Sunday's finale of American Idol featured a number of memorable moments, one of which was judge Lionel Richie's updated version of "We Are the World" featuring a number of Idol contestants and alums. Richie tapped previous winners and standouts like Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Fantasia Barrino, Kellie Pickler, Gabby Barrett, Jordin Sparks, Katharine McPhee, Laine Hardy and Phillip Phillips as well as his fellow judges Luke Bryan and Katy Perry and Top 11 finalists Arthur Gunn, Dillon James, Francisco Martin, Grace Leer, Jonny West, Jovin Webb, Julia Gargano, Just Sam, Louis Knight, Makayla Phillips and Sophia James.
The performance began with Richie, who stood in front of a microphone wearing white. Each participant also wore white and had their images superimposed over reflective surfaces on images of a subway, a beach, a baseball stadium, rock formations and more. The clip ended with the images of the three judges and a number of finalists on the sides of city buildings. One of the biggest musical events of all time, the original "We Are the World" was co-written by Richie and Michael Jackson in 1985 for African famine relief and featured stars including Janet Jackson Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and more.
This time around, Richie chose to forgo a superstar cast and call up his Idol family for a simple reason. "We've done the all-star cast and it was historic," he told Billboard in an email. "These kids inspire me with their talent and they reflect the diversity of the world." Richie shared that while he is asked to rework the song just about "every day for every cause," he decided that now was the right time because "we have a very unique situation for the whole world. What better time to remind people to help and support each other," he said, giving the "greatest" line in the song as proof: "There's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives."
Executive producer/showrunner Trish Kinane said that it was Richie's idea to do the song with his Idol family. "I don’t think Lionel would have suggested doing that song and it was him that suggested it because he’s been asked endlessly during this pandemic to do 'We Are The World' by loads of others and he’s said no," she said. Sunday's Season 18 finale also crowned one of the finalists the winner — click here to see who it is.