North Georgia native Lauren Alaina will be among the stars harmonizing on "We Are the World" Sunday on "American Idol" as Lionel Richie reprises the song he co-wrote for hunger relief as an anthem for the coronavirus pandemic.
Richie, a Motown legend, is a judge on the televised singing competition, along with pop superstar Katy Perry and country crooner Luke Bryan. Sunday's episode will be the season finale for the show, which is in its 18th season overall and third since moving from Fox to ABC.
The coronavirus shut down production of the show in March, after the Top 20 finalists had been decided, but producers have managed to finish the season remotely using videos of the singers performing from home.
Viewer votes have narrowed the field to seven contestants going into the finale: Arthur Gunn, Just Sam, Jonny West, Louis Knight, Julia Gargano, Francisco Martin and Dillon James. The Top 5 reportedly will be revealed early in the show, then each contestant will perform two songs: one to celebrate their Top 5 finish, the second their new "American Idol" single, a song they've previously performed this season.
* “American Idol” will air at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC.
Before the real-time vote to determine the winner, Richie will lead the performance of "We Are the World" with fellow judges Perry and Bryan, as well as several past "American Idol" contestants. They include Alaina, Alejandro "Scarypoolparty" Aranda, Gabby Barrett, Jordin Sparks, Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Laine Hardy, Phillip Phillips, Ruben Studdard and Scotty McCreery.
Alaina, who graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School in 2013, was the runner-up on the 10th season of the reality show in 2011, finishing behind McCreery.
E! News has reported that other highlights of the finale, which airs at 8 p.m., will be the TV debut of Perry's new single "Daisies"; Bryan singing his new single, "One Margarita;" a medley of Aretha Franklin songs by Cynthia Erivo and the Top 11 contestants; and Lauren Daigle and the Top 5 performing "You Say." Rascal Flatts is set to perform "Bless the Broken Road" with early fan favorite Douglas Kiker, an Alabama native who was working as a garbage collector when he auditioned. His raw talent wowed the judges, but he didn't make it past the show's Hollywood round.
This is the first time in 35 years that "We Are the World" has been performed on television. The original version featured 46 singers, including such superstars as Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and Bruce Springsteen. The song's initial release in 1985 was for African famine relief. It was revived in 2010 to help earthquake victims in Haiti.
Funds raised from downloads of the new single will go toward COVID-19 relief efforts.
Local music educator and performer Neshawn Calloway, recently named a 2020 Music Teacher of Excellence by the Country Music Association Foundation, said she has introduced the song to her vocal music students at Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts. They were more familiar with the 2010 version featuring LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg.
"I took them back to the original version so they could hear what it really sounded like," she said. "They really grew to love the song and to appreciate what it was all about."
The song's lyrics about the importance of people uplifting each other are still "valid to this day," she said. "It's important all over again, considering what we're dealing with in this world."
Email Lisa Denton at email@example.com.