It’s official: Just Sam (real name Samantha Diaz) is the winner of “American Idol” Season 18! This souful 21-year-old beat out runner-up Arthur Gunn and finalists Dillon James, Francisco Martin and Jonny West at the end of Sunday’s remote finale to claim the most coveted title in reality TV. Just Sam is now the seventh woman to win “American Idol” in the 18 years of the popular singing show, joining a list that includes Kelly Clarkson (Season 1), Carrie Underwood (Season 4) and Maddie Poppe (Season 16). See the updated winners list by clicking through our photo gallery above.
Season 1: Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson (age 20 on the show) auditioned in Dallas, Texas with Etta James’ “At Last” and Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” Kelly’s winning song was “A Moment Like This.” To this day many fans consider her to be their favorite champ of all time. Since winning the show, she’s taken home three Grammys. In 2012, Kelly was ranked 19th on VH1’s list of 100 Greatest Women in Music and in 2013, Billboard ranked her as the 14th best-selling artist of the 2000s. She joined “The Voice” as a coach in 2018.
“My dreams have come true,” Just Sam exclaimed from home in Los Angeles, CA. She accepted her title remotely as the entire production had to go into quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic. (See how live voting was affected.) Just Sam then joined judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan and former “Idol” contestants for an emotional re-imagining of “We Are the World,” the iconic anthem written by Richie and Michael Jackson.
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The night started with Just Sam finding out she was in the Final 5 based on last week’s pair of performances: “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” as her Disney song and “I Turn to You” as her Mother’s Day tribute. The two aspiring singers who didn’t make the first cut were Louis Knight and Julia Gargano, which meant these talented crooners both tied for sixth place at the top of the show.
Each of the Final 5 sang two songs as America voted in real time for the winner. Just Sam picked “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” as her celebration song (in a wink to original winner Kelly Clarkson) and “Rise Up” as her winner’s single. Host Ryan Seacrest then announced that Just Sam and Arthur had made it to the Final 2, so Dillon, Francisco and Jonny had to settle for a shared third place.
In our pre-finale predictions video (watch below), Gold Derby editors argued over whether Sunday’s champion would be Arthur, Francisco or Jonny — in other words, we were way off! Did YOU correctly predict that Just Sam would win “American Idol” Season 18? Let us know down in the comments section.
Season 4: Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood (age 21 on the show) auditioned in St. Louis, Missouri with Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Carrie’s winning song was “Inside Your Heaven.” She was the first country singer to earn the title. Since winning the show, Carrie has taken home more than 100 awards including six Grammys and virtually every country music award possible; she was also nominated for a Golden Globe.