Early on in the season finale of Sunday night’s (May 23) episode of “American Idol,” judge Luke Bryan informed fellow country singer Chayce Beckham he earned the ultimate prize: a chance for the two of them to go fishing.
“Win or lose, we’re going bass fishing,” Bryan said.
Those plans are now on hold, as the 24-year old Apple Valley, California resident was crowned the show’s 2021 victor.
“Your world is about to change,” judge Katy Perry told the now former forklift driver, who’ll release music via BMG and is Nashville bound.
Beckham was an early favorite in auditions after wowing the judges with a performance of ‘What Brings Life Also Kills” by Kolton Moore and the Clever Few, prompting Perry to remark he sounded like “the heart of America.”
Throughout the competition, Bryan repeatedly emphasized how “cool” Beckham was on stage, at one point going so far as to compare his stage presence to that of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bruce Springsteen.
With his aw shucks charm, good looks and gravelly vocals, Beckham won over legions of devoted fans and a nickname for his hair coined by Coldplay mentor Chris Martin, “Chayce Paste.”
That moniker inspired a video of Idols poking fun at the singer, even joking that all women over the “age of 35” are all in love with him.
Beckham set the tone of his winning night early on with a slightly re-worked version of “Blackbird’ by The Beatles, remarking that he was a on a journey for the “blue collar worker.”
His journey, as told through his homecoming video package, began after surviving a car accident due to a night of drinking. That gave him the desire to “turn my life around.” He framed that moment performing Chris Stapleton’s “Fire Away,” earning praise from Lionel Richie calling it a “great choice for your voice.”
He capped off his evening with a duet of “Forever After All” with guest Luke Combs and a reprise of “Afterglow” by Ed Sheeran.
After host Ryan Seacrest crowned him the winner, Beckham performed his single, “23,” already a number one song on the Country iTunes and No. 2 on the main singles chart as he was showered in confetti.
Douglas, Georgia native Willie Spence placed second despite strong performances of “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke,’ “Georgia on My Mind,” by Ray Charles and a duet with “X Factor” alum Leona Lewis. Illinois native Grace Kintsler, also a vocal powerhouse in the vein of Kelly Clarkson, placed third after prompting pleas from Perry to America to vote for her after a stellar version of “All By Myself.” Kintsler was graceful in defeat, taking the stage like a professional with Alessia Cara for a duet of “Scars to Your Beautiful.”
“I am in shock,” said Richie in reponse to Kintsler’s early elimination. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but to lose any of these three is ridiculous.”
Other guests performing on the Sunday night finale included former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, Alessia Cara, Sheryl Crow, Fall Out Boy, Mickey Guyton, Chaka Khan, Leona Lewis and Macklemore.
As is series tradition, eliminated fan favorites returned to the “Idol” stage, including Hunter Metts for a beautiful duet of “Thinking of You” with Katy Perry. Cassandra Coleman shook a mean tambourine alongside Buckingham on “Go Your Own Way”; Alyssa Wray paired with Guyton for a a noteworthy duet of “Black Like Me”; Graham DeFranco stepped in to duet with Crow (Arthur Gunn, last year’s runner up who was brought back this season, was originally partnered with Crow); and Deshawn Goncalves joined the ladies and Khan for a medley of a medley of her hits.
Fourth place finisher Casey Bishop gave her fanbase a jolt pairing with Bryan for Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer,” a song the “Idol” judge likes to perform in his live shows. Bishop, who was shockingly eliminated last week after singing a Billie Eilish’s “wish u were gay,” got to take an iconic stage, rehearsing at Los Angeles club Whisky A Go Go.
Allentown, New Jersey jingle writer Tom McGovern lightened up the competition with a little ditty summarizing the entire season, and the sublimely soulful eliminated contestant Murphy strapped on a guitar for a pair of originals — “Am I Still Mine” and “The Painted Man” — that charmed the audience.
Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood and Celine Dion also made appearances to promote their Las Vegas residencies and to offer words of encouragement to the final three.