Six weeks after the revival of “American Idol” hosted by Ryan Seacrest began on ABC, America finally gets a chance to vote as the Top 14 take to the stage on the April 22 episode. These finalists survived a grueling process that began with winning over the three judges — Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie — at a regional audition and getting a ticket to Hollywood.
A whopping 169 would-be winners made the trip to La La Land, before being cut to 50. That group then competed both individually and in groups before the judges decided on the Top 24. Those two dozen artists were then asked to sing both solo and in duets with celebrities and convince the three judges that they deserved a place in the Top 14.
The season 16 finalists are: Gabby Barrett, Jonny Brenns, Marcio Donaldson, Cade Foehner, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Garrett Jacobs, Jurnee, Mara Justine, Dennis Lorenzo, Maddie Poppe, Michelle Sussett, Catie Turner, Ada Vox and Michael J. Woodard.
Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs on ABC. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and a $100 Amazon gift card. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.
Below, follow along with all the action on the April 22 episode of “American Idol.”
8:00 p.m. – The power is finally in America’s hands! The top 14 will take the stage tonight and I’ll be recapping each performance with a few of my own added thoughts. I’m excited to see the first week of live voting take place on “American Idol.” What is the demographic that watches this show? And how will it effect the outcome? It seems as though the last few seasons of the Fox series were inundated with “white guy with guitar” winners. Will it be more of the same? Or will it mirror earlier seasons when belting divas reigned supreme? After tonight’s 14 singers perform, the top six vote-earners will automatically make the top 10. The final four will be chosen by the judges. Let’s get started!
8:10 p.m. – This season’s country crooner, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, is up first. He hasn’t only made strides in his music career with “American Idol” but he’s also managed to lose 80 pounds in recent years. Now, more confident than ever, Caleb is singing “Midnight Train to Memphis” by The Steeldrivers. With a banjo in hand, Caleb is taking full ownership of his country roots and I can only imagine he will be rewarded for it. He sounds fantastic, looks better than ever on stage. Do we have a new heartthrob in the making? I love the way he seems to be enjoying the crowd and he hasn’t missed a note. Overall, a winning performance for Caleb. Send him through to the Top 10!
8:12 p.m. – Katy said Caleb looked overwhelmed and it may have hindered his performance. I don’t agree with her at all! Luke wasn’t crazy about the song choice. Lionel said as soon as the girls started screaming, Caleb forgot about the song. I feel like I watched a completely different performance than them. I thought it was fun! He deserves to move forward.
8:15 p.m. – Next up is Michelle Sussett, a Venezuelan immigrant trying to achieve her American dream. She is trying to support her family back home and make a name for herself on “Idol.” Singing “Friends” by Marshmello & Anne Marie, Michelle has more of a pop edge than I’ve seen from her previously. That being said, I still don’t see what the judges do in her. Vocally she leaves so much to be desired, no amount of stage presence can make up for it. Although this song succeeds in showing what type of artist Michelle could be, I think it was a terrible song choice for someone trying to win over votes. Not nearly popular or catchy enough.
8:17 p.m. – Luke said Michelle became a pop star tonight and that’s what the show needs. Lionel said she owned her presentation and loved the attitude. Katy echoed my sentiments and said Michelle chose a poor song and needs to focus on people watching at home more than the people in the audience. Keep in mind, contestants all chose their own songs tonight.
8:20 p.m. – Marcio Donaldson is next. Can we all get through this week without crying? It has been impossible watching him throughout this season. He’s definitely the sentimental favorite. He may have shocked some people when he chose “It’s a Miracle” by Barry Manilow for his song choice. Sadness looks like the furthest thing from Marcio’s mind as he is all smiles in a suave burgundy suit. I would love to know how he decided on this song, but he’s working the stage in a thoroughly entertaining way. I feel transported into 1960’s Motown and I’m digging it!
8:22 p.m. – Lionel said, “That’s a singer!” and added that Marcio’s confidence has grown so much that he’s about to be out of control. Katy called it “joyful” and said Marcio is an “inspiration.” Luke wasn’t sold on the song choice because he’s used to him being more “somber.” Well, I for one was thrilled to see Marcio bring out the joyful side tonight and he has been the best so far. Also, I hope Luke gets better at this judging thing. Is it too late to call Keith Urban back?
