Born Madeline Mae Poppe on December 5, 1997 in Clarksville, Iowa, Maddie Poppe grew up in a musical family with a father who played guitar and performed in bands. After learning guitar, she gained early performance experience playing in her dad's band. She and her sister would also join their father every year in recording a Christmas album to send to their grandparents. Along with singing and playing the guitar, over the years she also learned to play piano and ukulele. After high school, Poppe attended both Iowa Central Community College and Waterloo, Iowa's Hawkeye Community College, where she studied digital mass media. While there, she continued to pursue her musical interests, writing her own songs and playing live. In 2015, she auditioned for The Voice, but did not make the cut. Undeterred, she released Songs from the Basement, an independent album recorded with her father in her basement, and issued the following year.
In 2018, Poppe auditioned for the 16th season of American Idol, making it through to the first round with her rendition of "The Rainbow Connection." A fan favorite, she did well throughout the competition, even singing her original song "Don't Ever Let Your Children Grow Up" during the show's finale episode. On May 21, 2018, Poppe was named the winner of American Idol, beating out Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Gabby Barrett. Following the ceremony, she released her coronation single, "Going Going Gone," which peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Digital Songs chart.