‘American Idol’ recap: Top 40 become Top 20 on Night 8 of Season 17 [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

On the March 31 episode of “American Idol,” the 40 contestants to make it through Hollywood Week will be winnowed down to half that when Ryan Seacrest reveals the Top 20 As with the FOX version that ran for 15 seasons, this revival on ABC gave a slew of those who auditioned golden tickets to Hollywood. Upwards of 150 contestants made the trip to sing again for the three judges – pop princess Katy Perry, country superstar Luke Bryan and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Lionel Richie .

At the end of the March 25 episode we learned which 40 would get one more chance to impress. These two score were flown to Hawaii at the end of January to audition again at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Honolulu. Over the course of three hours on Sunday, we will see highlights from their performances  At the end of the evening, we will know the Top 20 who will move forward in the competition.

They will be judged on both solo performances and celebrity duets over the course of three episodes starting April 1. Only then will we have the Top 14, who get to sing for America’s votes on the live shows that kick off on April 14. (If you can’t wait, read our spoiler of the Top 14.)

SEE ‘American Idol’ Season 17 schedule: When are the live shows and grand finale?

Once the live playoffs of “American Idol” season 17 begin, you will be able to predict the outcome of each episode in our predictions center. You can already make forecasts for the outcomes on such reality TV shows as “Survivor,” plus the winners of the Academy of Country Music Awards and both the daytime and primetime Emmy Awards.

SEE ‘American Idol’ Winners: Where Are They Now (Seasons 1 – 16)?

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Below, follow along with all the action on the Night 8 episode of “American Idol.”

8:00 p.m. – “The Sensational Top 40” have hit the beaches of Hawaii and are ready to sing for a chance at becoming the next “American Idol.” It was all fun and games as the contestants landed in tropical paradise, but by the end of the day, half will be eliminated. In their final showcase, the artists will be glammed up and performing for a live audience. Who will prove they have what it takes to make it on live TV? Let’s get started!

8:07 p.m. – First up is Alyssa Raghu, a contestant who was eliminated at this stage last year, hoping to advance further in her second attempt. Performing “Dear Future Husband” by Meghan Trainor, Alyssa is wearing a simple white pantsuit and starts things off slowly before turning things up with the uptempo smash. This is the most fun and relaxed I’ve seen Alyssa look on stage and she’s hitting each note perfectly, although it isn’t the most technically difficult song to sing. The judges seemed to enjoy it, giving her a standing ovation, and Katy says “I feel like she took some dance lessons. It looks natural finally!” But did Alyssa make the cut? At her final judgement, Katy calls her voice timeless and credits her for finally connecting her voice to her body at the showcase. Finally, Katy teases by saying…”We don’t see a Top 20 with you….not in it.” The second time is a charm for Alyssa!

8:20 p.m. – 17-year old Madison Vandenberg is next to learn her fate. She had one of the most memorable auditions in New York being compared to Kelly Clarkson. Perhaps Madison’s direct competition is Myra Tran, who was also compared to Clarkson and is capable of the same high-range belts. Will one outshine the other at the showcase? Madison is performing “Who’s Lovin’ You” by The Jackson 5, nailing that famous opening run and bellowing her way through the song like a tornado. Madison is wearing an unflattering, skin tight black body suit with ruffled sleeves but she’s killing the vocals. That’s okay, she will get a stylist in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Myra shows up in what looks to be a pink business suit someone would wear to interview at Bank of America. Who is dressing these contestants? She’s performing “How Far I’ll Go” from the “Moana” soundtrack, which the crowd seems thrilled with as they sing along. I’m impressed with the restraint Myra is showing because she has screamed her way though everything I’ve seen of her thus far. Finally she hits the chorus and, sure enough, she goes all over the place trying to show off. The crowd is loving her, but I hated the performance. But have Madison and Myra done enough to make it into the Top 20? At the final judgement we learn Madison has advanced, but it is the end of the road for Myra.

8:25 p.m. – Up next we will learn the fate of Logan Johnson, who first made a splash with the judges at his Idaho audition. Logan is singing “Sorry” by Justin Bieber and plans to twist things up by singing part of the lyrics in Spanish to show his versatility. Luke warns, “don’t get to cute boy.” Logan starts off like the teen heartthrob the judges were hoping for and he absolutely nails the Spanish lyrics and sends Katy into a complete tailspin. This kid has the crowd in the palm of his hand like a Jonas brother and the judges are thoroughly impressed. At the final judgment, Luke lets Logan know he’s advanced to the next round!

