Meet 2021's 'American Icon' Top 10 (Counting a Rebound Hopeful)

 Meet 2021's 'American Icon' Top 10 (Counting a Rebound Hopeful) 

Arthur Gunn, the sprinter up of a year ago's period of American Symbol, is the champ of the "Rebound" rivalry, which places him in 2021's main 10, allowing him to guarantee triumph in the season finale as he goes facing the best nine from the flow gathering of finalists. The declaration broke in the main half-hour of Sunday night's (May 2) live scene. "I was truly stunned to hear the news," Gunn tells Bulletin. "I'm so energized. It's an awesome inclination to be back."

How is Arthur Gunn 2021 different from the Arthur Gunn viewers voted for in 2020? "There has definitely been a lot of progress and a lot of learning along the way. I feel more professional and more motivated now. I learned so much about myself and the music scene and how to work in this field. I feel fortunate and will be forever grateful for a lifetime."

The unprecedented twist adds an interesting footnote to Idol history. Every year, Billboard asks the top finalists to name their favorite Idols from previous seasons. This year, Gunn appears as a favorite alum and at the same time is a current contestant. Billboard asked Gunn if he knew that he was named as a past favorite by Cassandra Coleman, who mentioned him before she knew that he would be joining this season. "No, I hadn't heard that yet. Wow! I just saw her in the hotel while I was coming in. That's awesome."

Born: Feb. 9, 2005 – Fort Myers, Fla.
Favorite Alums: Alejandro Aranda, Haley Reinhart, Laine Hardy, Laci Kaye Booth
Musical Influences: Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith
First Idol Experience: Started watching with Season 10 when she was six years old.

Bishop's earliest memory of music is listening to some specific songs when she was three years old, including "December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)" by the Four Seasons, "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer and "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies. Thanks to her parents, she became aware of the music of Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Presley.

Bishop started singing karaoke when she was in pre-school. "I loved singing and I did a pretty good job for a five-year-old. In middle school I became super-serious about it and knew this is what I want to do." Although she wanted to do paying gigs, she never did in those early days. "In elementary school, I was in student plays and talent shows. Later, I auditioned for America's Got Talent and The Voice and it was 'No, no, no, no, no.' And then in high school, I was in two talent shows during my freshman year, but I was just so nervous. I was nowhere near the confidence level I'm at now."

Bishop attributes her growth to listening to the judges' advice. "When Katy [Perry] said to make that stage mine and get really gritty, I thought I was. But I guess I did that in my next performance because she told me that was my best performance. So I improved."

Born: May 15, 1996 – Kingsport, Tenn.
Favorite Alums: Phillip Phillips, David Archuleta, Arthur Gunn, Kelly Clarkson, Katharine McPhee
Musical Influences: The Chicks, Avril Lavigne, Enya, James Taylor, John Denver, Stevie Nicks, The Cars, Yes, Rush
First Idol Experience: Watching the Season 6 contestants win Golden Tickets to Hollywood and thinking she wanted a Golden Ticket of her own one day.

"I have a distinct memory of the first time I realized that music was something I felt within me," Coleman tells Billboard. 

"My family had a little farm. We lived on a hill and there was this little valley at the base of our hill. I was walking with my mom when I was five and she started singing a hymn, 'The Lily of the Valley.' I was harmonizing with her without realizing what I was doing. 

She turned around and said, 'You're harmonizing.' I didn't know what she meant so she tried to explain to me what harmonizing was and ever since then, I knew music has always been what I've known."

Coleman's embrace of music may be genetic. "When my mother was growing up, she was the girl who was in musicals and plays and was usually the one who got the main role. She sings all the time. She wrote poetry a lot.

 Over the last four years she started doing songwriting as well. So music was always in the house. All my siblings sing and my dad can, too. When we get together for Thanksgiving, we all like to sing 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' because some of my family is from West Virginia."

Coleman remembers how she would respond as a child when people asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up.

 "I would either say I want to be a mom or I want to be a singer. But growing up, I allowed my insecurities and my fear to tell me that that was 

something that would never be achievable, so I shifted my dreams to owning a coffee shop. About six months ago I realized this could be something that would pan out for me. I always knew it was what I wanted to do, but I felt like it was a pipe dream or something that wouldn't lead me to having a comfortable life, and I was okay with that. I shop at Goodwill and love to thrift. I don't care about money, but I didn't think that there would be people who 

would want to buy music from me. And the songwriting process was very daunting to me. I'm still having a hard time grasping that this could be a reality for me."

Born: Jan. 10, 2001 – Youngstown, Ohio
Favorite Alums: Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard
Musical Influences: Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys, John Legend
First Idol Experience: At age three, watching Fantasia on Season 3.

Goncalves' earliest memory of music is going to church with his grandmother, who died when he was four years old. "She would have me wear the church robe and sing in the choir. 

I remember running around the church tripping over stuff because the robe was so long and I was so little. They didn't have child-size robes.
Goncalves was in the sixth grade when he first realized he had musical talent. 

