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In performances aired live across time zones in the U.S., the top 10 contestants of ABC’s American Idol sang Disney songs for America’s vote on Sunday night. The results were then announced instantly at the end of the show, with three singers leaving the competition. At this point in the season, judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan have relinquished control of who moves forward and who goes home. Broadway star Idina Menzel also joined to mentor the contestants.
After a performance of “When You Wish Upon a Star” by Perry and the top 10 and some Disney promotional shenanigans at the top, Maddie Poppe was the first singer to perform. She sang “The Bare Necessities” from Jungle Book, and during their mentor meeting, Menzel worked with her on hitting the high notes. Poppe accompanied herself on the ukulele, delivering a slowed-down arrangement of the song that allowed her to showcase her vocals. Bryan called her voice “timeless.”
Jurnee, who was one of the judges’ picks for the top 10, delivered a stunning performance of “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana. Menzel encouraged her to be vulnerable onstage, and that advice definitely paid off, with Jurnee giving one of her most emotional performances to date. Her phrasing was strong, and her presence was powerful throughout. Richie praised her ability to sing from the heart.
Cade Foehner was up next, singing “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid, turning it into a modern rock ballad. He made it his own and proved that he could take a very specific theme week that doesn’t necessarily cater to his strengths and use it to show his creativity and versatility. Perry gushed over his charm, as usual.
Ada Vox followed with a dramatic, stunning performance of “Circle of Life” from The Lion King, yet again showcasing huge range and bold dynamics. Jennifer Hudson tackled the song in one of the most iconic American Idol moments of all time, so Vox had big shoes to fill, but she sang it with just as much passion and talent. It really was a great song choice for her. She brought the judges to their feet and seemed to remain one of their favorites with this performance.
Michelle Sussett sang “Remember Me” from Coco, starting a capella and eventually singing in Spanish, which the judges have been encouraging her to do all season. It wasn’t a pitch-perfect song choice, but she once again proved she’s a talented performer with great stage presence and a pop star vibe. Bryan reiterated that Sussett is a star, and Richie thought her real self came through.
This live-voting format definitely gave the first half a slight advantage by allowing for more time for voters swayed by the singing, and it seemed like the first half was front-loaded with a lot of the judges’ favorites. Ryan Seacrest teased that at that point in the evening, 8 million votes had already been cast.
Gabby Barrett was up next, singing “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas, and Menzel worked with her on her nerves. She gave a straightforward cover of the song, not playing around with much, but it allowed her to really focus in on the technical aspects of her voice. Barrett sounded strong on the high notes, and Bryan said she has the right tools to win.
Singing “Beauty and the Beast” from the film of the same name, Michael J. Woodard gave yet another beautiful, slow performance showcasing his unique tone. It was a great song choice that allowed him to show off his higher range. Perry compared Woodard to Michael Jackson and Frank Ocean.
Caleb Lee was up next with a country performance of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story. It was another fitting song choice, allowing him to stick to his wheelhouse. He sang with confidence, giving a fun, light-hearted performance dedicated to his dog. The judges praised his song choice.
Catie Turner followed with a signature indie take on “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty. It was her personal best performance from a vocal perspective, more dynamic and complex than her song arrangements tend to reflect. Richie called it “magical.”
Dennis Lorenzo closed out the show with a performance of The Lion King‘s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” He gave an entertaining performance and then really pulled through for the high notes. Lorenzo showed his personality and versatility on Sunday night, elevating the song into more than just a sappy showtune. The judges were unanimously impressed.
Then it was time for the live eliminations. After the nationwide vote, three contestants were sent home: Vox, Lorenzo and Sussette. Vox’s elimination was particularly shocking.
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