AceShowbiz - "American Idol" has crowned its Season 18 winner, but the finale offered more than that. One of the highlights from the Sunday night, May 17 show was the return of past winners, including Jordin Sparks, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino, to help judge Lionel Richie in performing a remake of "We Are the World".
Joining the foursome to deliver a beautiful rendition of the song Ritchie co-wrote in 1985 with Michael Jackson were Season 10, 11 and 17 winners, Scotty McCreery, Phillip Phillips and Laine Hardy respectively. Other "Idol" alumni, including Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Lauren Alaina, Gabby Barrett and Alejandro Aranda, also took part.
"We Are the World" were originally produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian. Made as a charity single to benefit starvation relief efforts in Africa, it was performed by USA for Africa, a supergroup which included the likes of Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Ray Charles and Tina Turner.
The unifying anthem got remade by Richie and Wyclef Jean in 2010 as a response to devastating earthquake in Haiti. This version featured Celine Dion, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Snoop Dogg and Toni Braxton among others.
Back in March 2020, Richie offered his thought on remaking the song for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic 35 years after its first release. "Two weeks ago, we said we didn't want to do too much [about the song] because this is not the time to sell an anniversary. But the message is so clear," he said referring to a line in the chorus, "There's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives."
"That line came about as Michael and I were sitting there talking. We said, you can either say, 'I'm saving my life' or 'We're saving our lives,' " the 70-year-old explained in an interview with PEOPLE. " 'We Are the World' is a statement we wanted to make. What do we do to save our own?" He added that every time he tried to write a different song, he wrote "those same words."
The season 18 finale was filled with individual performances from the Top 5, Dillon James, Jonny West, Arthur Gunn, Francisco Martin and Justin Sam, as well as performances from Richie's fellow judges, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. Other performers for the finale included Lauren Daigle and Cynthia Erivo.