To all the mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day! American Idol season 18 is celebrating this special day with the Top 7 finalists.
It’s also a big night on Idol for another reason…it’s Disney Night! Ever since the series moved to ABC, they’ve always had one week every season devoted to Disney music. This year is no different. And that also means Katy Perry is wearing a Disney costume. Remember when she was dressed up as Snow White? This time, though, Katy is Dumbo’s mother, and her dog is Dumbo.
So here’s what’s going to happen. The Top 7 will be revealed. Those remaining finalists are going to sing two songs, one from the massive Disney catalog and another dedicated to their mothers (or mother figures).
Then the votes from this week will determine the Top 5 for the season finale. Host Ryan Seacrest reveals that tidbit at the top of the show. I’ve been wondering how they’re going to deal with the finale. Now we know it will consist of five finalists. That seems like a lot for the finale, but oh well.
Let’s get into all the performances. This…is American Idol!
The first singer advancing to the Top 7 is…
Arthur Gunn (“Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid)
To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of this Little Mermaid song. I probably won’t remember this performance by the end of the night. On an upside, though, Arthur sounds good vocally, so there’s that.
The second finalist moving on to the Top 7 is…
Just Sam (“A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella)
Oh, look, Just Sam’s got some green screen action going on! There are images and footage from Cinderella behind her! I don’t know what I had in my mind for the kind of Disney song Just Sam could cover, but you know what? She sounds amazing! Every week, from the middle pre-taped rounds to these “at-home” episodes, she’s choosing all different kinds of songs and continues to deliver every time. And it’s adorable that she calls Katy Perry “Auntie Katy.”
The third contestant in the Top 7 is…
Jonny West (“Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog)
Jonny also has film footage behind him–and the frogs on his keyboard. It’s a nice change to add the green screen to these performances, making it more professional-looking. I’m going to be honest…I’ve only seen The Princess and the Frog once, so I’m not super familiar with this tune. It’s not a memorable song choice at all; it doesn’t even feel iconic. I think this is going to be just as forgettable as Arthur’s performance. But also like Arthur, Jonny sounds strong.
The fourth person moving on to the Top 7 is…
Louis Knight (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King)
The Lion King is my favorite Disney movie of all time. I love Louis’ backdrop, which seems to be his backyard; it’s a very fitting look for the feel of this song. He sounds beautiful, very smooth vocals. This is the perfect song choice for him. See, this is what I’m talking about regarding earlier performances and forgettable songs. I will remember Louis’ Disney performance at the end of the night.
The fifth finalist advancing to the Top 7 is…
Julia Gargano (“Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast)
Julia is wearing a yellow dress to match the color of Belle’s dress in Beauty and the Beast. Even though she’s not in the studio in front of an audience, she’s still working the cameras, like turning to face the other camera when it switches over to that shot. See, she knows how to perform despite the circumstances, which I appreciate. All the judges mention that her lower register on this song isn’t the best, and I get it. It’s still a nice performance.
The sixth singer in the Top 7 is…
Francisco Martin (“You’ll Be in My Heart” from Tarzan)
The Tarzan backdrop really works here. It actually looks like he’s in the cartoon jungle. I’ve never been on the Francisco train, but this performance is really good. His voice is super strong. This is no doubt his best performance to date. I will remember this, both the visuals and the vocals.
The seventh and final contestant in the Top 7 is…
Dillon James (“Our Town” from Cars)
When Ryan mentions the song title, I’m thinking, what song is this? And even after hearing Dillon sing it, I still don’t remember it, even though I’ve seen Cars. But none of that actually matters because Dillon delivers a fantastic performance! If you’ve read my previous recaps, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of his. He sounds great and finally delivers a performance worthy of sticking around in the competition.
That means Jovin Webb, Sophia James, Grace Leer and Makayla Phillips have been eliminated. Revisiting my elimination predictions, I got half of these right. Of these four, I predicted that Jovin and Sophia would stick around, but I got Grace and Makayla’s eliminations correct.
Season 17 winner Laine Hardy is back to perform “Life is a Highway” from Cars. I can’t help but sing along! I’m looking forward to his debut album, whenever that comes out.
