American Idol recap: Katy Perry channels her inner (and outer!) Tinker Bell on Disney songbook night
Before we can even get into the Top 10 performances from Disney night, we first need to complete our Top 10, right? When last we met, 10 artists from season 18 were given a second chance to impress and win the final spot in this season's Top 10. At the top of the show, we learn that the spot has gone to... Arthur Gunn, season 18's runner-up! He'll be tossed into season 19 just as it's getting Disney-fied.
The Top 9 were all sent to Disney World (in a COVID safe way, it seems) to get into the spirit of the night — some seem much more into it than others — and to have a one-on-one mentor session with John Stamos. Back in Los Angeles, aside from the 10 contestant performances, Sofia Carson stops by to open the show with a performance of "A Whole New World" backed by the Idols (again, some seem more into it than others) and Jon Batiste stops by to perform "It's All Right" from Soul and really just shows everyone else up. Plus, Katy Perry is in a full-out Tinker Bell costume — complete with big fairy wings — for the duration of the show. So, that's fun! But the fun can't last forever, folks. By the end of the night, this Top 10 will become the Top 7. That's right, after the performances and live coast-to-coast voting, three of the contestants will be sent home. The drama! Let's get into it.
Caleb Kennedy, "Real Gone" — Cars
The mullet of today meets the mullet of yesterday when Caleb Kennedy and John Stamos get together for their mentoring session. Caleb picked a good song for his voice — originally performed by Sheryl Crow — but he and John work on some stage presence and eye contact. That element still seems to be missing from his performance, but all three judges felt the energy. Katy thinks he shows "a little bit more sparkle" every time he's on stage and liked to see him engaging with the audience at certain moments and would like to see him do that more. His voice seems a little more shredded than usual, but Luke and Lionel couldn't be more proud. Luke tells Caleb that with this performance, he's giving us a "glimpse" at who he's going to be as an artist.
Willie Spence, "The Circle of Life" — The Lion King
Willie's late grandfather was the one who brought him to Disney World, so he's thinking about him a lot during this trip. As John Stamos points out, it's actually very appropriate to use those emotions in his performance of "The Circle of Life," all about moving forward while still remembering the past. In the mentor session, Stamos gives Willie a standing ovation, and it happens again during the real thing: By the time Willie is nailing that final huge note, all three judges are on their feet. What else can they say about his voice? Luke tells Willie that he has "the magic." Katy calls the performance "spiritual," and Lionel asks the age-old question, "Why am I crying [during] The Lion King?"
Deshawn Goncalves, "When You Wish Upon a Star" — Pinocchio
In his Disney mentoring session with John Stamos, Deshawn is told to work a bit on singing out and not being so timid. By the time he gets to the big performance, there's nothing timid about it. Deshawn is doing a fun jazz arrangement on this classic song, and he plays every bit of the stage performer (complete with a deeply fabulous pink tuxedo jacket). Katy asks Deshawn who he is because she feels like she's just meeting him for the first time — this performer, this guy who is working the stage and completely comfortable, is the real Deshawn. Luke tells him that his face hurts from smiling through that entire performance and is proud to see how much Deshawn has grown since the auditions.
Casey Bishop, "When She Loved Me" — Toy Story 2
Casey is showing a different, more ethereal, and stripped-down side to herself with this song. John Stamos actually suggests bumping the key up to get into the "sweet spots" of Casey's voice sooner, and it seems to work. Casey isn't rocking out on stage, as per usual, but her vocals sound nice on this song — a truly devastating moment from Toy Story 2 — and the judges all praise her for her "poise," her "grace," and the way she is showing everyone that she really can sing anything she wants to. She's a natural. "I don't know if I've had chill bumps like that in four years of doing this show," Luke tells her. That's nice!
