‘American Idol’ recap: Top 20 perform solo on Night 9 of Season 17 [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

On the March 31 episode of “American Idol,” the 40 contestants to survive Hollywood Week were whittled down to just half that when Ryan Seacrest revealed the Top 20. As with the FOX version that ran for 15 seasons, this revival on ABC will now showcase this score of would-be winners in both solo performances and celebrity duets.

Over the course of three episodes that start April 1, the three judges — – pop princess Katy Perry, country superstar Luke Bryan and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Lionel Richie — will cut a half dozen of these contestants from the roster. The Top 14 artists will contend on the live shows that kick off on April 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 9 episode of “American Idol,” which features solo performances from the Top 20.

8:00 p.m. – The Top 20 will deliver their most important performances of the season so far, hoping to impress the judges one last time to make the Top 14. Let’s get started!

8:05 p.m. Madison Vandenberg is kicking things off with “Domino” by Jessie J. It’s nice to see Madison mix things up a bit with a fun, uptempo song since we’ve heard her sing plenty of ballads. While her vocals are in tact, Madison doesn’t have the strongest stage presence in the competition and at times it can feel a bit karaoke. It’s a problem she can easily resolve with experience, but what can’t be denied are her powerful vocals, which she nailed once again. Katy emphasized once again that Madison could be the next Kelly Clarkson. Luke complimented her voice as well, but Lionel seems to be picking up on the same problem I have with Madison, saying “Stage presence is everything. Don’t be afraid.”

8:10 p.m. Shawn Robinson is the second artist to perform and he’s singing “Jealous” by Nick Jonas. This is quite a turn in a different direction for the gospel singer, who seems to be out to prove he could be a pop star. Shawn has a great voice, but this is such a horrible song choice for him. This song requires raw sex appeal and Shawn has a child-like personality. It’s not working for me at all. The judges had positive things to say but also seemed reserved in their compliments. I don’t think Shawn is going to make the next cut.

8:20 p.m. Laine Hardy seems to be forgoing the country genre for the second time in a row, singing “Bring it On Home to Me” by Sam Cooke. I kind of love this change in direction Laine has taken; he looks great in a suit and gives off an old-school rock vibe. He has gained so much confidence since last season and he is killing it! Laine could win.

8:25 p.m. Uche’ is hoping to bring the funk with his cover of “Figures” by Jessie Reyez. Uche’ starts off in falsetto before standing up to the microphone and giving us every texture of his voice. I have to admit, I have not been an Uche’ fan, but I am digging this performance. There’s nobody more free on stage and I feel like his vocals are finally on par with his antics. Katy collapsed following the performance and Lionel exclaimed, “I love you!”

8:35 p.m. Eddie Island is out to prove he is serious about winning the competition with “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers. Eddie has been known for being a bit of a jokester on stage, but the judges want people to take his voice seriously. The truth is, Eddie is fine. He’s not someone who will probably ever blow me away, but he’s consistently good. The judges were thrilled with his performance and complimented his authenticity.

8:40 p.m. Evelyn Cormier has one of the most unique voices in the competition and she’s taking on the classic “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver. I’m easily annoyed by singers who twist words to make it sound like they have some mysterious, overly dramatic accent. For that reason, I cannot endorse this performance or Evelyn. I pass…NEXT!

8:45 p.m. Alyssa Raghu hopes to prove she has improved since last year singing “Ain’t it Funny” by Paramore. Alyssa knows how to work a stage and looks like she’s having a good, but she doesn’t have the voice at this point to command a room. I think she might have more impact as part of a girl group, I have a hard time staying interested while she performs. Luke says the song wasn’t the best way to showcase her talent. Lionel tells her to stop thinking so much and Katy told her not to forget the big notes that got her this far.

8:50 p.m. Ryan Hammond is using his newfound confidence to make his dreams a reality singing “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. What I like about Ryan is his ability to stand flat-footed and SING. He can capture the audience with just his voice and with this performance he’s showing off all the power and texture of his voice. He may not be the zaniest on stage, but the man can sing. Lionel says Ryan has storytelling power, but he needs to own the stage. Luke says he elevates the room with the power of his voice and Katy tells him to look to Celine Dion for pointers on how to command a stage without wild choreography.

9:00 p.m. Raquel Trinidad hopes to win a Nobel Peace Prize one day, but first wants to win “American Idol” beginning with this performance of “Lovefool” by The Cardigans. I’m not sure we’ve seen a full performance from Raquel thus far so it’s nice to get this chance. Her voice is soft, but unique and I like some of the musical choices she makes but her stage presence leaves much to be desired. Katy was on her feet following the performance and says she’s becoming an artist before our very eyes. Lionel tells her not to try and be anything she’s not. He loves her quirky vibe.

9:05 p.m. Logan Johnson is a recovering addict who believes “American Idol” is a chance for him to turn his life around. Singing “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” by City and Colour, Logan sits on a stool strumming the guitar while he shows off his sensitive vocals. His voice is a little sweet for my liking and he’s another artist I feel may be better served as part of a group. Luke found the performance a little sleepy, Lionel thought he was trying to be sexy and Katy thinks he presented a rehearsal.

