Watch Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard return to ‘American Idol’ stage

Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard
AP Photo

“American Idol” got a boost for its latest season, just in time for the finale. While faithful viewers were still cheering Iam Tongi‘s big win over runner-up Megan Danielle, a couple of “Idol” veterans showed up to share the spotlight: Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard.

The pair graciously teamed up with Tongi and Danielle for a tear-jerking version of “The Impossible Dream” to close out the night. It was a great throwback moment for those who remember Aiken and Studdard teaming up for “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” during their own season 2 finale. What’s more, it didn’t overshadow Tongi’s winning performance of the original song “I’ll Be Seeing You,” dedicated to his late Dad.

You can watch the moment on the show’s YouTube channel below:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=mZOVXBdCMIc

Even if you were never a fan of the ABC singing competition, you probably remember the sound of hearts throbbing to Clay Aiken’s voice back in the day. He lost to Ruben Studdard way back in season 2 when the show was on Fox, but Aiken has done just fine for himself since, appearing on Broadway and even dipping his toe into politics. For his part, Studdard has released seven successful gospel and R&B albums over the years.

But what really makes us smile is the way the pair remained friends not just through their onscreen rivalry in 2003, but in the years since. This 20-year reunion performance was hardly the first time Aiken and Studdard have shared the stage post-“Idol.” They’ve come back for duet after duet, even teaming up for a full tour in 2010. Aiken gave Studdard his Broadway debut in Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show in 2018. And they’re back together again for another dose of nostalgia in Twenty the Tour this year.

Who can blame them? As fans saw on Sunday, their voices and their friendship are as harmonious as ever. One can only hope that future Idols like Tongi and Danelle follow their example.

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Tod Caviness
Tod covered everything from nightlife to Orlando's literary scene (yes, it has one) during his 11 years with the Orlando Sentinel. These days, he's a freelance journalist and recovering poet who lives in Central Florida with his lovely wife, two brilliant kids and one underachieving dog. Visit Scripps News to see more of Tod's work.

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