8:35 p.m. – The judges are now ready for Nate Walker, who has had a rough audition process so far. After being rushed to the hospital during group rounds, Nate lost his voice and barely made it this far. Has his voice rebounded enough to blow the judges away? He’s singing an old Lionel Richie song, “Still” by The Commodores. Lionel looks surprised to hear the song selection and I love Nate’s lower register. When he reaches the climax, it seems as though his voice has recovered but I wasn’t completely blown away. Still, I like Nate and would like to hear more from him. At the final judgment, Lionel tells Nate he needs to get out of his own head. Nate needs to feel the crowd and let them feel him. Unfortunately, Nate has not made the Top 20.

8:40 p.m. – As Nate processes his bad news, Dimitrius Graham is learning his fate. Katy says he can sing anything that he wants, which his a blessing and a curse. Dimitrius’ mother has been going through health issues during his audition process and will undergo heart surgery. His life has been flipped upside down and he can’t wait to show off his skills on stage. Singing “Latch” by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith, Dimitrius looks more self-assured than ever as Katy says “Wow!” when he begins singing. He sends shivers up the spine as he reaches the chorus and shows impeccable control in his falsetto and belts.  He killed it! The judges were blown away.  After teasing Dimitrius, the judges reveal he has made the Top 20!

8:50 p.m. Ashley Hess first impressed the judges at her New York audition, with Katy telling her she could win the competition. Ashley is stepping away from the piano to prove she can entertain without it singing “Gone Away” by H.E.R. This was a horrible song choice for Ashley and it’s not working for me at all. She is straining and it just feels forced and unnatural. The judges agree that she was out of control throughout the first half. At the final judgement, Luke tells Ashley her performance was a bit sketchy, but she’s in the Top 20!

8:55 p.m. Drake McCain connected with Katy during his Louisville audition, and since then he’s dazzled the judges with his infectious personality and impressive red, flattop haircut. At the live showcase he’s singing “Girls Like You” by Maroon 5 and he’s hitting all kinds of scratchy notes. It sounds like his voice is gone. I’m underwhelmed about everything in this performance. His voice, his pastel green shorts and his limited stage presence do not stand out for the right reasons. At the final judgment, Katy delivers the news to Drake that his journey will end now.

9:05 p.m. Kai the Singer made it to her Louisville audition thanks to support from her church, who made her travel arrangements possible. After an average audition, Kai grew exponentially throughout Hollywood week and the judges are impressed with how she’s come out of her shell. Singing “Wild Things” by Alessia Cara, Kai is showing more confidence than ever as she works the stage, but I’m not impressed with the vocals. In fact, the vocals are pretty awful so I’m going to have to say “Next!” She’s more concerned about showing cute dance steps than singing well. At the final judgement, Kai learns that her journey ends now, but she has limitless potential for the future.

9:10 p.m. – The anxiety continues as contestants watch more and more front-runners go home. Laci Kaye Booth brought the judges to their feet throughout the audition process, even inspiring Katy to throw her chair off the stage at one point. Singing “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles, Laci’s standout tone is front and center causing Luke to say “She’s special.” Laci has a sultry, sexy voice and she nails it every time. There’s no way she’s going home! At the final judgement, Katy tells Laci the timing is right for her and she’s in the Top 20!

9:20 p.m. – Next to hear his fate is Nick Townsend, who has lost both of his brothers in the past year to suicide. Nick connected to Luke, who has also lost his siblings, during his Idaho audition. Nick is singing “Hold Back the River” by James Bay at the showcase, where he seems full of energy but may not be delivering the cleanest vocals. I like his stage presence, but I’m not impressed with the vocals and I’m not sure he’ll make it through. At the final judgement, Luke tells Nick that his story has really affected them, but he didn’t give his best performance at the showcase. Nick will not be moving on. Sadly, during the final judgement we also say goodbye to Clay Page, Kason Lester and Johanna Jones. No portion of their final performances were shown.

9:30 p.m. –  Up next is Walker Burroughs. Walker thrilled the judges during his Louisville audition and sat down at the keyboard to perform “Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer at the live showcase. Walker is refreshing to watch and I appreciate the way he makes his talent appear effortless. I don’t care for his arrangement of this song in particular, but he deserves a spot in the Top 20 and Lionel assures him he’s getting one!

9:35 p.m. Ryan Hammond has had a surreal journey on “American Idol” after losing 170 pounds last year. Ryan’s boyfriend chose the song he’ll be performing tonight, “A Song For You” by Donny Hathaway. Ryan is looking sharp in a black t-shirt and fun hat as he belts out this classic. He nails the passion of the song it may be the best I’ve heard him, although they didn’t show the entire performance. Katy loves how far Ryan has come and applauds his determination to apply their advice to his performances. Ryan is in the Top 20!

9:40 p.m. – With another spot taken, Evelyn Cormier and Kate Barnette are ready to find out their own fates. Each have shown off their unique vocal styles and at the showcase performance they both set out to prove they belong on a bigger stage. Kate sang “Royals” by Lorde while Evelyn performed “No Roots” by Alice Merton. Both of these quirky artists are about to hear their final judgement and my guess is only one will survive. But I was wrong! Kate and Evelyn are both in the Top 20!

