The May 12 episode of “American Idol” will see the Top 5 cut down to the final three artists in contention for the season 17 title. Each of these five contestants will sing three songs. One will be from the catalog of Elton John, another will be chosen by their mentor Bobby Bones, and the third will be tied to the Mother’s Day’s theme. At the end of the evening, host Ryan Seacrest will reveal which three of them number among America’s favorites and will continue on in the competition.
Four of these finalists were the leading vote getters on the Top 6 episode on May 5: Alejandro Aranda, Wade Cota, Laine Hardy and Madison VanDenburg. The fifth — Laci Kaye Booth — was thrown a lifeline by Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie. They used their one judges save of the season to keep her in the competition.
This episode will be seen live nationwide. Everyone from coast to coast can vote for their favorites. At the end of the two-hour telecast, two artists will be eliminated. For those on the west coast who don’t want to watch live, the show will be repeated in its usual 8 p.m. time slot with a warning that voting is closed.
Below, follow along as we recap all the action on “American Idol” season 17 night 17 in our updating live blog.
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8:00 p.m. – Who will fight for the title of the next “American Idol”? We’ll find out tonight after the final five each perform three songs. Let’s get started!
8:08 p.m. – We’re kicking things off with Wade and song Bobby chose for him, “You are the Best Thing.” Bobby thinks this could be the song that gets Wade into the finale and he asks, “Why not Wade?” Wade has struggled with movement on stage throughout the season and he’s clearly been working at it. He’s pacing all over and waving his hands in the air like Mariah Carey prepping for a whistle note. The song itself is pretty standard and the performance was brief. It wasn’t good or bad, but of course the judges are on their feet. Katy tells him she hopes he can shake it off for his next two performance, Luke likes how Wade didn’t overdo it and Lionel wants him to relax and enjoy the ride.
8:13 p.m. – For Laci, Bobby chose “The House That Built Me” and it’s nice to see her tackle a pure country song this week. During rehearsals she says she hasn’t learned the guitar cords yet, but during the performance we see she’s singing with no instrument. She sounds nice, but why are these so short? I could barely get into the performance before it was over. Luke comments how hard it must be to perform knowing America didn’t vote for you. Damn Luke! Lionel says Laci is a storyteller and she gave her best vocals in weeks. Katy says Laci needs to keep turning it up a notch and she’ll make it.
8:20 p.m. – Alejandro is excited to hear that Bobby has chosen “No Woman, No Cry” for Alejandro. Of course Alejandro is giving it his own guitar arrangement and when he hits the stage it already feels like him. It’s a little less reggae and more smooth rock. Alejandro seems to be making an effort to look out into the audience a bit more than usual, which is nice. That’s a good word for this performance: “nice.” It wasn’t mind-blowing, but I wouldn’t mind hearing it while I sit on a beach somewhere. I actually timed the performance because I was curious how long these songs were tonight and he clocked in at just under one minute and 25 seconds. They need more time. Lionel calls Alejandro a “diamond” and loved that he turned a Bob Marley song into his own. Katy says Alejandro hasn’t really taken himself seriously until now and thinks it’s going to be an interesting show. Luke says he commanded the vocal and as long as he doesn’t change, he will change music.
8:25 p.m. – Bobby has chosen yet another classic rock song for Laine to sing, “Can’t You See.” Bobby wants him to lean in and let people hear his vocals and give it some attitude. Laine takes the advice and kicks off the performance singing with the guitar at his side before he picks it up and starts jamming during the chorus. It’s a fun song I guess, but I feel like we’ve seen this about 10 times from Laine already this season. I’d like to hear him switch it up with something more sensitive or even a rock ballad. The judges actually remain seated and Katy says, “Laine lets pretend you don’t win this show,” and she wants him to fight harder during his next two songs. Luke complimented the arrangement and the band before Katy starts screaming, “Give it to us!” and flipping her ponytail. Lionel wants more attitude from Laine.
8:35 p.m. – The final artist to get started tonight is Madison, who was gifted the song “What About Us.” Bobby chose a Pink song for Madison because it will be impossible for her to hold back and he wants to bring the emotion out of her. Madison is working the stage and decided to throw on a black leather jacket to give it that extra rock edge. I have to say, throughout the first five performances tonight, this is the first time I really noticed a vocal so kudos to her for belting that one out. The judges are on their feet for her and Luke noticed her interaction with the audience and told her to keep digging. Lionel says with a voice like that, Madison is 17 and ready for showtime. Katy says “It’s happening before our very eyes” and says if Madison keeps bringing it out like that, she’s going to win!
8:40 p.m. – Now it’s time for songs from Elton John, who even filmed a special message stating that he’s honored his songs will play a part in their musical journey. Performing “Rocket Man” is Wade, who’s spicing it up with some bedazzled sunglasses. I really like Wade’s voice on this song, it sort of darkens it up a bit. Thankfully Wade rips off his ridiculous glasses as he hits the chorus and gives a sincere delivery that seems like his most genuine performance to date, although he still didn’t have much of a chance to take it anywhere vocally. Lionel likes that Wade is playing with the character, Katy says she likes how he stayed connected and wants him to remain that way for his last song. Luke disagrees with me and wishes Wade would have kept the sunglasses on the whole time.
