How ‘Idol’ Winner Noah Thompson Connects to Rihanna’s ‘Stay’

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Reigning American Idol winner Noah Thompson did his fair share of cover songs, ranging from pop to rock to country during his successful run on Season 20 of the popular reality TV series. But perhaps no other performance of his has been as memorable as his rendition of Rihanna‘s R&B hit, “Stay.”

Thompson debuted an emotional, countryfied version of the track during the grueling “Showstoppers” round on Idol. At the time, he dedicated his performance to his then-girlfriend Angel Dixon, telling viewers the ballad reminded him of being back home with her, as they used to sing the song together. His rendition of “Stay” earned him a spot in the Top 24 — and ultimately changed his trajectory on the show.

These days, “Stay” may no longer speak to Thompson’s relationship, but it still holds meaning in the former construction worker’s heart. Speaking with Taste of Country Nights, the Louisa, Ky., native says he gravitates toward the song because of the lyrics.

“I just think the lyrics and everything are so beautiful,” Thompson tells ToC Nights’ Evan Paul of the song, which was written by Mikky Ekko, Justin Parker and Elof Loelv. “Anybody can connect with that song, man. You know what I’m saying, with their significant other, whatever. You know what I mean? That’s just a beautifully written song. I love the lyrics of that song. It’s just very, deep and meaningful.”

Although initially a risky song choice, Thompson says he now counts the tune as a turning point for him on Idol. Not only did his take become a fan favorite, but it also played a vital role in his future: He ended up reviving the performance of the song during the show finale while in the Top 2 and ultimately won the title over runner-up, HunterGirl.

“I’ve always loved that song. Like, I’ve listened to it plenty of times before Idol, but I had never thought about getting on a show and using that as one of my bigger moments,” Thompson explains. “You know what I’m saying? Because it definitely was. I think that was kind of a turning point for me with that song.”

More recently, Thompson recorded and released “Stay” after his record label approached him with the idea to cut a full country version of the track. The Jimmy Robbins-produced (Keith Urban, Maren Morris) re-imagined hit features Thompson flaunting his raw country vocals over banjos and violins.

“I was really excited coming out of the show with the idea of making it a full country version, man,” he says. “Everybody, like my whole label, they were all down for it. I mean, they were just excited about it. So, we went ahead and did it, and I was pumped about it, for real.”

Thompson, who is currently working on new music while promoting his debut single, “One Day Tonight,” was declared the winner of American Idol in May of 2022, shortly after marking his 20th birthday. His win follows Season 19’s champion Chayce Beckham.

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