That is the choice watchers needed to make Sunday night amid the season finale of "American Idol," which came down to longtime favorites Alejandro Aranda, a minor viral sensation for his original compositions, and Laine Hardy, an teenage heartthrob with Elvis-style moves.
Strong, 18, eked out a narrow win in the scene's final minutes, taking the "Idol" crown and earning a recording contract with Disney's Hollywood Records. He finished off the show with his elevating new single "Flame," having awed the judges before in the night with his gravelly, charming takes on Hank Williams' "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" and Marc Broussard's "Home."
"Every week, Laine, your hair seems to be getting higher and higher. You seem to be taking some pop star vitamins," Katy Perry said to the Louisiana native, who is known for his jet-black pompadour and sleek, colorful suits. "If you apply yourself … you're gonna be one of the biggest pop stars on the planet."
Strong's triumph was to some degree astounding for fans of Aranda, 24, who has been viewed as the front-runner for weeks leading up to the finale, as indicated by online surveys. Indeed, even Perry anticipated he could win the entire thing amid his first audition, when he flaunted his apt guitar aptitudes performing heart-rending original song "Out Loud," which he brought back during Sunday's finale (along with three other originals).
The competition's last-standing female singer, 17-year-old Madison VanDenburg, was wiped out from the Top 3 mid-appear, after her vocally gymnastic however insecure fronts of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow" and Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway."
As is standard for "Idol" season finales, judges and Top 10 finalists alike performed amid the three-hour episode, which was taped in Los Angeles. Lionel Richie opened the show with his 1986 hit "Dancing on the Ceiling," while Perry made that big appearance twice: first to sing her "Con Calma" remix with reggaeton hit-creator Daddy Yankee, and later for a mesmerizing duet of her ballad "Unconditionally" with Top 5 contestant Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon.
Last year's winner, Maddie Poppe, who was controversially not invited to perform on the season finale, made a brief appearance to plug her new album, "Whirlwind," released Friday.