Diehard American Idol fans were shocked in season 2 (also known as season 17) when a familiar face stepped out on the audition stage. Although he was only there to play guitar for his friend Ashton Gill during her audition, it turned out to be Laine Hardy's comeback.
The country singer was declared the winner of American Idol season 2, beating out Alejandro Aranda and Madison VanDenburg. Ahead of the season 3 premiere of the hit singing competition show, take a moment to refresh yourself on this young superstar's history with the show that helped put him on the map.
Laine Hardy's first American Idol audition
In 2018, then-17-year-old Laine had arrived on the American Idol set for his own first audition. At the time, he was just a high school senior from Louisiana, and he immediately charmed judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan with his country twang and impressive rendition of "Hurricane" by Band of Heathens.
Although he initially caught their eye, Laine ultimately lacked the confidence the judges hoped to see from their next American Idol, and he was eliminated before he could even make it to the Top 50.
Making a comeback on American Idol 2019
Naturally, fans were surprised when Laine walked into the 2019 auditions with Ashton. The judges recognized him immediately and hopped up from their seats to greet him, teasing him about his new look (slick haircut and perfect new smile, included) and his self-promoting merch. "You got all Hollywood on us!" Katy exclaimed.
Eventually, Ashton performed and the judges decided to advance her to the next round — but Lionel, Katy, and Luke weren't about to let Laine walk away without singing them a quick song of his own. And Laine's impromptu song did not disappoint: Not only had his look matured, but his voice and performance style had, as well.
"C'mon, man, what is this?" Lionel asked as the country singer belted out "The Weight" by The Band. "Where did you get this confidence?" Katy added.
Completely blown away by Laine's newfound stage presence, the judges offered him a Golden Ticket to Hollywood right then and there — and, after a brief moment of consideration, he accepted. And that decision has paid off for the young county singer: Although his friend Ashton was eliminated from the competition during Hollywood Week, Laine eventually made it all the way to the finale.
Laine Hardy wins American Idol season 2
During the finale in May, Laine performed "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" by Hank William, and also joined Jon Pardi on stage for a special medley of "Night Shift" and "Dirt on My Boots."
Naturally, Laine's fans were absolutely ecstatic the moment host Ryan Seacrest announced that he was the winner.
Laine isn't the first artist to win American Idol after being eliminated from an earlier season of the show: Season 12 champion Candice Glover took the prize after competing in the ninth and 10th seasons, and Caleb Johnson won season 13 after appearing in seasons 10 and 11.
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