8:30 p.m. – Next up is the season’s youngest competitor, Mara Justine. She picked a timely song with “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.” I hope she can nail it because this is a beast of a song. She looks every bit the pop star but seemed nervous throughout the first verse. Her emotions seem to take over at times and Katy looks completely unmoved in the audience. Her big notes are hit or miss and overall this performance has to be put in the “okay” category. I wasn’t thrilled with it.
8:32 p.m. – Katy feels like Mara has come along way with her stage performance. She also mentions Mara didn’t arrive vocally until the middle of the song (I agree). Luke wasn’t emotionally invested in the performance. Lionel complimented Mara’s confidence for her age and gave her a few inspiring words after some harsh criticism.
8:40 p.m. – Garrett Jacobs is channeling the luck of a former winner, covering “Raging Fire” by Season 11 champion Phillip Phillips. Clearly Garrett is the biggest heartthrob this season so he will naturally pull votes from that alone. But can he improve his singing? Based on the first verse of this song, not yet. Garrett’s voice hasn’t caught up to his likability factor, which is through the roof. Phillips had such a recognizable tone, whereas Garrett is a bit more vanilla. That being said, this is far from a disaster; it’s actually not bad.
8:42 p.m. – Luke thought the performance was dynamic and said Garrett was the first performer that looked comfortable on stage. Lionel said it looked like Garrett went “in and out of consciousness” within the performance but enjoyed it overall. Katy seems like she’s disappointed in everyone. Could she end up being the Simon this season? I appreciate her honesty because if they want viewers to tune in each week these performances need to improve. Another check in the “okay” column.
8:50 p.m. – Hoping to take the competition up a notch is the always unpredictable Ada Vox. Please bring it! She’s singing “The Show Must Go On” by Queen. This ravishing queen is in diamonds up to her neck and covered in feathers. Yes! I love the drama. As Ada hit the chorus a power kicked in that absolutely slayed everyone so far. Could we actually be witnessing the first drag queen to win “American Idol”? Lionel is on his feet!
8:51 p.m. – Lionel said Ada has no idea how fabulous she is and came to “stop the show!” Katy was waiting for someone to “show up” and was thrilled with Ada’s song choice. Luke said Ada has “the biggest voice he’s ever heard.”
8:55 p.m. – The season’s biggest goofball, Catie Turner is next to perform. Can she harness her infectious personality to give a performance worthy of being taken seriously? Catie said she’s had her fair share of hate mail but insists her personality is real, just ask her mother. She shrugs it off saying, “Beyonce gets hate mail. And she’s Beyonce!” Catie is singing “Take Me to Church” by Hozier. I like this song choice for her but she doesn’t exactly look comfortable on stage. Katy’s face in the audience is screaming, “Aww, bless your heart.” But the judges were on their feet by the end! It was a solid performance but I don’t think I loved it as much as Luke and Katy appeared to.
8:59 p.m. – Katy said that whatever happens she would like to sing with her and Catie is everything she should be. Luke said Catie can win this show. Lionel loves Catie’s authenticity and there’s nothing else like her.
9:03 p.m. – Cade Foehner, on paper, appears to have the pedigree of an “American Idol” based on so many previous winners. But can this small town boy prove to be a Rock’ n Roll icon? He’s covering one with Santana’s “Black Magic Woman.” Cade is at ease on stage and what I like most about him is his recognizable tone. After the first chorus Cade emerged to the front of the stage for a guitar solo which was super cool. When he got back to the microphone he absolutely ate the song up and spit it out! This guy can win! You heard it here first.
9:05 p.m. – Luke said Cade’s performance wasn’t a crazy vocal experience, but the fact that he could get such a big audience response by ripping the guitar is commendable. Lionel said Cade is the full package: singing, playing and swivel hips. Katy asked Cade for a piece of his hair to give to her mother, who is obsessed with the young rocker. Without hesitation he ripped a lock from his head. Katy is demented! I think I love her.
