Noah Thompson was crowned the winner of American Idol during the three-hour Season 20 finale, which aired live coast-to-coast on Sunday night (May 22) — and Luke Bryan thinks he knows the secret to Thompson's appeal.

While the Louisa, Ky., native admits his journey on the show has been nothing short of “stressful,” winning the competition has him experiencing a surreal feeling that he couldn’t have ever imagined.

"I did not expect to make it this far, and I just won,” Thompson told People and other media during a group interview following the Idol finale. “I'm blown away but I'm just trying to take it all in."

It’s that sort of humble spirit and down-to-earth personality that Bryan and Lionel Richie believe is what ultimately won over America’s hearts.

"I think, you know, we've seen it in 20 years where those types [of] people, really — America pulls for them, responds to them. And it always tells me that, at the end of the day, being a good, humble, kind person wins,” Bryan says, weighing in on the reason behind the final results of the show. “He just came in as the underdog ... the unassuming guy that he didn't see it coming. America didn't see it coming.”

"I can't tell you how many times [Noah] woke up every night and went, 'I can't believe I'm here.' And I go, 'You got to start believing, son,'" Richie adds. "Well, tonight, I walked up to him and said, 'You want to tell me that now?' But it's that humble giant that you're looking for that works every time."

On Sunday, when the nationwide vote came to a close, Thompson beat out fellow country singer and runner-up HunterGirl. Leah Marlene came in third place. Although HunterGirl and Marlene proved to be strong contenders, Thompson’s "likability" and "all-American boy next door" energy seemed to give him the edge over his peers.

Thompson auditioned for American Idol after his buddy, Arthur, submitted him to the show. A former construction worker and loving father, he was an early standout for the judging panel, auditioning with Kameron Marlowe’s “Giving You Up.” Midway through the reality singing competition, he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to deliver his performance via video stream. Although his moment saw him singing “Painted Blue” by Sunday Best from a hotel room while seated on a barstool with just an acoustic guitar in hand, the stripped-down take was deemed one of the best.

For the finale, Thompson impressed folks with four performances. They included a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” an original song called “One Day Tonight,” a duet with Melissa Etheridge on “I’m the Only One,” and Rihanna’s “Stay,” a song that he reprised from earlier in the season.

The Season 20 American Idol finale also included performances from the Top 10 finalists. Judges Katy Perry, Richie and Bryan also took the stage with current and former contestants. Celebrity guests included Flo-Rida, Sara Bareilles, Michael Bublé, Deana Carter, Gabby Barrett, Earth Wind & Fire, Ben Platt, James Arthur, Thomas Rhett and Tai Verdes.

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