Warning! The following contains spoilers for American Idol. Read at your own risk!
American Idol is down to its top three finalists ahead of next week's finale, in which voters will choose between Alejandro Aranda, Madison VanDenburg, and Laine Hardy. A lot of America seems to think this competition is Aranda's to lose, but it ain't over yet. Each of the opposing contestants could beat the talented singer/songwriter, especially Laine Hardy, who has a couple of advantages over his fellow competitors that very well might grant him a Season 17 upset victory.
Laine Hardy Is An American Idol Veteran
Laine Hardy has gotten much farther in Season 17 than he did in his first outing, proving there are advantages to having familiarity for former American Idol competitors able to return to the competition. Hardy started off with quite a few fans who followed his journey last season, and it'd be foolish not to think that core fanbase hasn't helped ensure he's in this final three right now.
Looking to social media, Laine Hardy has over 47,000 followers on Twitter, which is 7,000 more than Alejandro Aranda, and well over Madison VanDenburg's 18,600 followers. As unfair as it may be, American Idol really becomes a popularity contest in the late stages (as it goes with lots of voter-based shows), and Laine's definitely looking like he's the most popular on social media, if not the best singer outright. From a Twitter standpoint, he has the numbers to win.
Laine Hardy Is Charming As Hell
Each of the remaining competitors boasts a distinctive personality trait. Madison VanDenburg is the quiet type who explodes on stage with a voice channeling former champ Kelly Clarkson (who audiences may never hear again on the show). Alejandro Aranda shows off his own songwriting abilities, crafting platinum-worthy hits that should feel at home on a potential freshman album. Laine Hardy, meanwhile, has the most outgoing personality, sporting Southern charm out the wazoo, which makes for a good on-camera presence each week.
Again, American Idol can be a popularity contest, and when millions of viewers are seeing that smiling face and those shiny suits behind a stellar voice, they may be swayed to vote for Laine Hardy over anyone else. That's not to say Laine stylings are everyone's cup of tea, but he definitely has that Southern gentlemen personality that will definitely help him get some votes.
Laine Hardy's Talent Is Only Growing
It wasn't hard to hear in the penultimate episode that Laine Hardy took a step up in his singing ability for his takes on the classics “Hey Jude” and “Something About The Way You Look Tonight.” The improvement was noticed by judges Luke Bryan and Katy Perry, who outright asked Hardy if he had been to a vocal coach in the previous week. As it turned out, that's exactly what he did, and that vocal lesson resulted in a noticeable upgrade.
Laine Hardy was already a great singer, and he wouldn't have gotten this far in American Idol if he wasn't. That said, he raised the bar this week, and if he's capable of raising it even higher in the time between now and the finale, there's a scenario where he might easily outperform VanDenburg and Aranda, which is no small feat. The penultimate episode showed he's capable of that, so all he has to do is show up and deliver next week.
Does Laine Hardy stand a chance? Tune into ABC for American Idol's Season 17 finale on Sunday, May 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET to find out. CinemaBlend will bring updates in the meantime for American Idol and other popular television shows.