‘American Idol’ recap: Top 11 become Top 7 on Night 15 of Season 18 [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

The May 10 episode of “American Idol” will see the Top 11 cut down to a lucky seven artists who will still be in the running for the season 18 title. The 11 artists hoping to sing on the second live show of the season are: Samantha Diaz (“Just Sam”), Julia Gargano, Arthur Gunn, Dillon James, Sophia James (Wackerman), Louis Knight, Grace Leer, Francisco Martin,  Makayla PhillipsJovin Webb and Jonny West .

Only seven of them will learn from host Ryan Seacrest that they number among America’s favorites and will get to sing two songs on Sunday: one of these tunes will celebrate Disney Night while the other will be in tribute to their mothers. As with last week, the three judges — Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie — will be watching from their respective homes and will weigh in with their thougts.

SEE ‘American Idol’ Winners: Where Are They Now (Seasons 1 – 17)?

Below, follow along as we recap all the action on “American Idol” season 18 night 15 in our updating live blog.

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8:00 p.m. — With only two episodes remaining, tonight’s votes will determine who reaches the Season 18 finale of “American Idol.” Will your favorite be among the Top 7 doubling up for Disney/Mother’s Day weekend? Of course Katy has arrived as Mrs. Jumbo, with her dog Nugget dressed as baby Dumbo. Let’s get started!

8:07 p.m. — After the nationwide vote, the first person into the Top 7 is Arthur Gunn! He’ll be singing a rendition of “Kiss the Girl” from “The Little Mermaid,” which he chooses to sing in an alternative rock style rather than a predictable reggae version we might expect. His gritty vocals work well on this song, but it’s not exactly magical. I think his fan base will appreciate it enough to vote him through to the finale. Katy says he looks cool and relaxed, Luke has enjoyed seeing his transition from a quiet guy to a potentially massive recording artist and Lionel says anything he sings has the Arthur Gunn stamp on it.

8:15 p.m. — The second artist to advance is Just Sam! Tonight she’s singing the timeless “Cinderella” classic, “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” It’s nice to hear her sing in this style and she’s letting Broadway producers know she’s capable when the stages reopen. Would I like to see her let it rip just a little more? Yes, but this was nearly perfect. Luke says her voice holds up at every level of her range, Lionel has enjoyed watching her grow up in front of them and Katy wished Sam would have pushed down on the gas pedal a little more.

8:25 p.m. — One step closer to being the next “American Idol” is Jonny West! Tonight he’s singing “Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog.” He’s sitting at the keyboard and sounds good, but I need more fire tonight! I am waiting for someone to blow me away and so far I’m underwhelmed. This is not a memorable performance. Lionel calls Jonny the “casual assassin” because he makes it look effortless, Katy compares him to Billy Joel, Randy Newman and Paul Simon while Luke calls him a pro.

8:30 p.m. — Next to make it into the Top 7 is Louis Knight! He’s singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King.” He’s ditched the instruments and has decided to focus on the vocals and I’m hoping that means he nails this song. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have the chops for it. It’s a big song and his voice is lost and uninspiring throughout. I thought it was a mess but the judges think it’s great. Katy says he’s going to be a massive star, Luke loves the tenderness in his voice and Lionel felt Louis drifted out at times and needs to keep focus.

8:35 p.m. — Just three spots remain in the Top 7 and the next artist to snag their place is Julia Gargano! Tonight she’s performing the title track from “Beauty and the Beast.” In a rare occasion, she’s singing without instruments and has turned this timeless ballad into a jazzy mid-tempo. This is way off the mark and will definitely get her eliminated unless she really brings it with the next performance. I hate the arrangement and she’s missing notes left and right. Luke loves the cry in Julia’s voice but felt the song was too low in this performance, Lionel tells her to concentrate on her lower register and Katy says Julia’s star quality is at a 10 and loved the arrangement.

