Dewyze
    "They both did incredible jobs with the songs," judge Jennifer Lopez said after Renae's performance. "But If I had to edge out one over the other, I would have to say La'Porsha."
    Like DeWyze, Kris Allen had released an album before he got on "American Idol." After a very heated battle with Adam Lambert, Allen won season 8 in 2009. After a car accident in which he broke his wrist on New Year's Day 2013, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-17/entertainment/ct-ott-0419-luis-20130417_1_jonna-walsh-lee-dewyze-kris-allen" target="_blank">Allen told the Chicago Tribune</a> he was "more driven since 'Idol' " and released his third album, "Horizons," in August 2014. In December 2015 he announced his 2016 "Letting You In Tour" in support of an album scheduled for spring 2016.
    Kris Allen
    For their personal selections, both singers selected songs they had earlier performed this season. Harmon chose Sia's "Chandelier" and Renae sang Rihanna's hit "Diamonds."
    David Cook rocked a win in a close competition with David Archuleta on season 7. The same year, he released "David Cook," which has been certified platinum. Cook parted ways with RCA Records in 2012. In 2013, he performed a new single on "Idol," "Laying Me Low," which debuted on the charts with 14,000 sales, <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/idolchatter/2013/05/08/american-idol-sales-jessica-sanchez-david-cook/2145081/" target="_blank">USA Today reported</a>. He released his fourth studio album, "Digital Vein" in September 2015.
    David cook
    "We have two great singers in this competition," offered judge Harry Connick Jr.
    Harmon and Renae both welled up with emotion at the end of the show and thanked their fans. Twitter lit up Wednesday night with the battle between Team Trent and Team La'Porsha.
    Taylor Hicks' blues-meets-rock style earned him a following that led to his win on season 5, beating favorite (and now actress) Katharine McPhee. His self-titled debut album was certified platinum, and his single "Do I Make You Proud" debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles. Hicks released "The Distance" in 2008 on his independent record label, Modern Whomp. In 2014 <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/zackomalleygreenburg/2014/01/15/an-american-idol-not-so-idle-inside-the-world-of-taylor-hicks/" target="_blank">he played a residency in Las Vegas. </a>
    taylor Hicks (past winner)
    The "American Idol" finale will air Thursday night on Fox.
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