Paula Abdul returned to American Idol on Monday, and the world was good again for two fleeting hours. And by good, I mean wonderfully weird.
The living legend, who served as a judge during Idol‘s first nine seasons (2002–2010), returned to the panel to fill in for Luke Bryan, who announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19. This reunited her with host Ryan Seacrest, who led her on a gloriously uncomfortable walk down memory lane.
“It’s kind of nostalgic,” she said of being back at Idol. “I feel like I’m visiting my little brother on the show that we started with our other brother Randy… and, of course, our grandfather Simon [Cowell].” Added Seacrest, “He’ll love that,” before clarifying, “He doesn’t watch.” (Let’s hope he doesn’t watch, as Abdul later referred to him as “the STD.”)
Seacrest and Abdul then looked back at a photo of themselves from the show’s first season, a moment which went downhill… instantly. “Why am I looking like I’m not happy?” he asked. And when Abdul noted that she also wasn’t smiling, he asked, “Why were we so miserable?” Yikes.
Then came the biggest surprise of the night: After intro-ing Abdul, Seacrest announced that Wyatt Pike “will not be competing in the competition. He had to drop out, but we wish him the very best.” Uh, OK? I wish we’d gotten a little more information, but at least that explains why Idol is bringing back Season 18 contestants to compete for his spot.
Getting to the results, the following 10 singers were sent through to safety: Casey Bishop, Deshawn Gongalves, Cassandra Coleman, Caleb Kennedy, Ava August, Chayce Beckham, Alyssa Wray, Willie Spence, Grace Kinstler and Hunter Metts.
Sadly, the following finalists did not receive enough votes, and were therefore sent to the Danger Zone: Colin Jamieson, Madison Watkins, Beane, Alanis Sophia and Graham DeFranco. The judges were given the chance to save just two, and they ultimately decided to keep Watkins and Beane in the game.
Read on for a breakdown of Monday’s performances, with official videos being added as they become available:
CASEY BISHOP, 16 | The first to be put through this week, Bishop gave me chills from the moment she began singing “House of the Rising Sun.” Not only was it yet another perfect choice for her timeless voice — which has more tricks up its sleeve than freaking Mary Poppins — but it really set the tone for the rest of the night. Watch:
COLIN JAMIESON, 22 | First of all, I have to give kudos to Jamieson for performing Dean Lewis’ “Waves” as well as he did, considering he had just been told that he was the first contestant going to the Danger Zone. Something about the delivery of that news felt… off. That said, it was exactly what we’ve come to expect from Jamieson — the energy and the notes were there. (What more do you want, America?!) Click here to watch.
DESHAWN GONCALVES, 20 | This Ohio native found himself in a much better position, receiving good news from Seacrest before launching into a feel-good performance of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” It was cute, and Goncalves was clearly having a good time up there, but I was hoping for something a little more impressive. To Goncalves’ credit, this was his first up-tempo song in the competition. That’s growth. Click here to watch.
CASSANDRA COLEMAN, 24 | I felt like we saw Coleman in her purest form during that performance of Maggie Rogers’ “Light On.” I’ve fallen for the ethereal quality of her voice, even though she often loses control of it amidst the pressure of the competition, and I’m excited to see what else she has in store for us. Watch:
CALEB KENNEDY, 16 | I’m still not the biggest fan of this objectively talented teen, but that’s only because I can’t seem to figure him out. And neither can the judges. How could the same guy who gave us absolutely nothing during that pre-performance interview turn around and become a completely different person once the music started playing? We’re passed the point of debating whether Kennedy has the chops (he does!), but I really wish he’d give us even a hint of a personality to latch on to. Click here to watch.
MADISON WATKINS, 26 | I can’t say that I ever expected to hear Drake’s “Hotline Bling” performed by an Idol contestant, but I definitely didn’t hate it. Watkins reimagined the late-night love anthem as a sultry lounge song, before amping things up with plenty of emotion and some vocal gymnastics. I wasn’t surprised to see her end up in the Danger Zone, though I wouldn’t have put her there myself. Click here to watch.
AVA AUGUST, 15 | I love that the youngest finalist in the competition chose one of the oldest songs of the night — Queen’s “Love of My Life” — and showed everyone how it’s done. Angelic both in visuals and vocals, her performance was simply divine. Click here to watch.
BEANE, 23 | Guys, I think I might be a Beanie baby? I wasn’t terribly surprised when Seacrest sent him to the Danger Zone, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed his performance of Ben Platt’s “Grow As We Go.” Beautiful, emotional, authentic. There wasn’t a hint of wedding singer cheesiness on that stage tonight — just a legit artist giving me chills with his magical voice. (OK, yes, I’m definitely a Beanie baby.) Watch:
CHAYCE BECKHAM, 24 | After being sent through to safety, the incredibly relieved Beckham treated viewers to an encore of his audition song, Kolton Moore and the Clever Few’s “What Brings Life Also Kills.” It was everything we’ve come to expect from Beckham — from the growly voice to the all-black ensemble — and it was very good. That said, it was very good in the way that even the Grammys has a few performances that double as bathroom breaks. He’s always been a Top 10 shoe-in, but if he wants to really separate himself from some of his more defined competitors, Beckham needs to take a page from Katy Perry’s book and give us some fireworks. Click here to watch.
ALYSSA WRAY, 19 | A few weeks after crushing “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” Wray returned to the stage with a solid take on a slightly more dramatic Whitney Houston ballad, “The Greatest Love of All.” I’m convinced she could sing the phonebook and make it sound exciting. Click here to watch.
ALANIS SOPHIA, 19 | Real talk: I have to applaud Sophia for even attempting this challenging rendition of Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack,” which is difficult enough on its own. And she absolutely killed it… until she didn’t. I was impressed at the jump, but by the end of her performance, the high notes just weren’t there. It became uncomfortable to watch, and even more unpleasant to listen to. Click here to watch.
WILLIE SPENCE, 21 | I’m so glad that Spence chose to sing Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” because that’s exactly what he is as a performer — a freaking diamond. Not only was this another impressive performance, vocally speaking, but it was easily Spence’s most confident. He was living while he sang that, and the energy was infectious. Depending on what America is in the mood for this time around, he really could win this thing. Watch:
GRACE KINSTLER, 20 | Not all queens wear crowns. Just look at Kinstler, who slayed Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman” this week. Her voice, her confidence — she’s the total package. Lionel Richie was right when he called it an “oh my God” performance, and something tells me that Grande would say the same. Click here to watch.
HUNTER METTS, 22 | The last contestant sent to safety, this Tennessee native celebrated with a lovely performance of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” I haven’t found Metts to be the most dynamic performer this season, so I really appreciated the emotion he managed to authentically infuse into this performance. Click here to watch.
GRAHAM DEFRANCO, 28 | Maybe it was because DeFranco was the last singer sent to the Danger Zone, but there was something especially bittersweet about his performance of Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up.” And make no mistake, it was very good — the kind of performance that makes you wonder how he wasn’t sent through. (Oh, America, you so fickle.) Click here to watch.
Your thoughts on Monday’s results? Abdul’s return? Whatever you’re thinking about Idol, drop it in a comment below.