Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan select the Top 24 contestants of American Idol season 16.

By Maggie Fremont
April 02, 2018 at 11:04 PM EDT
Eric McCandless/ABC
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Is calling this unveiling of American Idol‘s Top 24 “final judgment” a little dramatic? Sure. But, you guys, this is dramatic. Fan favorites go home! Journeys come to an end! DREAMS ARE MADE. It’s all happening.

The 50 remaining contestants get one last chance to impress Lionel, Luke, and Katy in a Showcase performance in front of a live audience. The next day, those 50 singers will take the long walk down to meet with the judges and learn their fate until there are but 24 remaining. Remember when they would just get off the elevator and sit in some folding chairs? Those were the days!

First up is, per Luke Bryan, the “little spark plug” Layla Spring. Dyxie is not in attendance for her Showcase performance of “Proud Mary,” which maybe is a good thing as she tries to grow as an artist. “Proud Mary” is a big song for a 16-year-old to tackle, but the judges are into it. Little Layla Spring from Kentucky takes the first spot in the Top 24.

Are you still thinking about Michael J. Woodard‘s “Maybe This Time” performance from the solo round? You are not alone. However, his showcase offers up a replacement: You guys, he sings Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” American Idol needs more Alanis. American Idol needs more Michael J. Woodward. He claims the second spot.

One of the more uncomfortable rejections comes early. Trevor Holmes; you know him from the fake love triangle with Katy Perry and Trevor’s girlfriend, is sent home after his rendition of Niall Horan’s “Slow Hands.” The awkward part comes when they tell Trevor “no” and Katy continues to play up their fake relationship. The man’s dreams were just crushed, give him some room!

Katy Perry gets tough on stand-out Gabby Barrett. She chooses Carrie Underwood’s “Church Bells'” for her Showcase, even after the judges warned her against that song when she wanted to perform it during her audition. Katy doesn’t think Gabby is ready, but Luke and Lionel disagree. Gabby makes it in.

The biggest surprise for me was the fate of Thaddeus Johnson. He performs a stellar version of Jill Scott’s “Hate On Me,” and I actually wrote in my notes, “I only want Thaddeus singing Jill Scott songs forever.” The judges were not as into it as I was. They tell Thaddeus that this just isn’t his time…for the second time. This one hurts, but he seems to take it well.

To soften the blow, we watch a whole bunch of people grab spots in the Top 24: Welcome, Michelle Sussett, Dominique, Trevor McBane, Maddie Poppe, Ron Bultongez, and Alyssa Raghu. May you get more camera time next week!

Of course, all those “yeses” means there are less and less spots for the remaining contestants. One contestant taking that reality pretty hard is Catie Turner. I mean, she shouldn’t; The judges have been in love with her from day one and the fact that Idol keeps playing her sobbing reaction ad nauseam obviously means she’ll be making it through. This is season 16, Idol. We know your editing tricks by now.

There is a whole slew of folks who are not as lucky as Catie. Idol pulls off the bandaid real quick — it hurts less this way: Goodbye, Milo Sposato, Les Greene, Britney Holmes, and William Casanova

Before you can dwell on the bad news, here’s another winner: Jurnee makes it through (duh!) and, even better, her wife is there for both her Showcase and the big news. Jurnee is easily in the Top 10, right?

Shannon O’Hara takes a risk and does a stripped down version of Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally.” Thankfully, it pays off because Shannon is a dark horse. Hey! That’s another Katy Perry song! Everything’s coming up Katy!

Shannon leads the way for another batch of Top 24 finalists to get the big news: Kay Kay, Amelia Hammer Harris (we don’t get to see all of her “Tainted Love” performance? For shame, show!), and Brandon Diaz all make it to the next round.

Next up is Noah Davis. Alpaca lover, wig master. He’s very lovable, but the judges have warned him that he’s always better when he plays the piano. He only partially takes their advice and performs Lady Gaga’s “You and I” by starting out on the piano and then working the stage. It is rough. Noah will not being going through — but he promises he’ll take what he’s learned and he’ll be back.

Some other fan favorites get shown the door as well. Harper GraceCarly Moffa, Samothias, Lee Vasi and the Idol baby herself, Victoria McQueen, all get a big ol’ “no” from Lionel, Luke, and Katy. 

But we can’t really talk about fan favorites without mentioning Ada Vox. Ada sings a chill-inducing version of Radiohead’s “Creep” for the Showcase and I am a changed woman. It is so stinkin’ good. If you aren’t moved by the performance, prepare yourself: Instead of receiving The Final Judgement as Ada Vox, Adam Sanders decides to face the judges with no makeup, as his true self. The judges are moved. As if there was any doubt Ada Vox or Adam Sanders wouldn’t be snagging a Top 24 spot.

Another shoe-in is Jonny Brenns. Sure, he had a rough solo round, but he more than makes up for it with Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down.” Oh, and guess who shows up? Jonny’s entire family — including his dad! Honestly, after all the build up, the guy just seems like a nice man who probably couldn’t get out of work for Hollywood Week. Things happen! Mr. Brenns’ tells Johnny that he’s a winner in his eyes. I mean, it means more when the judges tell him the same thing and give him a spot in the Top 24, but what a moment!

Mara Justine was also an early favorite from the auditions, and although tackling Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold On Me” is not the best choice, the judges are into Mara’s voice. They give her a spot in the Top 24, but with a caveat: The teen needs to tone it down a littler. There is too much frosting on an already beautiful cake, says Katy. It is the greatest criticism because by the time you might be sad about it, you’re thinking about cake.

You can never have too much cake, but you can have too much Country Boy Heartthrob. Caleb Lee Hutchinson shows a new, refined side of himself (he wears a blazer!) and wins his place in the Top 24 after belting out Chris Stapleton’s “I Was Wrong.” That leaves Laine Hardy and Garrett Jacobs, and in true Idol fashion, they pair them up and make them meet with the judges together. It’s tough to watch Garrett’s dreams come true while Laine’s are crushed. Such is the world we live in.

Rock god-in-training Cade Foehner gets a spot as well, as if there was ever any doubt.

That leaves four contestants. Maddie Zahn and Effie Passero are told there is only one spot left between the two of them. Maddie chooses Pink’s “What About Us” for her Showcase, and although it is awesome to see her performing with such confidence, her vocal isn’t great. Effie leaves her big belting voice at home to perform a more tender number, Garth Brooks’ “The Dance.” The judges aren’t really wowed. In the end, they just don’t think Maddie is ready yet, so Effie moves forward. She can’t even celebrate her win because she knows it means Maddie is going home. Bonds are being formed, people!

And then there were two: Dennis Lorenzo and Marcio Donaldson have been roommates throughout this process, both have similar stories, and both are motivated by their kids. Both also kill it in their Showcase. Dennis sings Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You” while Marcio does Stevie Wonder’s “If You Really Love Me.” Both wear excellent suits. How can you pick between these two? Good news, you can’t! For those counting, there are still two spots left, and Dennis and Marcio are claiming them.

Next stop: top 14. How are we feeling? What was the biggest surprise of the evening? Should all male performers have to wear a red velvet blazer like Marcio did? Just kidding; that’s not a real question. The only answer is “yes, yes, a thousand times yes.”

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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