Alejandro Aranda is the runner-up for season 17 of American Idol. He’s captivated audiences all season long with his tender vocals and his impressive songwriting skills, and he wound up finishing second to contestant Laine Hardy, who won the entire competition.
Despite not winning, some viewers may be curious about Alejandro’s past and what his plans are for his future and his music career. As we look back on the season, here’s what you need to know about the talented Alejandro:
1. His Older Sister Inspired Him to Learn the Piano At Age 8
Alejandro grew up in Pomona, California, and was inspired to play the piano from an early age. He told Billboard that he looked up to his older sister, and at the age of 8, he wanted to learn to play like her. “That’s why I was always afraid of trying to play the piano. I thought, ‘Man, she’s playing piano. I could never do that’,” he recalled. “Listening to my sister play got me into classical music, and then I ventured out to the library to listen to music. I didn’t have much of a collection of music at the house.”
Alejandro started taking piano lessons around this time, but they didn’t pan out, as he became interested in other things. He didn’t return to music until he was 20, at which time he taught himself to sing and play the guitar. He cited his musical influences as a mismash of different artists and genres.
Some of his favorite artists are classical composers like Chopin, Bach, Liszt and Rachmaninoff, while some of his preferred modern artists include Bloc Party and Burial and the Maccabees. “A lot of different styles of music,” he acknowledges.
2. He Was Not a Fan of ‘American Idol’ Prior to His Audition
Unlike most Idol competitors, Alejandro was not a fan of the series prior to his audition. “I don’t really watch TV,” he admitted to Billboard. He said that he was playing a lot of backyard shows when he was asked to audition, and thought that the exposure could be good for his career. “I played two original songs and it was great. It was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this,” he said. “You can see I’m very awkward in the episode. I’m not used to cameras.”
Alejandro credits the Idol judges; Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan, with helping him feel comfortable during the audition. “Being in the room with them was great. Understanding that they’re artists and songwriters and musicians leveled the playing field,” he revealed. “They let me play them some songs.”
Perry went as far as to say that Alejandro could win the entire competition after his first performance. “I took it as a compliment. It was honestly very sweet of her to say that,” he said. “There are amazing people on the show this season and I feel like the whole thing about winning is just being a part of such a very massive amount of talent. I feel that’s winning at life.”
3. He Released His Debut Single ‘Out Loud’ In 2018
Alejandro released his debut single “Out Loud” in 2018. Since then, the talented songwriter has released a bevy of original material, including “Tonight” and “Millennial Love”, both of which he debuted during the Idol finale.
Several of Alejandro’s friends and musical associates said they predicted greatness for him. “He would play and everyone would kind of stop what they were doing,” said local mic host Victor Martinez. “They were in awe. It was a real attention-getter. Sometimes it was four people in the room. He would get 100% of everyone’s attention.” Paul Verdugo, who organizes events for the dba256 brand in Pomona, said that he always knew Alejandro would become a star.
“You knew he was something special. You would get goosebumps,” Verdugo told the Daily Bulletin. “He would introduce Aranda by saying: “If you’re holding onto your girl, hold her a little tighter or you’ll lose her to Alejandro’s voice. What you see on ‘American Idol’ is what you would see at these bar shows and these brewery shows.”
4. His Pomona Hometown Recently Threw a Parade In His Honor
On May 14, the town of Pomona threw a parade in Alejandro’s honor. The Idol star was honored by Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval, and then he held a free concert before thousands of fans. You can check out footage from the parade and the concert above.
According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, students from the local Pomona high school lined up at 5 p.m. to lead the parade, and fans of Alejandro spent all night waiting outside the for good spots. Several of them even made posters for Alejandro and wore t-shirts with his face on it.
Alejandro is a familiar face to many Pomona residents, and is beloved by many in the area. “Basically if you were hanging out in downtown Pomona last year, 2017, 2016, he was around doing open mics and performing,” added mic host Victor Martinez. “He was always really happy to perform.”
5. He Is the Runner-Up for ‘American Idol’ Season 17
Due to his songwriting skills and his unique vocal delivery, Alejandro was the favorite to win this season of American Idol. His audition was hailed by many as the finest in the show’s history, and he hasn’t let up since. All three judges have been quick to praise his weekly performances, and there’s been little in the way of issues or constructive criticism, as opposed to some of his peers.
Alejandro ultimately finished second place to competitor Laine Hardy. His performances were still praised by the judges, however, who feel that he’s a star in-the-making. “It was love at first sound for you,” Richie said during his first performance on the finale. “There’s so much reverence and respect when you sing,” Perry added. “You are gonna be great because you are great.” Bryan had the last word, saying, “We have been spoiled by you every week.”