Chayce Beckham, "Baby Mine" — Dumbo
Talk about making a song your own. This song, from the 1940s, feels radio-ready in Chayce's cool, laidback arrangement. The judges latch onto this idea, too: This is an authentically Chayce Beckham performance. Luke loves that Chayce is always able to find a way to be true to who he is as an artist, even on Disney night, and that Chayce knows he's not the type of singer to overdo it with big notes or vocal tricks, but he has a way of connecting. Lionel thinks Chayce is still in his head too much and needs to enjoy what he's doing more, but Katy tosses pixie dust on everyone and makes it all better. She loves the new, "imaginative" arrangement. But does any of this even matter? The most important part of this entire segment is that we learn that Graham DeFranco has now traveled from the Metts' family to hang out with the Beckhams. What a joy.
Alyssa Wray, "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" — Cinderella
Alyssa is getting a real princess moment on stage. Come on with that pseudo-Zendaya-at-the-Met-Ball dress! Alyssa has been showing us her tremendous vocal control more and more, but here it really shines. She takes us on a ride with this song, starting out in a capella and slowly building to a huge, booming end. Katy says it was "unlike any other performance [she's] ever given us" and calls it "elegant and elevated." Luke, again, is so proud to see a singer blossoming throughout this competition and thought she deployed those big notes "at the perfect time."
Arthur Gunn, "Remember Me" — Coco
Arthur Gunn is going to Arthur Gunn, even if Uncle Jesse tells him to think about putting some of the original arrangement of "Remember Me" back into his new arrangement, Arthur Gunn is going to Arthur Gunn, okay? Arthur wants to make this song a little "brighter" than the original — he hasn't seen Coco and doesn't know that the song is meant to emotionally destroy any human who listens to it — and completely changes it up. The judges point to Arthur as an example of an artist who knows who he is and what he wants his career to look like, and he doesn't waver from that. Katy calls it one of Arthur's best performances she's seen, and Lionel commends him for owning his voice and his sound.
Cassandra Coleman, "Go the Distance" — Hercules
Guys, the only song people should be doing from Hercules is "I Won't Say I'm in Love," a true jam. This song is FINE, but it is not "I Won't Say I'm in Love." It's a big song and much more mainstream than we've heard on Cassandra's voice, but she really owns the stage, all decked out in her Grecian-vibe styling (Katy approves). Luke calls it her "most solid vocal from top to bottom" and thinks her vocals are improving as her confidence and stage presence grow. Lionel thought the song really showed off "the clarity" of Cassandra's voice. Afterward, Ryan asks Cassandra how she's building her newfound confidence, and she says she's simply faking it till she makes it, and honestly, isn't that just all life really is? You do you, girl.
Hunter Metts, "You'll Be in My Heart" — Tarzan
Hunter! Hunter has, in fact, stopped crying since his emotional lyric flub during his "Falling Slowly" performance (I have not, in fact, stopped watching that performance because it is just so good, and he really needs to stop worrying about the mishap!). He's ready to put it behind him (actually, he says it will forever haunt him, but that is bleak). He's singing his mom's favorite song, and it seems like the joy is back! He's smiling the whole time he's performing, and buddy, at the end, he shows some major range that he hasn't before. The judges commend him for taking this kind of risk and having it pay off. Katy tells him to "keep taking those leaps" and that he sounded so "centered and grounded" on this song. Luke, too, thinks risks like that, and showing off more of his range and power only makes him more "undeniable."
Grace Kinstler, "Into the Unknown" — Frozen 2
I mean, how can you have pipes like Grace Kinstler and not take on an Idina Menzel ballad for Disney night? Grace makes "Into the Unknown" seem so easy — in her rehearsal with John Stamos, she performs and John simply says, "What am I gonna tell you? Nothing. Just do that." And really, what more can you say? As Luke points out, Grace walks onto the stage with a look that says she knows she's going to nail this song, and then she does. "Oh my goddess," Katy yells before telling Grace that "the whole room [was] controlled with [her] voice." And Lionel simply echoes John Stamos and tells Grace to just keep doing that. It's working.
And with that, the voting closes and the three Idol hopefuls who will not be moving forward into the Top 7 are Alyssa Wray, Cassandra Coleman, and Deshawn Goncalves. Things are really happening, huh? Next week: Moms and Coldplay! That feels right!
Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.