The 20-year-old construction worker, who hails from Louisa, Kentucky, was one of three finalists, and competed against HunterGirl and Leah Marlene, to earn the championship title.
“Oh my God … my heart is beating out of my chest, this is crazy,” Thompson said onstage upon hearing host Ryan Seacrest tell him he was the new winner of the long-running reality TV program.
Thompson performed three songs during the finale, including “I’m on Fire” for the Bruce Springsteen round, an original song titled “One Day Tonight,” and Rihanna’s “Stay” for his favorite song of the season.
The finale included performances by Melissa Etheridge, Thomas Rhett, Sara Bareilles, Michael Buble, Ben Platt, Flo Rida, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Gabby Barrett.
Carrie Underwood, who won the show in season four and catapulted to country music super stardom following her “American Idol” success, was scheduled to perform, but had to bow out at the last minute due to a COVID-19 exposure.
Thompson also endured a coronavirus scare when he tested positive for the virus during the final seven round, and was forced to compete in quarantine from his room. He, along with Fritz Hager, made it to the final five despite the challenges.
“This morning, I woke up with probably … I’ve never had such a sore throat my entire life. It was killing me,” Thompson said at the time. “I was just trying to push through it. I honestly can’t believe I made it through because it was hurting that bad. I was having such problems with it. I’m just glad it worked out.”
HunterGirl placed second with “Dancing in the Dark,” her original “Red Bird,” and her reprise of “Riot” by Rascal Flatts.
The 23-year-old musician, whose full name is Hunter Wolkonowski, admitted “American Idol” was a “wild ride.”
“I have grown so much as person,” she wrote on Instagram. “I am blessed that I got to have this crazy experience with people that I love and care about. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me throughout this journey.”
Marlene, 20, came in third place after performing “Cover Me” from Springsteen’s ’84 “Born in the U.S.A.” album and her original, “Flowers.” Katy Perry also joined her on stage for a version of “Firework.”
She later told her fans on Instagram that she was simply grateful for the outpouring of love and support as it was only “just the beginning” of her new life as a performer.
“This has been the most beautiful and incredible journey of my entire life and to be able to share it with other people who I love with my whole heart and witness their growth too,” she wrote. “That said… guys, this is the only the beginning for every single one of us and this is where the real work starts and I hope you guys will stick with me because I am ready to work my a– off and make this dream a reality in the real world.”
Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie have served as judges on the show since 2016, with past judges including Jennifer Lopez, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.