After firming up this season’s “Top 9,” American Idol welcomed back 10 finalists from last season for a chance become lucky No. 10. And some of them will need all the luck they can get.
Real talk: Season 19 is an extremely talented group, and only a few of these returning singers were operating anywhere near that level. Maybe it’s because they weren’t used to singing on the main stage, but the whole night was pretty underwhelming.
Read on for a breakdown of each performance, with official videos being added as they become available:
CYNIAH ELISE, 19 | This was a fun way to kick off the show, but there was nothing especially exciting about Elise’s take on Miley Cyrus and Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix).” Even the big note, which could have been a moment, was unimpressive. I appreciated how much attitude she infused into the performance, but I actually think that came at the expense of the vocals. There’s a reason the judges spent so much time talking about her nails. Frankly, there wasn’t much else to discuss. Click here to watch.
NICK MERICO, 25 | While most of tonight’s finalists were taking advantage of a second chance, Merico was enjoying his third. He knew it was risky performing “City Lights,” an original song about a “special someone,” but he did it anyway. And it was… not great. Luke Bryan was absolutely right when he said it was a good representation of who Merico wants to be as an artist, but he was also right when he said that Merico simply doesn’t stack up vocally compared to this season’s Top 9. Click here to watch.
ALIANA JESTER, 20 | Honestly, I barely recognized Jester on stage tonight, which is a testament to how much she’s grown since we first met her last season. That also applies to her vocals, which sounded excellent on Lady Gaga’s “I’ll Never Love Again.” (More like A Star Is Reborn, amirite?) She was the first performer of the night that didn’t feel like she was competing to come back — she belonged on that stage. Watch:
FRANKLIN BOONE, 29 | First of all, I forgot how much I liked Boone, and I got weirdly excited when he told Bobby Bones that he and his wife are expecting another baby. That said, I never would have chosen Switchfoot’s “Meant to Live” for him. It wasn’t bad, but something felt a little off. I’m with Katy Perry — I miss the coffee shop/singer-songwriter vibe that Boone gave us last season. I respect the guts it requires to take a risk like that, but I’m just not sure it paid off. Click here to watch.
FAITH BECNEL, 21 | Forgetting the words to “Cry Baby” last season has probably haunted Becnel every day since it happened, so for that reason, I’m glad she got a chance to redeem herself. Not only did she nail every lyric this time around, but she also demonstrated tremendous growth. I don’t think she’ll win the coveted spot, but she should be extremely pleased with what she did up on that stage tonight. Click here to watch.
ARTHUR GUNN, 23 | Last season’s runner-up made a name for himself by remixing CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” a million times, so I wasn’t surprised that he also changed up quite a bit of tonight’s song, Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris.” So much so, in fact, that I almost didn’t recognize the song. Lionel Richie was right when he said that Gunn’s voice is instantly recognizable, but I’m not sure it’s a voice that fits with the rest of Season 19 if that makes sense. Watch:
DEWAYNE CROCKER JR., 24 | Crocker’s fellow comeback kings and queens were raising their hands during this performance like they were having a religious experience, and even Perry said it gave her “church chills,” but I just wasn’t feeling it. He isn’t someone I remembered particularly well, and I’m not sure I’ll remember him after this week. I wouldn’t say it was “bad,” but it didn’t resonate with me. Click here to watch.
MAKAYLA PHILLIPS, 18 | I loved — nay, lerved — Phillips last season, so I had high hopes for her take on Demi Lovato’s “Anyone,” and she did not disappoint. I was a little worried at first, but once the big notes kicked in, I was blown away. From the soaring vocals to the genuine emotion, it was a tremendous performance. Of all of tonight’s singers, her voice might sound the most current. Watch:
OLIVIA XIMINES, 17 | OK, now I feel like I’m in church. Ximines’ take on Michelle Williams’ “Say Yes” fully woke me up. I forgot what a fun performer she was. And you can bet no other returning singer would have dared to pull off that little dance breakdown. Click here to watch.
LOUIS KNIGHT, 20 | Like Merico before him, Knight opted to perform an original track this time around. Fortunately, he’s a much better songwriter. Everything about his performance, from construction to execution, felt polished and professional. He also feels like the singer that the judges want us to vote for — and I don’t entirely disagree. Click here to watch.
Which returning finalist do you want to see in the Top 10? Vote below, then drop a comment with your thoughts on the first-of-its-kind twist.