"I picked up the trumpet and found I could do certain things that weren't normal for other people. I would play some music and I could tell people what the notes were, by having perfect pitch. Back then, I thought everyone could do that. As time went on and I progressed musically, I knew I had a gift and that was before I started singing."

As a seventh grader at the A+ Arts Academy school, Goncalves met a music teacher named LaJoyce Daniel-Cain. "

She sat me down – no, actually, she told me to get up and sing. She said, 'You are going to perform. I see that you have a voice and I'm going to make you use it.' 

She saw that in me before I saw it myself. That pushed me to become an artist. I started singing and watching her play the piano and I would try to emulate what she was doing, while developing my own style."

Born: Oct. 21, 2004 – Spartanburg, S.C.
Favorite Alums: Bucky Covington, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Gabby Barrett
Musical Influences: Jason Aldean, George Strait, Hank Williams, Hank Williams, Jr.
First Idol Experience: Watching with his family after church on Sundays.

Kennedy's first memory of music is rocking on his childhood rocking horse (which he acknowledges might have been a rocking donkey) to Trace Adkins' "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk."

Beyond the rocking horse (or donkey), Kennedy grew up in a household where music was ubiquitous. "My mom plays piano. My dad picks guitar and sings a little bit. My grandmother's brother played guitar and just about any instrument." Kennedy was five when he was given a drum kit. "I didn't spend too much time on it. 

I learned to play the drums when I was 10. Three years ago, when I was 13, I started playing guitar.

 It was my birthday and I got the bright idea to spend my birthday money on a guitar and I fell in love with playing it. I couldn't put it down for anything. I would play it until my fingers bled." Kennedy taught himself to play by watching videos on YouTube.

Eventually Kennedy started performing music in a public space. "I started out street busking. My sister would go downtown with her friends and I would sit out there with my guitar. The first time I did that, I sat for eight hours and made a dollar." But Kennedy wasn't discouraged. "I loved it so much.

 And then gigs kind of progressed as people started to know my name. The last show I played before traveling to California was in a restaurant called Wings Etc. and it was packed. There wasn't an empty seat."

Grace Kinstler
Born: Aug. 3, 2000 – Woodstock, Ill.
Favorite Alums: Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Katharine McPhee, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Jessica Sanchez, La'Porsha Renae

Musical Influences: Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera

First Idol Experience: Watching with her parents when she was a young child. "I would say, 'I want to do that one day,' and my dad would tell me, 'You will, you will.'"

"I was always drawn to music," says Kinstler. "I started playing piano when I was four. I was just fidgeting. I doubt that it sounded good. I was definitely not a prodigy. I was in kindergarten when I started to dance and in second grade I started piano lessons and took them for two years. When I was in fifth grade I did musical theater and continued through elementary and high school. And I loved to sing with the American Idol Wii game."

Kinstler's musical theater experience included roles in Hairspray, Big Fish, Annie, Shrek, Tarzan and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Her early work in musical theater convinced Kinstler that she was meant to be a singer. "That's when I realized people enjoy watching me do this. It's not just something I love to do; people actually get something out of it. I wanted to keep pushing, to keep growing. Even though other people were enthralled with what I was doing, as artists we are perfectionists and we are hyper-critical of everything we do. I've always been that way. But I wanted to make sure that critiquing myself was constructive and not toxic."

Kinstler's father encouraged her to write her own songs but she was reluctant because she believed she wasn't very good at it. Then at age 14, she decided to go for it and wrote her first song, "The World Doesn't Wait." "I released it because I was getting my feet wet. I wanted to get the experience. Then I released songs every year and when I was 17, I released my first EP. And then in the summer of 2019, I released my second EP, which is the latest thing I've released so far."

Hunter Metts

Born: Sept. 12, 1998 – Nashville, Tenn.
Favorite Alums: Jason Castro, Gabby Barrett, Scotty McCreery, Jonny West, Francisco Martin, Louis Knight

Musical Influences: Alison Krauss, Rascal Flatts
First Idol Experience: Watching Jason Castro sing "Over the Rainbow" in Season 7.

Before he was born, Metts' parents moved to Nashville to pursue music. "My dad was in music publishing for a long time, working at companies like Curb, Malaco, Starstruck and Writer's Den. My mom moved to Nashville when she was older and she ended up singing demos. When she met my dad, she decided she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. When she had my sister and me, she gave music up to raise us."
Metts was in eighth grade when he first picked up the guitar. "I wanted to sing and I thought I needed to accompany myself – that it'll sound better if I can play guitar. YouTube was my best teacher. Even now, for production tutorials or anything, I use YouTube."

When Metts tried out for Idol the first time, he was getting a good reaction until he mentioned that his sister worked at Disney World, playing various characters, including Belle, Snow White, Mary Poppins and Ariel. Since Idol is broadcast on ABC and ABC is owned by Disney, that was a legal conflict of interest and Metts was told he couldn't continue. Being a supportive sister, Mett's sibling quit her job so her brother could try out for Idol again. After she returned home to Nashville to go to nursing school and a full calendar year had passed, Metts was finally eligible to return for an audition.



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