‘One Day Tonight.’ Kentucky’s Noah Thompson wins ‘American Idol’ 2022. Here’s what to know

‘One Day Tonight.’ Kentucky’s Noah Thompson wins ‘American Idol’ 2022. Here’s what to know

Published May 23, 2022
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For 20 long years, Kentucky has watched and waited for a performer from the Bluegrass State to be named the winner of “American Idol” — and now, it has happened. 

On Sunday, 20-year-old Noah Thompson, an unassuming construction worker from the small town of Louisa, Kentucky, won Season 20 of the long-running vocal competition.

As he sang for the “American Idol” crown in the finale along with fellow contestants HunterGirl and Leah Marlene, Thompson showed up for the first time on stage (and only the second time in his life) wearing a suit as he performed “Stay” by Rihanna.  

During the three hour finale, Thompson also sang in a powerful duet with music legend Melissa Etheridge, performed his debut single, “One Day Tonight,” and sang a cover of “I’m on Fire,” a Bruce Springsteen hit.

“American Idol” has propelled previously unknown performers onto super stardom like Kelly Clarkson (Season One) and Carrie Underwood (Season Four.) 

Thompson, who had no previous musical training or performance experience, was pushed to try out for the show by Arthur Johnson, a co-worker and friend of Thompson’s from Louisa.  

Background:Noah Thompson needs Kentucky’s votes to win ‘American Idol.’ Your guide to Sunday’s finale

Since his first audition in front of “American Idol” judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, it’s been quite a journey.    

Thompson overcame self-doubt, extreme nervousness and even COVID-19 while performing with his distinct country style during each episode of the multi-week competition. 

For the Hollywood Week Showstopper round, he injected his country flavor into Rihanna’s “Stay,” stunning the judges with his artistry. Thompson continued to reinvent songs into country classics such as “Falling” by Harry Styles (Top 20), “Heartbreak Warfare” by John Mayer (Top 11), and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story (Top 10). That one he dedicated to his friend Arthur Johnson.

“You are a good guy from Kentucky who might win ‘America Idol,'” said Perry after Thompson sang “Stay” on Sunday’s finale.

And he did. 

“My heart is beating out of my chest,” said Thompson after winning the more than 16 million votes that were cast during the final show. 

Fact check:Did Katy Perry really move to Kentucky? Here’s what to know about the rumors

During the “American Idol” Top 7 week, the Kentucky singer was diagnosed with COVID-19 and delivered his two performances from his hotel room. The judges praised the two performances as his best yet, and he earned his place in the Top 5.

The week before the finale, Thompson returned to Louisa for the first time in two months. The town hosted a parade for their musical hero, a live concert that garnered  a few thousand attendees and put up a sign on the Country Music Highway along road U.S. Route 23 announcing the home of “Noah Thompson.”

Thompson’s homecoming was filmed by “American Idol” producers for the segment that appeared in Sunday’s episode. 

Reach Kirby Adams at kadams@courier-journal.com or Twitter @kirbylouisville.