9:50 p.m.Emma Kleinberg is hoping to take the next spot in the Top 20 with her final showcase performance of “Is This Love” by Bob Marley. Emma is living out her dream of performing on a beach and she’s got a laid back vibe and unassuming stage presence. The judges think she has a solid voice, but is it enough to move on? Katy doesn’t believe Emma demands attention on stage and therefore, she won’t be moving forward.

9:55 p.m. – Up next is the always interesting Uche’. His unorthodox style wasn’t immediately appreciated by the judges, but eventually he won Lionel over and made it all the way to the live showcase. He showed up in a fur coat and leather pants to sing “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry and he definitely showed the audience some unique moves, but I simply don’t care for his voice. But as the stage antics get wilder and crazier, I can’t help but be entertained by the chaos of it all. Just put him through! Lionel says he killed his performance and Uche’s stage presence is unteachable. He’s in the Top 20!

10:05 p.m. – I’m probably not alone when I say Alejandro Aranda is my favorite contestant this season. He’s dazzled throughout the auditions and for the live showcase he’s performing “Yellow” by Coldplay. Watching this dishwasher play guitar is like watching the birth of a music legend. His voice is simply gorgeous and his musicianship is on another level compared to his competitors. Once again he nailed this performance and the audience was probably hoping for a full concert from him. Of course he’s in the Top 20!

10:10 p.m. – It’s the moment of truth for Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, who moved the judges during his New York audition with an original song. His parents still don’t accept his homosexuality and he quit his job as the church janitor. The publicity of his story is causing a lot of change in his life right now and he’s decided to perform “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. He’s sad that he’s disappointed his religious family, but he sounds beautiful on this ballad that he’s singing for anyone who has ever felt like an outcast. Jeremiah is in the Top 20!

10:20 p.m. – Up next is early front-runner Shayy, who has been waiting in agony to learn her fate. The legally blind singer has had an inspiring journey thus far and showed up looking angelic to her showcase performance of “All I Ask” by Adele. With a flower headpiece and a white gown blowing in the wind, Shayy looked gorgeous but struggled to stay on pitch during the chorus. Sadly, Shayy has been cut from the competition today. Also heading home are Mica Giaconi, Payton Taylor and Idalis.

10:30 p.m. – With so many hearts broken, the youngest competitor hopes she did enough to sing another day. Riley Thompson is performing “Mama’s Broken Heart” by Miranda Lambert and the 16-year old is a natural star on stage. With zero hesitation, Riley went for the notes and hit them, earning nods of approval from the judges. Luke calls her “America’s country sweetheart” and let’s her know she’s made the Top 20!

10:35 p.m. – Singing “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates for her spot in the Top 20 is Raquel Trinidad who hopes to be the first hippie Idol. Also performing is Shawn Robinson singing “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson and Bumbly who is giving her spicy take on “Baby” by Clean Bandit featuring Marina and Luis Fonsi. All three of them advanced to the Top 20!

10:40 p.m. Wade Cota was confused about how he would continue his audition without a passport after learning they were headed to Hawaii. After learning Hawaii is actually a state and you don’t need a passport, relief set in before it was time to take the stage at his showcase. He got emotional while singing “Work Song” by Hozier, his raspy vocals taking over the crowd. The unique tone of his voice is hard to deny and the judges were thrilled by his performance. Wade is moving on!

10:50 p.m. – With only two spots remaining in the Top 20, four contestants still await their destiny including Margie Mays and Eddie Island. Ryan informs them that they’ll have to face the judges TOGETHER. Margie gave a fun performance of “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor for her showcase while Eddie took a more serious tone singing “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia. At their final judgement together, Margie was cut and Eddie advanced to the Top 20.

10:59 p.m. – Two contestants remain, but there’s only one spot left in the Top 20. Country boys Laine Hardy and Tyler Mitchell will have to take the long walk to final judgement together. Laine was in this same position last year when he was sent home so I guess the judges decided to torture him again. For their final performances, Tyler sang “Suitcase” by Steve Moakler while Laine took on “Come Together” by The Beatles. Tyler was fine, but Laine really stepped it up! He wore a suit, sang a rock song and worked the stage like a pro, leaving Katy’s jaw on the floor. Laine is heading to the next stage, while Tyler is heading home. That’s a wrap!

Running List of Top 20:

Alyssa Raghu

Madison Vandenberg

Logan Johnson

Dimitrius Graham

Ashley Hess

Laci Kaye Booth

Walker Burroughs

Ryan Hammond

Kate Barnette

Evelyn Cormier


Alejandro Aranda

Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

Riley Thompson

Raquel Trinidad

Shawn Robinson


Wade Cota

Eddie Island

Laine Hardy

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