LOS ANGELES -- The top five contestants for the 2018 season of "American Idol" each performed twice for this round, but just three were put through for the two-part finale airing next Sunday and Monday.
Along with the top five competitors, we also saw former "Idol" winner Carrie Underwood, who both performed and served as a mentor to the finalists. She said this experience has made everything come full circle. The "Idol" contestants also sang songs dedicated to their moms in honor of Mother's Day. To that end, host Ryan Seacrest's Mom helped open the show!
Here's a rundown of the night's performances, in order of appearance:
Michael J. Woodard - "Flat on the Floor" by Carrie Underwood
Underwood meets up with all the finalists at the famous "Bluebird Cafe" in Nashville. Her advice to Michael is to bring more sass and attitude to his performance; but she also tells him to let it build up during the song. Judge Lionel Richie thought Michael started the night off on a grand scale; Katy Perry said there's no one like Michael and he is exponentially special, with big personality and presence. Luke Bryan thought he made the lyrics his own and believable.
Gabby Barrett - "Last Name" by Carrie Underwood
From the very beginning, Gabby has made no bones about the fact that Carrie is her own personal "Idol". In fact, at one point the judges had to tell her not to try and be a Carrie-clone and fine her own identity. So it's not surprising that Gabby freaked out when she got to meet Carrie. It was hugs, tears, and a "holy monkey" from Gabby. Underwood was impressed with her composure and told Gabby she's farther along with her voice than she had been at Gabby's age. Perry lets Gabby know "the world" is talking about her and cautions her to keep being herself. Bryan said she may be Underwood reincarnated but she needs to think beyond that; and Richie says even though the judges made a pact to be tougher this week, he thought Gabby was fabulous.
Cade Foehner - "Undo It" by Carrie Underwood
Underwood clearly likes his vibe and gives him some sound advice about sometimes holding back and building on the song in order to tell a story. Bryan asks him how it felt to make Carrie blush; he also thinks the show has pushed him, in a good way, and he makes the songs his own. Richie praised Cade's continued growth, confidence and authenticity. Perry encouraged him to not always stay in the rock-ville lane; it's okay to veer into others and sometimes focus on the more subtle sounds.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson - "So Small" by Carrie Underwood
He says he was terrified to meet "Idol's" biggest star and sing one of her songs, but she put him at ease, saying it's his song right now. Caleb even makes a mistake but she puts him at ease about it and says she wants him to forget about the lights and crowds and just connect with the song and the lyrics. Richie thinks Caleb is as real as it comes. Perry likes his sense of humor but warns him that some finalists are outperforming him, so he's got to "flap those wings harder to work the crowd." Bryan said his voice and sound is like no other and to ride that wave.
Maddie Poppe - "I Told You So" by Carrie Underwood
Carrie tells Maddie her voice is hypnotic, but she's second-guessing herself too much and over-analyzing the song. Underwood says don't hold back, just do it and let the emotions come through. Perry was mesmerized and said she felt like she was one of Maddie's concerts. Bryan told her not to worry about high notes or low notes, just tell the story like she does. He also said he needed to find a honky tonk, get a cold beer and cry himself to sleep; he'd been waiting for Maddie to do a country song for a long time. Richie let her know she suffers the same phobia as every other artist: overthinking!
Round two was songs dedicated to their mothers. Each performer starts out with a heartfelt letter to their moms. Needless to say, tears were shed by all!
Gabby Barrett - "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston
Bryan was close to speechless afterward and told the crowd that America didn't want to hear his voice after hearing Gabby sing, so he was shutting up. Richie praised her for being daring and going classic Whitney. Perry said she didn't know where that voice came from but the performance made her wig loose.
Cade Foehner - "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Richie told the (very young) crowd that if they wanted to know what they missed in the late 60s/early 70s that was it. Perry liked seeing Cade strong and vulnerable. Bryan said he is showing us what he's all about.
Michael J. Woodard - "Still I Rise" by Yolanda Adams
Both Perry and Richie told Michael he was the anointed one (hope that's not bad luck.) Bryan was brought to tears, which Katy wiped away, and Luke said he couldn't speak!
Caleb Lee Hutchinson - "Stars in Alabama" by Jamey Johnson
Bryan enjoyed hearing Caleb in his country music wheelhouse and said he sees a big future for the young singer. Richie said it's a big thing to be able to close your eyes and know whose voice you are hearing... and he can do that with Caleb. Perry thinks his parents created something special with this kid, with is talent and humor, and Katy said when he turns 21, she'd like to have a beer with him.
Maddie Poppe - "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys
Lionel stood and addressed Maddie as "Papa Richie" and implored the country to vote (for whoever, just vote) but loves who Poppe has grown into as a person. Perry said this is one of her top three songs ever and Maddie did it justice. She also implored her to keep trusting her taste in music because it is impeccable. Bryan told Maddie he thought it was endearing to see her get choked up during her own song (she was, of course, singing to her mom).
Host Ryan Seacrest tells us just under 20 million people voted, and the singers moving on (in no particular order): Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Gabby Barrett, and Maddie Poppe.
"American Idol's" two-part finale airs next Sunday and Monday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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