Maddie Poppe becomes the first Iowan to win 'American Idol'
American Idol finalist Maddie Poppe of Clarksville, Iowa, visits her hometown to film segments for the finale of the competition. Des Moines Register
It's official: Maddie Poppe is the first Iowan to become an American Idol.
The Clarksville native beat out Gabby Barrett, Vegas’ odds-on favorite to take the crown, and Caleb Lee Hutchinson, the bluesy baritone from Georgia.
In addition to the title, Poppe won $250,000, a headlining performance at the Hollywood Bowl and a recording contract with Hollywood Records.
And Poppe came out of this experience with another, very unexpected prize, too: Just before singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" together, Hutchinson announced that he and Poppe were dating. (The internet then created their official portmanteau, HutchPoppe.)
After hearing her name called as the winner, Poppe folded into Hutchinson's arms, burying her face into his chest.
Crying in a way we haven't seen her do on the show before, Poppe, who donned a gorgeous floor-length teal gown, was immediately brought her guitar to perform her winner's single, "Going Going Gone." The emotions choked her up at first, but she pulled it together in trademark cool-headed Poppe fashion.
Her parents and the judges, on the other hand, were all smiles as they danced to her song. Her fellow contestants rushed the stage after her first chorus, surrounding her in a ring of hugs before confetti rained onto the stage.
"I have to sing my song," she joked, trying to stay on beat while juggling tears and laughs and hugs.
Closing out its first season on ABC, "American Idol" pulled out all the stops for what amounted to a televised concert with a bit of speaking and a ton of highlight packages. Judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie all performed with the season's former contestants, as did superstars like Darius Rucker, Nick Jonas and Patti LaBelle.
Kermit the Frog (aka the biggest star of the night) appeared to sing "Rainbow Connection" with Poppe, who made the melody "Idol" famous when she sang it during her audition. (Hat tip to the costume and lighting designers, who gave the number a fun late-70s rainbow/kaleidoscope vibe a la "The Muppet Show.")
Throughout the competition, the judges kept referring to that first Poppe performance, where she not only sang a Muppet song, but sported quirky pigtails.
From there, Poppe has only matured in style, taste and vocal abilities, the judges told her often throughout "Idol's" run.
"You have grown so much," Lionel Richie told the 20-year-old singer last week. "The journey has been an amazing one."
Luke Bryan agreed, telling Poppe earlier in the season that her voice "feels timeless."
"You've had it since the audition, and you just keep getting better and better each step of the way," he said.
But Poppe's biggest fan has always been Perry, who told the Iowan that she "just want(s) to hear a record" of hers.
"You're, like, 'I am Maddie Poppe and no one else. Whether I go Top 5 or No. 1, I'm Maddie Poppe,' and actually, that's a star,'" Perry said.
Her journey to 'Idol' stardom
Even though Poppe didn’t start performing publicly until middle school — much later than many of her fellow “Idol” contestants — she was predisposed to love music.
Her father spent much of her childhood in a band, and he made her and her sisters record Christmas songs as an annual gift to their grandparents. Her family knew about Poppe's talent, said her mom, Tonya Poppe, but all of her performances took place within the four walls of their house.
Poppe's career began when her sister Hannah begged her to sing a duet of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” at a town festival.
The then-14-year-old begrudgingly agreed. But by the time the number finished, Poppe officially had caught the performance bug.
“People heard her and they just stopped walking — like, stopped dead in their tracks,” said Poppe's friend Emily Mennega, 21. “No one knew Maddie could sing.”
It was a turning point, said Tonya. From then on, Poppe got serious about channeling that elusive X-factor she always had into her music.
"We always knew she was going to become someone famous," said Kayla Jacobs, 20, a classmate of Poppe's and a junior at University of Northern Iowa. "We just didn't know it was going to be this soon."
Wearing all white after singing Bebe Rexha's "Meant to Be" — which features the line, "If it's meant to be, it'll be" — Poppe found out she was moving forward into the Top 2 a little more than halfway into the finale.
"I honestly don't care who wins," Poppe remarked with her arms wrapped around Hutchinson. (We hadn't yet learned of their blossoming love.)
To me, it was the most honest moment "Idol" has had this season. Poppe and most of her fellow contestants seem to really just want to have fun, and Poppe herself hasn't at all been jaded by her meteoric rocket to stardom.
“I don’t need all the fame and fortune,” Poppe said of what comes next. “I just want to have fun and make this a career for myself.”
Soon after Poppe was announced as this year's "Idol," Carrie Underwood and a handful of other "Idol" winners took to Twitter to congratulate her.
"Consistent all season and loved the song choices," Season 8 winner Kris Allen said.
Throughout the run of the show, Poppe has been picking up more and more confidence in herself and in her talents. Not only has she said so, but her performances loosened as she allowed herself to feel the music.
"When I got to Hollywood Week, I looked around that room and I just thought, 'I don’t know how I am going to stand out,'" Poppe said. "But along the way, I found who I wanted to be."
As Poppe herself once said, "Life could change so much because of one audition."
Looks like it just did.
- How Maddie Poppe became the darling of 'American Idol'
- Maddie Poppe returned to her Iowa hometown and people went absolutely bonkers
- WATCH: Maddie Poppe's first public performance
- Iowan Maddie Poppe reaches Top 3 on 'American Idol.' Watch all of her performances here.
- 'Pretty dope': Iowan impresses on renewed 'American Idol'
- 'Hypnotic' Maddie Poppe is first Iowan to advance to 'American Idol' finals
- Iowa showed its love for American Idol finalist Maddie Poppe through a cornfield
- 'American Idol': A look back at the judges' comments to Iowan Maddie Poppe throughout the season
- From the 2015 archives: Kyle Munson: Maddie Poppe’s voice stops RAGBRAI riders in their tracks
- Are the 'American Idol' odds in Maddie Poppe’s favor? Not according to Vegas.
- Iowan Maddie Poppe should ignore dumb comments from 'American Idol' judges.