8:40 p.m. — The next person into the Top 7 is Francisco Martin! Tonight he’s singing “You’ll Be In My Heart” from “Tarzan.” ABC upped their game to make it appear as though he’s strumming his guitar in the middle of a jungle. Francisco sounds good and has definitely brought the level of artistry up after the last three performances we saw. Lionel says we are witnessing the transformation of Francisco, Katy thought it was amazing and what she had hoped Louis would do (burn!) and Luke called Francisco the king of the jungle and the king of “American Idol.”

8:50 p.m. — The last person to make the Top 7 is Dillon James! That means we say goodbye to Jovin Webb, Grace Leer, Makayla Phillips and Sophia James. Tonight Dillon will be singing “Our Town” from “Cars.” The spiritual cowboy sounds great on this song. It’s actually the first performance tonight where I feel like a performer is singing their own song. Katy says she took everything they said last week and applied it magnificently, Luke loved the dynamics and emotion in the song while Lionel calls Dillon a “true artist.”

9:00 p.m. — It’s time to show Mom some love and each artist will perform a tribute to their mother figure on this Mother’s Day. Arthur is up first singing “Hey, Ma” by Bon Iver for his mother Maiya. It’s a little odd to see his family just lounging around on the couch as he belts this out for millions, but he’s singing well and it sounds like a song you would hear on a future record of his. I didn’t completely love this song choice, but Luke says he has a signature voice, Lionel says he could sing the phone book and Katy thought Arthur’s performance was beautiful.

9:10 p.m. — Next, Just Sam is performing for her grandmother Elizabeth, who adopted Sam when she was just six years old. Sam’s biological mother has been in jail for most of her life and Elizabeth has been Sam’s saving grace. Tonight Sam is singing “I Turn To You” by Christina Aguilera. She’s upped the tempo quite a bit from the original so it’s not the classic ballad we remember. Sam sounds good, I just wish she would push herself a bit more. This is all just so easy for Sam. I know she has another gear in her to let it rip and she continues to hold back. Lionel calls her the angel in this group, Katy says she’s shown incredible growth and has a testimony in her voice and Luke says Sam’s voice is as smooth as butter.

9:20 p.m. — Jonny is performing “Amazing Grace” for his mother, Michelle. He’s taken the song and changed up a few of the lyrics to incorporate his mother’s story. Jonny seems to be the most savvy about song choices and this is another one that will play well with the majority of America. This is probably extremely touching for his mother, but this lullaby vibe does nothing for me. Katy says Jonny deserves to win the competition, and if he doesn’t, believes he will have the biggest career. Wow! What and endorsement. Luke says Jonny captures every bit of his attention and Lionel says Jonny is a true songwriter

9:30 p.m. — Louis is up next singing “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King to his mother, Amanda. This performance is far superior to his first one tonight and you can really feel the emotion behind it. Luke also thinks this performance was superior to his last, Lionel called it simple and heartfelt and Katy is in tears calling it one of his best performances.

9:40 p.m. — It’s  Julia’s turn to sing for her mother, Jeanne, and she’s performing “Sweetest Devotion” and definitely showing more range. She’s got a rasp in her tone throughout this that reminds me of Pink and the judges seem to be thrilled with this. Katy can’t stop crying and loves hearing Julia’s voice expand, Luke called it bad-ass and Lionel called it one of her best performances because she believed it.

9:50 p.m. — Francisco is next performing for his mother, Fatima. He’s singing “River” by Leon Bridges and I would say Francisco is definitely the most surprising through these live shows. He’s consistently one of the best. I don’t think this was necessarily a memorable song choice so I wish he had some coaching on that, but his voice is on point. Katy thinks Francisco is making things difficult for the other contestants, Luke thought it was better than the original record and Lionel says he’s no longer in his head, it’s all about delivery now.

9:59 p.m. — The last artist of the night is Dillon James. He’s singing “Hang On, Hang On” by Amos Lee for his mother, Lindy. There is a level of professionalism about Dillon that makes me think he’s incredibly underrated in this competition. Luke says gave an incredible performance and will succeed no matter what happens in this competition. Lionel calls him an inspiration and Katy is once again in tears. That’s a wrap for tonight! Who do YOU think will make next week’s finale?

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