9:15 p.m. – Up next is Dennis Lorenzo. He’s fighting to provide a better life for his daughters and singing “In my Blood” by Shawn Mendes. It was a smart, contemporary choice but I don’t care for his voice during the first verse. Once Dennis hits the chorus he begins to soar and own this performance for the first time. I think some young singers focus so much on belting they don’t know how to sing great from beginning to end. I will say, the last two thirds of this performance won me over. Good job Dennis!
9:16 p.m. – Lionel said Dennis just broke through the ceiling. Katy thought it was shaky at the start, but once he was finally into it she became a believer in him. She loves that he showed another side to himself with this rock song. Luke echoed the others.
9:24 p.m. – I’m excited to see Maddie Poppe take the stage tonight. She has flown under the radar this season but I’m going to go out on a limb and proclaim her as a dark-horse contender. She’s in her own lane, confident and knows exactly who she is. Now let’s see if she proves me right or makes me look like a fool. Singing “Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel, she’s doing everything I expected. She’s showing America she can win! This performance is such a standout tonight and her voice is timeless. The little inflections she uses in her voice throughout are completely her own. Bravo! Best of the night.
9:25 p.m. – Katy said Maddie has incredible musical taste and it shows. Luke prays that the people at home feel what he just felt in the room. Lionel said if she continues on this path she will have a career and she could be a winner.
9:33 p.m. – Up next is Jurnee who has developed into one of the season’s front-runners. The former rebellious teen has turned her life around and is determined to come out of this a champion. She’s taking a recent hit by some of this generations best female vocalists, “Bang Bang” by Ariana Grande, Jessie J and Nicki Minaj. I had high hopes for this because I love Jurnee, but her vocals are definitely falling flat on the power notes tonight. On the other hand, she is working the stage nicely and inserted a fun rap to show another side to herself. But vocals should come first and maybe she needs to slow down on stage to make sure she hits all the notes. But forget what I think! The judges are on their feet.
9:35 p.m. – Luke appreciated Jurnee showing another side to herself. Lionel complimented her ability to move the crowd. Katy said this was the first time she’s seen Jurnee move and said “You’re an artist now, not just some wedding singer.”
9:38 p.m. Johnny Brenz took Katy’s previous advice to heart and enrolled in ballet class to help improve his movement. Johnny is this likable, inexperienced guy taking on “This is Gospel” by Panic at the Disco. Katy clearly loves him, but I hope it doesn’t impair her judgement. This guy is not ready for prime time! I feel like I’m watching a high school glee club performance. Sorry, I give this performance a hard pass. But he will probably be voted through based on his introduction video.
9:40 p.m. – Lionel loves watching Johnny perform because he laughs throughout the performance and loves what he does. Katy said “real men wear tights” and thanked him for taking her advice. She called his performance “fun” but needs to work on the notes. Lionel said the competition has forced him to attack notes and gave him kudos for “going after it.”
9:48 p.m. – Next up is Michael J. Woodard and full disclaimer: I love this guy. He always dresses like he just came from a day job at the auto body shop and he sings the most random songs. He can probably do no wrong for me, but let’s find out. Tonight he’s singing “Titanium” by Sia which may be the most contemporary he’s chosen so far. As soon as he opens his mouth, I already love his tone. And he’s still dressed like a mechanic! His body movement is so odd and I just find him to be the most endearing person on this show. I would like to see him stretch up one more octave vocally, but that was still a knockout for me! The judges agree as they all rise to their feet.
9:50 p.m. – Katy said the next time she sees Sia she’s going to tell her “I met a star today that sang your song incredible.” Luke said Michael has a knack for pulling people in and loving him a little bit more each time. Lionel called him a martian. He can’t wait to see what he does next each time.
9:58 p.m. – The show opened with a country artist and it’s closing with another: Gabby Barrett. It’s got to be tough to sit through two hours of performances waiting for your turn. Let’s see how she does! She’s gone with a Miley Cyrus power ballad, “The Climb,” which seems like a talent show staple these days. I haven’t been sold on Gabby this season….until now. She looks like a star and this was the best vocal she has delivered to date. Bravo! But a little Carrie Underwood 2.0.
9:59 p.m. – Luke said she gave the best vocal of the night. Katy said Gabby must have went through the “star wash” because she looks and sounds like one. Lionel said “a star is born.”