The top eight performed live on American Idol on Sunday night, singing two songs. Everyone sang Queen songs as well as duets of movie songs. Former Idol runner-up Adam Lambert was on hand to guide the contestants as they fought for America’s vote, and judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan provided feedback. At the end of the episode, the results were announced live.
The finalists opened the night with a performance of “We Will Rock You.” Walker Burroughs was then up first, singing “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and Lambert worked with him on improving his performance skills. Burroughs indeed appeared looser on stage than usual, stepping slightly out of his comfort zone. He put on a show and sang well, his tone crisp. “You’re just up there being yourself,” Bryan said, calling the performance “endearing.”
Madison VanDenberg was up next, singing “The Show Must Go On,” which was an excellent choice for her powerhouse voice. “Your voice is nuts,” Lambert said, encouraging her to play up the emotions of the song. She took his advice and gave a theatrical but also emotionally resonant performance. Her huge vocals were impressive. “You changed the whole game,” Bryan said. Richie said her voice was “impeccable.” “You have come so far,” Perry added.
Laci Kaye Booth and Laine Hardy got the duets started with a performance of “Jackson” from Walk the Line, their voices blending well. They both played guitar and had solid chemistry. Both are very natural performers, and the song suited both of their raspy tones. “I felt it,” Perry said.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon was up next, feeling the pressure of his parents coming to the show for the first time. He sang “Who Wants to Live Forever,” and Lambert encouraged him to make some changes to the arrangement, advising him not to play the guitar like he was originally planning to do. Instead, Harmon gave an intensely vulnerable performance at the microphone. It was understated yet powerful. Perry said that he really embodied Freddie Mercury with his performance. “It was such an emotional ride,” Bryan said.
Alejandro Aranda did a very original arrangement of “Under Pressure” while still not changing too much about the classic. Lambert was impressed by his creativity but encouraged him to stick with the melody as much as possible. Aranda put together a special performance, executing his vision well and really making it his own. “I just love everything you do,” Bryan said. “You are an artist,” Richie added.
Wade Cota and Alyssa Raghu sang “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” together, which has been featured in many movies, but Idol specifically referenced Guardians of the Galaxy. It was an unlikely match-up, and they had very different voices, but they still put on an entertaining duet. The judges found it fun.
Harmon and VanDenberg teamed up for the next duet, singing “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman. They were well matched, both sporting very powerful voices. Their harmonies were strong, and they managed to both have big moments without upstaging one another. “You were doing such a beautiful dance of respect,” Perry said.
Hardy was back up for his solo, singing “Fat Bottomed Girls.” Lambert encouraged him to have fun and open up, which Hardy has been getting a lot better at. He commanded the stage well, and his grit was perfect for the song choice. “If you don’t feel it, fake it,” Richie said. “By the way, you felt it.”
Booth was up next for her solo, singing “Love of My Life.” Lambert worked with her on the arrangement, focusing in particular on her phrasing. She gave a vulnerable and captivating performance of the ballad, accompanying herself on the guitar. “You are sparkling like the diamond we always knew you were, and the most shimmering thing is your voice,” Perry said.
Aranda and Burroughs sang “Mrs. Robinson” from The Graduate. They did the most impressive harmonies of the night, singing a creative arrangement that of course Aranda put together. “Your voices are like two peas in a pod. They’re so perfectly, sweetly put together,” Perry said.
Cota followed with his solo. He chose to sing “We Are the Champions.” saying that it means a lot to him because he has been playing it in bars and restaurants for years. Lambert encouraged him to stay at the mic during the performance. He delivered an engaging performance of the hit, delivering solid vocals throughout. He made a small lyric mistake, but Bryan praised the way he recovered. He added that he heard another dimension of his voice tonight. “You’ve already won,” Richie said.
Raghu closed out the night with a solo performance of “Somebody to Love.” Lambert praised her “natural theatricality,” and he helped her with her runs and ad libs. She gave a soulful performance, tapping into the dynamics of the song. She appeared confident and in control. “You are the epitome of determination,” Richie said.
Then it was time for the results. The bottom two vote-getters were Raghu and Burroughs, and the judges had the option of using their one save of the season. They opted to not use the save, so Burroughs and Raghu were eliminated from the competition.