9:10 p.m. Dimitrius Graham is chasing his dream for both him and his ailing mother. Singing “Hello” by Adele, Dimitrius started things off with some weird operatic notes before breaking into the first verse. There’s something very haunting about this version and I’m not sure what to think of it. Sometimes I look away from the television to just listen and decide if I would ever want to listen to the performance on record, and in this case, I would absolutely not. It was a misfire for me, but the judges loved it.

9:15 p.m. Riley Thompson may be the youngest artist in the competition, but she’s ready to prove to the judges she’s ready to be an “American Idol.” Singing “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, Riley puts her sultry vocals to good use on a perfect song choice. Riley sounds and looks like a star although I don’t feel like we get a sense of her personality on stage. Luke tells her not to be afraid to get more gritty. Katy tells her to roll around in the dirt, because she’s just “sweet as pie.”

9:20 p.m. Walker Burroughs is a happy, happy boy singing “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees. He takes a risk by starting things a Capella while sitting on the edge of the stage. It feels a little Broadway to me, but there’s something so likable about this guy. You can’t teach personality. I wasn’t in love with the performance, but I still endorse Walker for a spot in the Top 14. Luke was blown away, Lionel thinks Walker just needs more experience but he’s on his way and Katy tells him “if you dress like Harry Potter and you sing, you will win this show!”

9:25 p.m. Bumbly is not ready to go back to singing in the subway and she’s taking on the ambitious task of singing Mariah Carey‘s “Vision of Love.” We haven’t seen a lot of Bumbly throughout the audition process but I definitely see why she made it this far. She’s got a sweet, yet powerful voice and she’s pulling off a song that could have been a disaster. Well maybe I spoke too soon, that final run was sort of a hot mess. Lionel could feel her nerves, Katy thought it was the wrong song choice and Luke wants her to walk out and be free with her performance.

9:35 p.m. Ashley Hess spent too much of her life not pursuing what she loves and now she’s ready chase her dreams. Singing “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” by John Mayer, Ashley is performing where she is most comfortable – behind the piano. I love the authenticity Ashley sings with, but I don’t like this song choice and she veers a little off key when she hits the climax of the chorus. Katy was lost in the performance and said it was like being at her concert, Luke thinks her mid-range is classic and Lionel simply calls her “solid.”

9:40 p.m. Alejandro Aranda hasn’t felt accepted as an artist until now and he doesn’t want his journey to end. Singing “I Fall Apart” by Post Malone, Alejandro remains himself singing with his guitar wearing a beanie and flannel. Alejandro’s voice is just so world class compared to the competition, I always feel like we are watching a Grammy performance when he sings. Equally entertaining is when he sinks himself into his guitar solos. Luke says he is not worthy to critique Alejandro and there hasn’t been anyone like him in the history of the entire show. Lionel says there is nothing like him and he’s very special. Katy called it “so next level!”

9:45 p.m. Kate Barnette was considering music a few months ago, but “Idol” has inspired her to keep pursuing her dream. She’s singing “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5, and I love the soft texture of her voice. Kate is another artist we didn’t see much of throughout the auditions, but she’s got a fun, quirky vibe without trying too hard. There’s something natural about her, even when she interacts with the audience and I would like to see more from her. “That was dope!” exclaimed Katy. Lionel wants to know where she got that funk from!

9:50 p.m. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon is a pastor’s kid who spent most of his life hiding his sexuality and now, for the first time in his life, he feels like he’s accepted. Singing “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan, Jeremiah sits at the piano and delivers the sentimental ballad. The sincerity and emotion with which Jeremiah sings can’t be denied and at one point Lionel threw his hands up in bewilderment at the notes Jeremiah delivered. The judges are on their feet and Lionel compliments his ability to suck people in without screaming or hollering. He calls it “brilliant.”

9:55 p.m. Laci Kaye Booth has always wanted to follow her dad’s footsteps, but never had the confidence to. Now because of “Idol” she’s starting to believe in herself. Singing a unique acoustic version of “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick, Laci is simply a natural. She’s got an unmistakable tone and everything about her is effortless. On top of that, she looks like a superstar. Laci is a threat to win this whole competition and I agree with Luke’s assessment that she’s a “bad ass.” Katy says Laci just showed a whole other level of confidence. Lionel calls her talent “ridiculous.”

9:59 p.m. Wade Cota has been through a lot in his life and all he wants to do is take care of his mom. Singing “All I Want” by Kodaline, Wade’s voice is another one this season that is completely unmistakable. The only problem with Wade is that he doesn’t know how talented he is and his lack of confidence affects his performance. Hopefully he continues to realize his potential, but this was a good start. The judges are on their feet and Luke says, “A star is born.” Lionel says the music business needs to be inspired and Wade is the person to do it. Katy is grateful they get the chance to nurture his journey. That’s a wrap for tonight!

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