Leah Marlene wasn’t a favorite to win after her audition round, but she won over a lot of fans during American Idol’s 20th anniversary season.
The self-proclaimed “weird girl” came in and was a bit of a culture shock for some fans, but as the competition wore on, she proved that she was more than what anyone expected, and she delivered amazing performances to the end, where she finished in the Top 3.
While she didn’t win, Leah proved that she has a future in the music industry.
Here is a look back at Leah Marlene’s American Idol journey.
The Auditions Round
When Leah Marlene showed up at the American Idol auditions, she said she was ready and she was a bundle of joy. Her dad was a member of an ‘80s rock band, and she admitted that she was a ball of energy when she showed up.
Leah sang the song Steal My Girl by One Direction in her audition song with her guitar. She also sang some of an original called Wisher to the Well.
Hollywood Week – Genre Challenge/Duets
In the Genre Challenge, Fritz Hager was in the Indie-Folk genre group with Lee DeWyze as the mentor. For her performance, Leah sang Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavigne, and the judges loved it enough to move her on to the next round.
In the Duets Challenge, two of the singers that would make the Top 5 performed together as Fritz Hager and Leah Marlene teamed up as Team Green.
The two went on to sing Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars, and Lionel Richie said he felt they brought the best out of each other. It was also the start of a great friendship, as when Fritz went home, he said he wanted Leah to win it all.
The first song for a live audience was the choice of the singers. For Leah, her song choice was the Larkin Poe song, She’s A Self Made Man. She had a good stage presence and put on a fun performance. Katy loved her guitar playing but wanted more from her vocals.
Despite that, Leah moved on to the Top 24.
The Top 24 was the first time that the fans at home got to vote. The Top 24 split into two groups, with the first 12 singing on Sunday night and the second 12 on Monday night. Leah was in Group 2.
She came out and sang the Blondie hit song Call Me. She made it her own, delivering it in a jazzier sound, and it was great. Lionel said she has luck on her side because there is no one else there like her. Katy said she was gun, and Luke thought the song started off down but got better. The fans loved her and voted her on.
The Top 20 was a huge night for the American Idol contestants, a three-hour episode with the singers pulling out all the stops.
For Leah Marlene, she came out and sang the song Heal by Tom Odell. This was when Leah stopped being the quirky weird girl and really started digging deep and showing that she was a talent to be reckoned with. In the end, Katy was shocked and said she could feel all the pain, and Luke said it was like a finale performance.
Breakout Hits/Judge’s Song Contest
For the Breakout Hits, Leah sang Happy Together by The Turtles, even though she also considered Mad World. It was a great choice as she played guitar once again and when she finished, Katy asked if this was a Coachella performance. Lionel mentioned he loved watching her transform.
Up next was the Judge’s Song Contest, which was a fun competition. Each judge chose a song for the singers, and they chose the one they wanted to sing without knowing who chose it. The winning judge who had the most songs chosen got to save someone who the fans didn’t vote in.
Leah Marlene chose to sing Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love, which was – once again – a song that really showed her sincerity and talent. Katy Perry chose the song and said that Leah’s performance was like looking at a Picasso painting.
Disney Night was Top 10 week, and it was time for three people to go home. Derek Hough was the mentor, and he focused most on the stage presence and how they carried themselves in their performance.
Leah Marlene chose to sing the Sarah McLachlan song When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2. She continued to show her range and depth and was really coming into her own as a singer and performer. She almost played the piano, but Derek told her to just sing, and she listened and blew the judges away. Katy said she was silky smooth, and Luke said she didn’t hit a single bad note.
The singers chose a trending TikTok song for their first performance in the Top 10 round. Leah chose the song Electric Love by BORNS. When she finished, Lionel Richie felt she listened to all of mentor Will.i.am’s tips, and was great.
Up next was a dedication for Mother’s Day. She chose the song Sanctuary from the TV show Nashville. She said they loved to watch the show together. Katy talked up her maturity, and Luke loved the purity of her voice.
Carrie Underwood/Contestant’s Choice
Leah Marlene came into the Top 5 and had two performances to put on for the fans. First, there was a Carrie Underwood song. Second, she got to choose her own second song as she fought for a spot in the finale.
Leah Marlene chose to sing I’ll Stand By You, which was a cover song for Carrie for an Idol Gives Back Show. Katy said that Leah reinvented the song and Luke found it beautiful.
For the Contestant’s Choice song, Leah sang Separate Ways (World’s Apart) by Journey. The performance blew Luke away, and Katy said that she brought a new life to the 1980s classic. It helped Leah move to the finals.
Leah Marlene came into the finals with an uphill battle. She had to face Platinum Ticket holder HunterGirl and the everyman country singer Noah Thompson. She held her own, starting off with the Bruce Springsteen song Cover Me. Lionel loved it, saying Leah made it her own.
After this, Leah performed her original song, Flowers. This was an important song for Leah, as she spent two years suffering from clinical depression and this song speaks to her battles and lets others know they are not alone. Leah was emotional, and it was a wonderful performance.
However, it was not enough to win it all, and Leah went home in third place for the 20th season of American Idol.
American Idol is on hiatus. The singing competition series will return in 2023 to ABC.