At the halfway mark, Bobby Bones checks in but only for a moment. Is he even mentoring anymore?
Now it’s time for the second theme of the night. The Top 7 are performing songs dedicated to their mothers/mother figures. (Katy is out of the Dumbo costume and showing off her baby bump.)
Arthur Gunn (“Hey, Ma” by Bon Iver)
I said earlier that Arthur’s Disney performance would be forgettable. But this Bon Iver cover definitely won’t be. Vocally, he’s at the top of his game. This is definitely one of my favorite performances he’s ever delivered on Idol. I mean, if he had performed this next week instead, he could easily take the crown. He’ll be in the Top 5, at the very least.
Just Sam (“I Turn to You” by Christina Aguilera)
I apologize to Christina Aguilera and her fans, but I don’t think I’ve heard this song before. I’ll probably remember her Disney cover more than this one. But she continues to succeed vocally above everyone else. When you listen to the lyrics, you realize how fitting they are as a tribute to her grandmother. This close relationship that’s been showcased throughout the season continues here, and it’s beautiful to watch.
Jonny West (“Amazing Grace”)
When the song title comes across the screen, I’m thinking, ooh, interesting song choice for him. Great song, of course. Then as he’s singing, I’m going, wait, is this even “Amazing Grace”? He really changes it up, to the point where it’s barely recognizable anymore. But I have to hand it to him, he pulls it off.
Louis Knight (“You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King & James Taylor)
Great song choice on Louis’ part. I’m glad that he stuck around another week so we could be treated to these two performances. His voice is absolutely beautiful. And it helps that his mother is there because we can see the connection between them, especially when he looks over at her. (The same goes for some of the other contestants who have their mothers in the room.) I have no idea if he’ll be in the finale, but I loved “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “You’ve Got a Friend.”
Julia Gargano (“Sweetest Devotion” by Adele)
Wow! What an emotional performance. The lyrics are perfect for this theme. At one point, Julia and her mother hold hands, and that just gets me; that’s a beautiful touch. Of her two performances, this is far and away the better one.
Francisco Martin (“River” by Leon Bridges)
One of the best song choices of the night. I don’t know what’s happening with Francisco this week; he’s finally coming into his own as a performer. He’s gone from someone I never expected to last this far to someone who’s delivering performances that prove his worth in this competition. Francisco, congrats on proving me wrong!
Dillon James (“Hang On, Hang On” by Amos Lee)
I don’t think this has quite the same emotional connection that we saw from some of the previous performances. But Dillon makes up for it with some really strong vocals. Like with Francisco, Dillon also steps it up big-time this week. I don’t know what to make of all this because it could really throw things for a loop in terms of who makes the Top 5; I never expected these two would have a chance, but maybe they do.
My Favorites of the Night
Just Sam (Disney song), Arthur Gunn (mother tribute) and Julia Gargano (mother tribute)
The Weakest of the Night
Julia Gargano (Disney song)
(Of the three “at-home” episodes, this was by far the best in terms of the quality of the performances. I don’t really want to single anyone out for being the weakest because everyone shined at one point or another.)
Who I’m Voting For
Just Sam (30 votes) and Arthur Gunn (30 votes)
Top 5 Predictions
Arthur Gunn, Just Sam, Jonny West, Julia Gargano and Francisco Martin
Louis Knight and Dillon James
Because of how strong the performances were this week, including from the contestants that I thought were goners, I really am not sure about these predictions. Arthur and Just Sam are locks, of course. But after that, who knows what will happen? With Francisco and Dillon rising up, could that come at the expense of Julia, who ends up getting cut? Maybe. What if both Jonny and Julia are eliminated while Francisco and Dillon stay? That could very well happen. And what about Louis? Maybe he’ll stay while Julia or Jonny leave? Right now, anything’s possible.
Next week is the season 18 finale! Two will be eliminated, the remaining five will perform for the final time, America votes and a winner will be crowned. Plus, we’ll be treated to performances by Cynthia Erivo, Lauren Daigle, Rascal Flatts and Katy Perry, as well as Lionel Richie reviving “We Are the World.” See you then.
American Idol airs Sundays at 8pm on ABC.
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