In the first round of the Season 20 finale of ‘American Idol,’ local musician Leah Marlene was voted off the show. The Town of Normal native’s long road to the final episode has seen widespread support both locally and nationally.
The first round of performances consisted of songs from the songbook of Bruce Springsteen. Leah was the first performer, singing her version of ‘Cover Me’ from Springsteen’s 1984 album Born in the USA.
To open the second round, each of finalists’ trips to their respective hometowns was highlighted. Marlene once again was the first for this round, with a montage of her return to the Town of Normal last Tuesday. It opened with her visiting Parkside Junior High and Normal West High Schools, where she was greeted by friends in the halls. Festive yellow decorations were seen donning the walls, as she sang with the school choir and reunited with former teachers. A visit to her family followed, during which she joined them for a dinner ahead of her performance downtown later that evening.
“I couldn’t be more proud of you.” said her dad Derry Grehan. “You’re the most wonderful daughter any father could want.”
The montage concluded with her arrival downtown in a private escort, and her live performance to a crowd of thousands.
“It has been the most beautiful experience of my entire life,” Marlene told the crowd, expressing her shock as she took in the multitudes in attendance.
Following the montage, Marlene performed a song of her own for the judges, titled ‘Flowers.’ Host Ryan Seacrest told the viewing audience she wrote it to her past self, reflected in the message of resilience conveyed in the song’s lyrics. The judges praised Marlene for both her performance and growth during her time on the show, during which she began to break down in tears.
“I’m just so overwhelmed, so overwhelmed,’ said Marlene in response to Seacrest asking how she felt. “I would never believe you two years ago if you said I was here, I never thought I was going to get out of that situation. And now I’m up here singing this song (to) people in that situation.”
“You have every right to feel these emotions right now,” said judge Luke Bryan.