‘American Idol’: Paula Abdul returns, calls Simon an ‘STD’
The first live “American Idol” of 2021 proved eventful as Paula Abdul returned and front-runner Wyatt Pike dropped out.
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“American Idol” contestants are banking on faith, trust and a little pixie dust to get through to the next round.
After going on break last week for the Oscars, the ABC reality singing competition returned Sunday with a live show that saw the top ten perform songs from Disney movies.
In a virtual Q&A after the show, Perry opened up about the inspiration behind her costume, revealing she borrowed her prosthetic ears from partner Orlando Bloom, who played Legolas in “Lord of the Rings.”
“I just love that she has a little bit of sass and a sense of humor,” the singer said of Tinker Bell. “She’s always kind of scrappy, and so I resonate with that character. I’m always wanting to be playful and believe in magic and find the best in every single person.”
At the top of the episode, Ryan Seacrest revealed which past contestant earned enough votes after the comeback show to return to the competition and round out the top ten. That singer was Arthur Gunn, who came in second place last year. (Because bringing back a recent runner-up is totally fair to the current contestants… right?)
Fans voted during the show, which aired live coast-to-coast, for who they wanted to see in the top seven.
Here’s what went down, including which three were eliminated:
Caleb Kennedy stuck to his rugged, country wheelhouse, singing “Real Gone” from “Cars.”
Channeling her inner Tinker Bell, Perry told the 16-year-old high school student that “this thing is really Peter Pan-ing out for you.”
“You’ve got real-life fire on the stage,” she continued. “Every time you engage us, we lean in.”
Richie said Kennedy’s energy is “what performing is all about.”
“It has to radiate off the stage, and that was a radiating performance,” he added.
Willie Spence, 21, put his powerful voice to use on a rousing performance of “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”
“You have that voice. You can sing the phone book and literally make it yours,” Richie told him. “God bless you, man. God bless you.”
Perry offered more Tinker-Bell-inspired support: “Willie, you’re not a lost boy anymore. You’re a bonafide idol.”
Deshawn Goncalves, 20, gave a jazzy performance of “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio,” starting off the song playing the piano and later getting up to bust some smooth moves.
All three judges complimented the college student for becoming more comfortable on stage.
“That’s show business,” Richie said. “You nailed it.”
Bryan said he was “grinning so big” watching Goncalves come out of his shell.
“You are not the same person that showed up at auditions,” he noted.
Proving once again she’s no typical teenybopper, high school student Casey Bishop, 16, stunned with a haunting rendition of “When She Loved Me” from “Toy Story 2.”
The judges complimented the teen, who usually performs rock songs, on her range.
“Your vocals will take you to infinity and beyond,” said Perry. “I love that you can do almost anything. Actually, you can do anything. You just have to believe.”
Bryan added he certainly believes in Bishop. “I just believe you are a superstar in the making,” he said.
Chayce Beckham, who revealed post-show he was going to sing “On My Way” from “Brother Bear” before switching at the last minute, took the soft “Baby Mine” from “Dumbo” and gave it some edge with his gravelly voice.
“That performance is just so you,” Bryan told the 24-year-old heavy machinery operator. “It was really awesome on the ears.”
Perry also praised Beckham for transforming the lullaby.
“Listen, I think all you need is a little faith, trust and pixie dust,” she added, tossing some glitter in the air.
Rocking a sparkling ball gown, college student Alyssa Wray dazzled with a magical performance of “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from “Cinderella.”
Richie and Bryan said they were happy to see Wray save her belt and vocal acrobatics for the song’s end, while Perry called the singer “elegant and elevated.”
“You are a permanent princess,” she added. “You will never turn back into a pumpkin.”
Aiming to remind “Idol” fans of his vocal prowess, former runner-up Arthur Gunn sang “Remember Me” from “Coco.”
“That was one of your best performances I’ve ever seen,” Perry told the 23-year-old musician. “It was amazing, and I always love when you do your own thing, because that’s who you are.”
Bryan complimented Gunn on his authenticity, while Richie said the musician owns his sound.
“It is the greatest part of being a stylist when you can take any song and make it yours,” he added.
Cassandra Coleman has been open on the show about her struggles with nerves. But the coffee shop manager channeled her inner hero, belting out “I Can Go The Distance” from “Hercules.”
Bryan said Coleman delivered her “most solid vocal from top to bottom” and was the “most comfortable we’ve seen you.”
“Your confidence has gone from zero to hero for sure, and any other doubts you have, you just leave them in the fairy dust,” added Perry, continuing to keep her feedback on theme.
Before taking the stage, Hunter Metts, 22, opened up about his emotional performance during the last episode, where he fumbled the lyrics at the end of his song.
“To mess up the words at the very end, I thought I was going home,” said the software developer, adding that the experience was a “hard pill to swallow.”
Post-show, Metts said he was determined to not make the same mistake. “I can’t tell you the number of times over the last week I just sat and read my lyrics and wrote my lyrics out,” he said. “There’s something about that fear of it happening again.”
The practice paid off — Metts soared through “You’ll Be in My Heart” from “Tarzan,” earning high praise from the judges.
Perry even threw out one more attempt at a clever pun.
“It was so great to see you on stage like that with a full smile,” she said. “You really swung that one.”
Grace Kinstler, 20, closed the show with a powerful rendition of “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II.” The college student said the song speaks to how she feels performing on “Idol” and the uncertainty of entering the music industry.
Post-show, Kinstler said she wanted to choose a song that spoke to what she and all of the “Idol” contestants are feeling at this stage of the competition.
“With our performance, it’s really about what can I show our audience about me as a person,” she said. “It was so important for me to sing that song, because I feel like that song represents a lot of how we’re feeling going into this industry, choosing this path.”
Bryan told Kinstler she has “the eye of the tiger.”
“You had the whole room controlled with your voice,” Perry added. “It was awesome.”
Who went home?
At the end of the episode, Seacrest revealed, in no particular order, who was safe. The final spot in the top 7 went to Gunn, meaning the end of the road for Wray, Coleman and Goncalves.
The three eliminated contestants reflected on their “Idol” journeys post-show, saying that their “Idol” experiences have boosted their confidence.
“I came into this competition thinking that I just wasn’t worth anything,” said Wray. “These people, this competition, America — they’ve truly taught me that I am worth so much more than I could ever dream of and that I don’t have to do anything but be myself. I just have to do what I love and that is enough.”
And the singers said you haven’t seen the last of them: Coleman plans to put out an album, Goncalves wants to win a Grammy, and Wray has set her sights on achieving EGOT status.
“Idol” returns Sunday at 8 EST with a Coldplay and Mother’s Day themed episode.