'Authentic as heck': Maddie Poppe shines in final 'American Idol' performances
No matter what happens to Maddie Poppe next, her album cover can now read: “Katy Perry once called me, ‘Authentic as heck.’”
In her final “American Idol” performances Sunday, Poppe was indeed "authentic," but also unique, wonderfully eccentric and just plain good.
Or, as judge Luke Bryan put it, she was “quintessential Maddie Poppe.”
The only singer to perform two original songs, Poppe sang her new single, “Going Going Gone” — which was co-written by fellow Iowan Julia Michaels — and a favorite from her first album, “Don't Ever Let Your Children Grow Up.”
Performing two originals was “a risk,” Perry said, but Poppe “owned her style.”
“I love that you … wanted to once again show off that you are a fully-fledged, actual artist,” Perry said. “And that you have many layers to you and you are not just a singer or not just a performer, you are also a songwriter.”
Poppe’s recent trip back to Clarksville — a big deal for her hometown — was featured toward the end of the show.
And from the crowds lining the downtown streets to the packed school gym to the fire-hazard-worthy Butler County Fairgrounds, the pure bigness of the assembly took center stage. Now, don’t get me wrong: It is nothing but impressive that more than 10,000 people turned out to hear Poppe sing just outside tiny Allison, Iowa, a town of just over 1,000.
But the most touching bits of Poppe’s hometown trip were the most intimate moments: Poppe singing with her family at a backyard barbecue, or her and her dad in the limo on the way to her show.
“You’ve been talking about this since you were little and you were singing into a hairbrush,” said her dad Trent Poppe. “Now we’re in the back of a limo heading to your big concert, isn’t that crazy or what?”
Or in another instance, when Poppe was preparing to look down at more than three times the population of Clarksville at an evening performance and she called out, “I’m not practiced. I am not ready.” (Her family almost immediately told her to chill out, which I, for one, hope they keep telling her.)
“The fact that I am back here in my hometown — the same place I was just walking the streets like a year ago,” Poppe said, “and now I am playing for thousands and thousands of people... It’s just incredible.
“Today was the best day of my life.”
I’ve said it before, but a Poppe win would fulfill the purest promise of “American Idol”: That someone from a small town of modest means but big dreams could ride their talent to stardom. And in some ways, a Poppe win would also harken back to the early seasons of “Idol,” where artistry and singularity won out over really good karaoke numbers.
Being able to remain true to her unabashedly offbeat self was a concern for Poppe heading into “Idol,” she's told the Register.
But reflecting back on a season of one-of-a-kind song choices on Sunday’s episode, Poppe relished that she didn’t have to “change anything about myself and America accepted me for who I was and the judges accepted me for who I was.”
“I don’t need all the fame and fortune,” Poppe said of what happens next. “I just want to have fun and make this a career for myself.”
It’s never obvious how the audience is going to vote on these shows. (*Cough* Ruben Studdard???? *Cough*.)
Will the country music lovers come out for Caleb Lee Hutchinson, the bluesy baritone? Will the teeny-boppers vote for Gabby Bennett, the girl with a look ready-made for a Disney Channel movie?
Or will they choose the Iowan, who wore overalls and sang a Kermit the Frog song?
I’ll find out Monday just like everyone else. But at least one judge revealed her opinion: “I’m voting for you,” Perry said to Poppe just after her last song.
Just one more line that's ripe for an album cover.
How to watch
The second part of the two-part finale will air at 8 p.m. Monday on ABC.
- 'Pretty dope': Iowan impresses on renewed 'American Idol'
- 'Hypnotic' Maddie Poppe is first Iowan to advance to 'American Idol' finals
- Maddie Poppe returned to her Iowa hometown and people went absolutely bonkers
- How Maddie Poppe became the darling of 'American Idol'
- A look back at the judges' comments to Iowan Maddie Poppe throughout the season
- Iowan Maddie Poppe reaches Top 3 on 'American Idol.' Watch all of her performances here.
- From the 2015 archives:Kyle Munson: Maddie Poppe’s voice stops RAGBRAI riders in their tracks