‘American Idol’ recap: Top 12 sing Oscar-nominated songs in hopes of making Top 9 [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

American Idol” is having the Top 12 perform Oscar-nominated songs on Sunday, April 18. This is great promotion for next Sunday, when the show will be preempted so that ABC can show the 2021 Oscars. The two-hour show will air live nationwide and will conclude with Ryan Seacrest revealing the Top 9. On Monday, the 10th season 19 finalist will be selected from a group of also-rans who contended last year and were invited back to try again.

Luke Bryan, who tested positive last week for for COVID-19, has returned.  Another of the judges, Lionel Richie, is expected to perform his Oscar-winning tune “Say You, Say Me” from the 1984 film “White Nights.”

The Top 12 hoping to make the cut are: Alyssa Wray, Ava August, BeaneCaleb KennedyCasey Bishop, Cassie Coleman, Chayce BeckhamDeshawn GoncalvesGrace Kinstler, Hunter MettsMadison Watkins and Willie Spence.

Below, follow along with all the action in our live blog recap of Night 14 Season 19 episode of “American Idol” and find out who was eliminated.

8:00 p.m. — “American Idol” is live coast to coast so get out your phones and be sure to vote for your favorite singer if you want them to stick around! The competition is closer than ever and nobody is safe. Voting will happen throughout the episode, which could give an advantage to contestants that perform early. Pay close attention to which number you should text if your faves aren’t slated to perform until later. Only nine will move on. Let’s go!

8:05 p.m. — The episode kicks off with the legendary judge himself, Lionel, singing “Say You, Say Me,” his Oscar-winning song from “White Nights.” Man, I love this guy! He has so many great songs and still owns the stage. Great opener. Do you know he’s been nominated for three Oscars? He won for “Say You, Say Me” and was nominated for “Endless Love” (how did that one lose?) from the film of the same name and “Miss Celie’s Blues” from “The Color Purple.”

8:10 p.m. — First up is Grace Kinstler, singing “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2.” She’s bringing the upbeat jam into her own lane by adding some powerful vocal inflections into the opening. I was a bit skeptical about this song choice for her because she has such a big voice. But all the great divas know how to nail a dance song and she’s definitely doing this justice. Grace is doing a great job of working the stage, showing off a megawatt smile between belting out some impressive notes. Katy says Grace can sing anything, but she doesn’t know what kind of artist she is. Luke is happy to see how she commands the stage, but wants her to lock into who she is as an artist. Lionel says Grace is in complete control of her sound, but tells her to select songs that portray who she wants to be as an artist. Some tough love from the judges, but I liked it!

8:20 p.m. Next up is Ava August, singing “City of Stars” from “La La Land.” This song is perfect for her. It’s modern and new, yet sounds classic like Ava. It’s got an indie-pop vibe when she sings it and although there aren’t any bells and whistles, Ava is captivating without trying. I really don’t care for the tempo change in the middle of this performance, but I think America will respond to Ava. Luke says the 15-year old has elegance far beyond her age. Lionel says she looks like she’s been doing this for 74 years and he loves what she’s doing. Katy likes thinks the moment was beautiful, but wants her to work the stage a little more.

8:30 p.m.Caleb Kennedy is up next with a country classic, “On the Road Again” from “Honeysuckle Rose.” The 16-year old is rockin’ a cowboy hat this week and leading a trio of guitar players. Caleb is a likable guy, but this performance is a little stiff. Likability can only take you so far. I did like the breakdown in the middle when he played guitar, but honestly, my favorite moments vocally came from the background singers. Caleb needs to step it up! Lionel says if he keeps this up he’ll be on the road for a very long time. Katy says he sounded great tonight. Luke says he didn’t oversing and gave his best performance to date.

8:40 p.m.Hunter Metts is next singing “Falling Slowly” from “Once.” When I think of Hunter as an artist, this is the type of song that I imagine him singing. He isn’t a vocal powerhouse and should always focus on telling the story with his unmistakable tone. He’s delivering a great performance until the end, where he seems to get completely flustered and forget the lyrics. Then everyone stands and applauds as Hunter cries. If he was worried about making the Top 10 before, he can stop now! This will help the votes roll in. Katy says perfection is an illusion and Hunter just gave his best performance. Luke says Hunter took him on a crazy ride of emotions and he didn’t care about the end. Meanwhile, Hunter is still crying. Lionel says Hunter gave a “perfect run.” They’re going on and on to support Hunter but I think it’s a little bit of overkill at this point. It was a good performance, let’s move along. He’ll be okay.

