The Season 21 finale of American Idol is just days away, which means one of the last remaining contestants, Iam Tongi, Colin Stough or Megan Danielle, will soon take the talent competition’s top honor.
But which one?
While fans have their favorites—and one of the trio of contenders seems to a favorite with the judges, too—there’s really no way to know for sure until the final live vote takes place Sunday, May 21.
There is, however, a way to see how the finalists stack up against each other before the big day.
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When 18-year-old Stough, from Gattman, Mississippi, introduced himself to viewers, he spoke of his family roots in the south, the pain caused from his absentee father and the lessons he’s learned by taming horses. Basically, it was the perfect cowboy backstory for a young man with a love of country music and a heavy twang.
The first song he sang on American Idol was his audition offering, a strong rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” which led panelist Luke Bryan to declare Stough an example of “what Idol is about.”
Why he might win: There is something to that comment from Bryan. The last three out of four winners on American Idol have been male country singers. And Stough is popular with fans, with more than 4 million views on YouTube, 128,000 followers on Instagram and over 303,500 on TikTok.
In addition to that, he’s already outlasted arguably better singers, so a win for him wouldn’t be a shock.
Why he might not: The fact is he’s not the finest vocalist left in the competition. That honor goes to Tongi.
At 20 years old, Douglasville, Georgia’s Danielle credits her late grandfather with putting her on her current musical path. Before her audition, she explained that, back when she performed in bars, her “Paw Paw” told her, “This isn’t what you’re supposed to do.” He questioned how she could “sing for God” while singing in those establishments.
That’s when she switched gears to Christian music, a genre she’s showcased throughout her Idol run.
Why she might win: Danielle isn’t just a Christian singer—she’s a country-Christian singer, and of course, country music goes a long way on Idol. But there’s something else working in her favor. Out of the remaining contestants, Danielle has shown the most growth as a vocalist. She might not be better than Stough or Tongi, but she’s much better than she was when she joined the show.
Danielle has nearly 3 million views on YouTube, almost 89,000 followers on Instagram and 60,400 followers on TikTok.
Why she might not: To put it plainly, she just doesn’t measure up to the competition.
Tongi, an 18-year-old high school senior, captured the judges’ hearts as soon as his audition began. First there was his sadness about being “priced out of paradise” when he was forced to move from his native Kahuku, Hawaii to Seattle, Washington, and then, quickly eclipsing that, there was the fact that he’d lost his father just months earlier.
His performance of James Blunt’s father-son ballad, “Monsters,” left Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Bryan in tears and unanimous in their vote to send him to Hollywood. He immediately stood out as an early favorite in the competition, and since then, he’s continued to impress with his soulful, island-style vocals.
Why he might win: If Tongi’s consistent performances and moving deliveries weren’t enough to take him to the top, then his pure likability is. That can be seen on YouTube, where his videos have garnered more than 32 million views, and on social media, where he currently boasts 489,000-plus followers on Instagram and 820,500-plus on TikTok.
The judges have raved about him all along his Idol journey, with Richie referring to Tongi as a “phenomenon,” and Perry taking the praise even further.
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” she said following his semifinal performances. “I know that you’re Iam, but I when I see your name, I see ‘I am … the next American Idol.’
Why he might not: Perry’s high praise could be a demotivating factor for fans of the singer, as they might simply assume he’s a shoo-in and not feel an urgency to add their votes. But that’s not the biggest threat he faces.
The public’s aforementioned love of country music could overshadow their love of Tongi.