8:50 p.m. – Laci continues her fight for the finale with Elton’s classic “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting).” It’s nice to see Laci change things up with a fun uptempo and she’s working the stage as she countrifies this tune. She appears to be having fun interacting with the audience, but unfortunately I can barely hear her. The band is really drowning her out on this one. Thumbs up for the energy, but vocally that song went nowhere. Apparently the judges could hear better than me because they’re on their feet and Katy says, “You’re a pop star!” Luke likes how she worked the stage and showed them something new. Lionel says she killed it and made it her own.
9:00 p.m. – Alejandro is closing out the first hour of the show with his spin on “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” I love that that Alejandro is sitting down at the piano for this ballad. He’s giving us variety tonight and sounds beautiful. His voice isn’t powerful, but he has a way of injecting feeling into it and he sounds better than ever. That was a gorgeously understated performance. Bravo! Luke asks if Alejandro’s been holding back and tells him he’s owning the night. Lionel says Alejandro killed that and took everyone on a journey. Katy loves how connected he was and says Alejandro has decided to play in this competition and it shows.
9:08 p.m. – Up next, Madison is performing “Your Song,” which is one of my favorite songs ever. She sounds wonderful on the first verse and I expect nothing less from her. She’s definitely the best singer in the competition. I love the vocal choices she’s making and she modulated this song perfectly into a bombastic finish that is unlike Elton’s original. Great job! Lionel says Madison knocked it out of the park, Katy says Madison gave them the ketchup and the mustard on their cheeseburger and Luke the soulfulness and range from Madison is unbelievable.
9:12 p.m. – With “Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” Laine is FINALLY slowing things down. I was about to rip this performance apart if it was yet another mid-tempo rock song. THANK YOU for singing a ballad Laine. He’s got no guitar, he’s just standing flat-footed and singing. He’s sincere, taking the song seriously and his raspy vocals sound good. I’m so glad he did this. Katy asks if Laine went to a voice coach and Laine admits he has. She appreciates that he challenged himself. Luke said, “We heard you singing tonight!” As if it’s some anomaly that we would hear actual singing in a singing competition. Lionel says Laine has the look, the style and the sound and that’s called a winner. Sidenote: Laine has on a $4,000 pair of purple shoes and I want them.
9:22 p.m. – Wade kicks off round three with a song dedicated to his mother and step-father. With “Hard Luck Woman,” there may not be a better description of Wade’s impressive mom. Wade sounds fine on this song and he’s growling through it in his normal fashion, but the worst part is the backup singer who can’t harmonize to save his life. Anyways, as far as Wade is concerned, it was a solid performance. Luke was so distracted by the heartwarming video tribute to his mother, he could barely comment on the performance. Lionel says Wade was born “enough.” Katy is proud of Wade and says it’s just the beginning for him.
9:30 p.m. – Laci is honoring her grandmother with a performance of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. There probably isn’t a better voice for Laci to cover than Stevie Nicks and she is killing this. I love everything about how she sounds on this song. Let’s be honest, it’s probably her last performance and this is a hell of a way for her to go out. Gorgeous. The judges are on their feet and Lionel says her star is here and she should enjoy the ride. Katy is in tears and says she is so proud of her. Luke called it a complete visual into the future of her career.
9:38 p.m. – I can’t help but notice how they have kept Wade and Laci in the same order, kicking off each round throughout the night, but changed up Alejandro, Laine and Madison each round. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it seems like they’ve already determined the top three. Anyways, it’s Madison’s turn again and she’s singing “Make You Feel My Love” for her mother. This song plays wonderfully to Madison’s strengths and it’s not surprise she sounds fantastic as usual. I love when she strays from the original arrangement and throws in her own notes. It was an understated performance by Madison’s standards, but the judges are still on their feet. Katy calls Madison elegant, classic and timeless. Luke says, “Three words – powerhouse.” Oh boy. Lionel just asks people to vote, vote, vote.
9:43 p.m. – Laine is giving his emotional tribute tonight to his brother, singing “Hey Jude.” I love that we’re getting yet another sentimental song from Laine tonight. He needed this to win over cynical people like me who were starting to wonder if he was a one-trick pony. This is the best of both worlds because it starts off soft, but has that rock anthem vibe in the chorus. It wasn’t an amazing performance, but solid enough. The judges think it was great (they think everything is) and Katy thanks him for coming back this season and agreeing to do this all over again.
9:52 p.m. – Alejandro is dedicating his original song “Blesser” to his musical mentor Twin Shadow. I’ve personally never heard this song before, but I know Alejandro’s biggest fans have been begging him to perform this. It begins with his fingers going wild on the piano keys as he serenades the audience. I can’t stand the background singers, someone needs to fire them all and let him sing alone. This almost reminds me of a song from the film “La La Land.” The background singers totally ruined the vocals of this song for me, but what a display of his musical talent from Alejandro! The crowd has erupted and Katy looks absolutely dumbfounded. Lionel says we are watching musical history and a phenomenon. Katy says, “Stay humble, homie.” Luke says he’s not worthy to judge Alejandro’s talent.
9:59 p.m. – Voting has closed and it is time to reveal the Top 3. They are Laine, Madison and Alejandro. Laci and Wade have been eliminated. Next week, the finalists will head home for a “Hometown Hero” visit and compete for the title of “American Idol.”