8:50 p.m.Madison Watkins is up next, hoping to slay “Run to You” from “The Bodyguard.” I’m extremely apprehensive about her ability to pull off a Whitney Houston ballad, but she says she grew up singing it and it’s one of her favorite songs, so hopefully she nails it. I was hoping she would change it up stylistically to separate her own version from the original, but she really seems to be copying the original note for note. And that’s a big mistake. It had pretty moments, but the power and range were missing. Lionel says she knocked it out of the park and Katy called it an “A-level performance.” Madison says she always wanted to be the next Whitney, but she’s not quite there. I wish she would have made the song her own.

9:00 p.m. — Closing out the first hour is Chayce Beckham singing “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” from “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” He’s so mature on stage that he almost feels out of place in this competition. Every week he looks like a professional singer who is just stopping by to promote his latest single. I know our current odds say otherwise, but I think Chayce has had this competition locked up for at least two weeks. Lionel says Chayce found himself in the second half of the song and he wants him to do that all the time. Katy says the young ladies at home are going to fall in love with Chayce. Luke is inspired by how much Chayce has grown in this competition and calls him the front-runner. I completely agree, Luke, I completely agree.

9:05 p.m. — The second half of tonight’s episode begins with Beane singing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing.” He’s rearranged the song and begins with an acoustic version while playing guitar. That was nice and I almost wish he would have held onto that for the entire song. But he then moves into the version we all know and his voice just doesn’t sound that great. Maybe it’s because he’s running all over the stage or maybe it’s difficult to hear in the studio. But I think he could have had a moment by scaling back the entire performance like he did the intro. Instead it was all just okay. Katy says it was a cool performance and that Beane is ready to go on tour right now.

9:10 p.m. — Next up is Alyssa Wray singing “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.” She’s always felt like a bit of outcast and can relate to the song. I like how understated she stays for the first verse. I’ve accused her oversinging (offkey) in the past, but this is the type of restraint it takes to build up a ballad to a powerful crescendo. As she hits the big notes, now they mean something and she’s basking in the spotlight. This was a big improvement from last week for Alyssa. Lionel calls her a subtle force and applauded her for holding back throughout the first half. I guess he had the same thoughts as me.

9:20 p.m.Deshawn Goncalves keeps the show going with the title song from “The Way We Were.” What a classic, unexpected song choice from this 19-year old. I’m excited to hear his take. Deshawn loves the meaning of the song and I appreciate that he listens to old music. First of all, the man is in a tux being accompanied by a pianist and I’m already pulled in. He always looks a little terrified on the big stage, but he sounds great. I was hoping for an explosive moment that was maybe an octave higher than where he took it, but it was still very good. Luke calls it “absolutely beautiful” and “classy.” Deshaun is crying now too. What are they doing to these contestants backstage? LOL. Poor guy. Hopefully happy tears.

9:30 p.m.Casey Bishop has been rocking out all season, but tonight she’s switching things up with “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz.” Interestingly, the 16-year old is the same age Judy Garland was when she was cast in the movie. I don’t even recognize the song for the entire first verse, but she hits the traditional classic we all know by the chorus. I didn’t love the first half of this, but when she hits the climax it’s like an unexpected power effortlessly flows out of her voice. Nice job, Casey! Katy says Casey can sing anything and calls her the early front-runner. Lionel applauds her for handling the pressure of this competition at such a young age.

9:40 p.m. — Next Cassandra Coleman is singing “Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre.” She doesn’t watch a ton of movies, but relates to this song because of the lyrics. This is a great song choice for her voice and she looks regal on stage. This performance is subtle and simple, but she really digs in and delivers this song with passion. I think this was the best performance I’ve seen from her to date. Luke loves the “cry” in her voice. Lionel encourages her to continue to “let go.” Katy tells Cassandra that she is not what the world thinks of her.

9:50 p.m.Willie Spence is closing out the show with the inspirational ballad “Stand Up” from “Harriet.” This is such a powerful, gospel-infused song and perfect for Willie. He’s pitch perfect and I honestly got goosebumps with those key changes before he even reached the climax of the song. He’s just the best singer in the competition. I don’t even think it’s debatable. This was a perfect night for Willie! I just hope he spices things up in future weeks with something uptempo and fun. Lionel called Willie’s performance a “religious experience.” Katy says she stands with Willie and thanks him for taking his emotion and using it in this song. Luke says Willie just taught him to never use the word “front-runner” again until the whole show is done.

9:59 p.m. — Throughout tonight’s performances people have been voting from home. The top nine vote-getters moving on in the competition are: Grace Kinstler, Casey Bishop, Willie Spence, Alyssa Wray, Caleb Kennedy, Deshawn Goncalves, Chayce Beckham, Cassandra Coleman and Hunter Metts. That means Ava August, Beane and Madison Watkins have been eliminated. I’m actually completely shocked that Ava was just voted out. Wow! Anyways, that’s a wrap for tonight. Someone from Season 18 will join the top 10 tomorrow night.

SEE ‘American Idol’ Winners: Where Are They Now (Seasons 1 – 18)?

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