Fourteen years have passed since British television mogul Simon Fuller brought his hit series, "Pop Idol," stateside in the form of "American Idol." When the show's 15th season ends this Thursday, April 7, on Fox, fans will be saying goodbye to more than just the two finalists who fail to take the title.
Season 15 may have premiered to nearly 11 million viewers in January, but it would have taken a miracle to save "American Idol" from its perpetually sinking ratings over the past few years. Some critics have pointed to the show's current lineup of judges - Harry Connick Jr., who will be performing at Thalia Mara Hall on June 9, Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez - as a cause for less passionate viewership. But it's hard to deny that the format hasn't aged all that well, regardless of who's dishing up their best Simon Cowell scowl these days.
However, that doesn't mean that "American Idol" is incapable of attracting top-notch talent. And wouldn't you know it - the birthplace of American music has plenty of representation in the farewell season's top three.
25-year-old singer Trent Harmon hails from Amory, Miss., and like many great vocalists of the past, his music background began in the church. Before America watched his audition in Little Rock, Ark., Harmon attended the University of Arkansas at Monticello, where he led campus worship services. He gained attention for his performances on songs such as Chris Stapleton's "Tennessee Whiskey," "Sam Smith's "Lay Me Down" and OneRepublic's "Counting Stars."
McComb, Miss., native La'Porsha Renae is a 22-year-old call representative, who also nabbed her ticket to Hollywood in Little Rock. At age 16, Renae auditioned unsuccessfully for "American Idol" season eight, but she had a lot more luck this year, earning praise for her renditions of Beyonce's "Halo," Adele's "Hello" and Rihanna's "Diamonds."
Renae and Harmon join fellow finalist Dalton Rapattoni, a 20-year-old musician from Sunnyvale, Texas, who - surprise - also auditioned in Little Rock. Before the show, he worked as a vocal coach at the School of Rock in Dallas and fronted the band Fly Away Hero.
Three days of "American Idol" episodes lay ahead of us, starting with a 90-minute special titled "American Dream," tonight, Tuesday, April 5, at 7 p.m. Host Ryan Seacrest will discuss the show's best moments and memories with judges and contestants from the past and present, also providing a look at what goes on behind the scenes.
Fox will pit the last-ever final three against one another in the hourlong first half of the series finale Wednesday, April 6, at 7 p.m., and fans can return for the two-hour part two, which will likely be the last "American Idol" episode of all time on Thursday, April 7, at 7 p.m.