It’s one of the most exciting weeks in the entire American Idol competition. A live audience at the Wiltern Theater, along with judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie enjoy the contestants collaborating with some of their own musical idols. Unfortunately, at the night’s end, three of the aspiring stars were sent home.
Before the singers took the stage, though, host Ryan Seacrest recalled Katy performing with the legendary Dolly Parton at this year’s Grammy Awards. “I think it’s just about the ebb and flow,” she said. “It’s kind of like a volley with your vocals, like ‘I support you, you support me.’ It’s a dance.”
First up was Idol contestant Walker Burroughs with Jason Mraz. In an interesting twist, the song they chose to sing was actually the first song that Walker ever performed at the age of nine, “Have It All.” Just singing wasn’t enough for this pair, though. They also added a signature handshake and seamless harmonies.
“I’m watching you and the wonderful part about your personality is, you’re actually making wearing a pair of glasses sexy,” Lionel told him. “But the most important part is, you are having, I think, the best time of your life. If you’re not, you should be because that was a perfect performance.”
Idol contestant Kate Barnette was paired with legends Pat Benetar and Neil Giraldo for the iconic rock smash, “Heartbreaker,” which was the first song Pat recorded for her debut album, In The Heat Of The Night.
“I think the best thing is, it took you out of your comfort zone a little bit,” Luke said. “We’ve seen you with your hat the whole time, we’ve seen you kinda really tailor songs for you, so you probably learned some stuff about yourself being up there with Pat Benetar. Good job!”
Singing her first ever duet, young Riley Thompson was the lucky collaborator with Brett Young, who also gave her a bit of career advice, telling her “there are going to be really difficult moments, but if this is what you really want, even in the hardest times, you have to stick with it.” Singing Brett’s song, “Like I Loved You,” the country star compared his protegé to Dolly Parton.
After, Katy told the Idol contestant, “Our jaws were all on the floor because I only thought you had that breathy, sultry sound, and then you gave us a full voice and you were doing those harmonies. I was like, ‘Where did that voice come from?’ There’s this other gear this whole time and now you’re just playing it?”
It was the match-up between the single-named singers—Uché and Shaggy—next. Taking on the reggae groove “I Need Your Love,” Shaggy encouraged Uché to open up his chest a bit more for a less breathy, more full vocal delivery.
Again, the judges were impressed. “It was such a vibe,” Katy said. “It was so fun. The only thing is, definitely make conscious choices with the runs and stuff. But it was so fun.”
Katy, Lionel, and Luke’s job didn’t get any easier after Madison VanDenberg, Pat Benetar, and Neil Giraldo worked up “We Belong” for the competition. “She’s a singer, she’s a real singer,” Pat said after rehearsing with Madison.
Luke agreed. “Madison, I’ve seen this personally so many times where a singer gets put with a world-class belter like Pat Benetar. And for you to sit there and literally go toe-to-toe with her, it was incredible. You don’t know how to hit a wrong note.”
Shawn Robinson wanted more from Elle King than just vocal tips. He expressly asked the “Ex’s and Oh’s” singer to help him with stage presence. She honestly told him, “I think a lot of it is faking it until you make it a little, then after a while, you start to believe in the confidence you’re putting out to people.”
Maybe that advice worked because even though there was a slight bobble in their performance, Lionel told Shawn afterward, “It’s very simple, when things go right, they go really right, and when things go wrong, no one is supposed to know. That’s what you do in a duet situation. You and Elle actually did it perfectly. You took care of business. Your voice was on point, but more importantly, I loved the way you recovered from something we know nothing about.”
Jason Mraz was welcomed back, but this time with Ashley Hess. The Idol contestant actually asked Jason if she could take some liberties with his original arrangement of “I’m Yours” and was thrilled with the challenge. So were the judges.
“I’ve heard that song so many times, but the way that you guys opened it up and interpreted it was so fresh. And you really followed along with him. You guys were so in sync on those notes. It’s a rollercoaster ride and you were totally locked in,” Katy told Ashley following the performance.
Bumbly’s Latin influences and Shaggy’s Jamaican flavor made for a unique and delightful melange of styles for the duo’s cover of his smash “Angel.”
Katy told her, “I love the sound of your voice. It’s so fun. It’s got some grit, some rasp, some smokiness to it. And you should be singing songs that are like this, that are just kind of like a fun vibe.”
As Bumbly exited the stage, Shaggy caught her and brought her to tears telling the sweet singer, “You were born to do this.”
It made sense that Texan Laci Kaye Booth was matched with Brett Young for her celebrity duet. Singing Brett’s monster smash, “Mercy,” the two had different vocal textures, but it made for one of the most exciting collaborations of the evening.
“When you sing, it just hits you right in the heart,” Luke told Laci. “Especially when you sing a song about heartbreak. You make it the worst heartbreak ever. And for some reason, people love that. It’s just an amazing gift you have.”
Bashful Laine Hardy and bubbly Elle King were the final performers of the night, and while their personalities may be quite different, vocally, they delivered a groovy, unique rendition of The Band’s “The Weight.”
“Who are you? You look like a rock star. You sound like a rock star. You like this, don’t you,” Katy asked him. But Ryan really blew the young singer away when he brought out a surprise guest—Laine’s brother, Kyle.
With so many remarkable performances, it was difficult on a variety of levels for the judges to eliminate three of the contestants from the competition. At this point, Katy, Lionel, and Luke have grown as attached to the young singers as the singers to them. Unfortunately, that’s not how the game works, though. So, moving forward are Laci, Ashley, Walker, Uché, Riley, and Laine.
That means that it was the end of the road for Kate, Shawn, and Bumbly.
Lionel addressed the three telling them, “Understand the opportunity was just afforded you. Use this night. God has blessed you with an amazing launch.”
Hopefully, we’ll hear from Kate, Shawn, and Bumbly again, and in the meantime, we’ll hear the remaining ten perform their celebrity duets April 8 on American Idol.