With barely a passing mention of Caleb Kennedy, the contestant disqualified just days ago for appearing in a racist video, American Idol soldiered on this Sunday to reveal the trio of singers competing in next week’s season finale.
As always, let’s jump straight to the results: In a somewhat shocking turn of events, Casey Bishop was eliminated from the competition, leaving Chayce Beckham, Willie Spence and Grace Kinstler as the Top 3 of Season 19.
Sunday’s two-hour event began with each finalist performing a song by their personal idol, for which they were mentored by Finneas, the brother and music partner of one Billie Eilish. (Click here for our interview with Finneas from way back in his Glee days!). We then got debut performances of the finalists’ just-released singles, followed by encores of their favorite performances from earlier in the season.
But Finneas wasn’t the only special guest this week. Idol also welcomed judge Luke Bryan to the stage for a performance of “Waves,” along with Season 18 winner Laine Hardy, who mumbled his way through what I believe was supposed to be a promotional interview for his new single. Ryan Seacrest did most of the work, so I’m not really sure, but it’s always nice to see a familiar face.
Hardy should take notes from tonight’s other guest, former Idol contestant Michael J. Woodard, who has apparently been making music for Katy Perry’s label. (Did we know this? And what the heck does “pre-saving” a song mean? Am I suddenly 1,000 years old?)
Read on for a breakdown of this week’s performances, with official video to be added as it becomes available.
CHAYCE BECKHAM, 24 | It wasn’t the most exciting way to kick off the night, but Beckham opened the show with a serviceable performance of “Colder Weather” by his apparent idol Zac Brown Band. It was fine, as most of Beckham’s turns at the microphone have been, but I feel like he’s inheriting Kennedy’s title as the competition’s new least-exciting finalist. He’s talented and hot and marketable, sure. But compared to the other in the Top 3, I’m just not as excited to see what he’s got up his sleeve. Click here to watch.
Beckham’s second performance of the night was a major improvement. Musically, “23” was just as good as any of Beckham’s recent performances. But he connected to the song — and to us, by proxy — on a very real level, which was refreshing. It was an original, which certainly helped, but props must also be given to Beckham for what he did on that stage tonight. He followed that up by revisiting Chris Stapleton’s “You Should Probably Leave,” which was more of the “fine” I talked about earlier. Click here to watch.
CASEY BISHOP, 16 | Finneas couldn’t have been a more perfect mentor for Bishop, whose personal idol is none other than his sister. Bishop proved herself to be a true William Eyelash stan by diving deep into her songbook for a star-making performance of the little-known jam “wish you were gay.” The final product was a moment — beautiful, powerful, controlled, present. It was all of the good things, and easily her best performance of the season. Watch:
Bishop’s follow-up performance, the debut of her new single, went over pretty well. “Love Me Leave Me” is a little whiney for my taste, but it’s a good fit for Bishop’s voice. That said, I couldn’t help but notice that she really got the juices flowing when she pivoted to Motley Crue’s “Live Wire,” her favorite number of the season. Maybe that’s the kind of music they should be writing for Bishop, especially given the 16-year-old’s apparent mission to keep rock ‘n’ roll alive. Click here to watch.
GRACE KINSTLER, 20 | Choosing to perform “A Moment Like This,” the winning single from Idol‘s very first season, was a bold move. But after everything she’s shown us this season, Kinstler has more than earned the right to live her full Kelly Clarkson fantasy. Like every ballad she’s tackled on the Idol stage, Kinstler showed this latest song no mercy whatsoever, serving attitude and crushing some unbelievable high notes. I only have one question: When Lionel Richie said, “Let me just tell you something — you’ve waited a lifetime for a moment like this,” did he think he being profound? Watch:
Then came “Love Someone,” which I want to like… except for all the vocal trickery. That “lo-O-O-ove” bit just doesn’t sit well with me, even if Bryan loves it. I think it’s a little forced. That said, Kinstler performed the single well. And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Kinstler delivered her next song, Demi Lovato’s “Father,” as a tribute to her own father. There was so much pain in those high notes, each belt more heartbreaking than the one before. Click here to watch.
WILLIE SPENCE, 21 | First of all, kudos to Finneas for pointing out that Spence’s idol John Legend is a judge on a competing reality show. I thought they were going to let that slide, but not under Finneas’ watch, no sir. As for the actual performance of “Glory,” it was absolute perfection. Bathed under streams of brilliant white light, Spence lifted us all to another plane of existence. The judges have been pretty liberal with their religious metaphors this season, but that was a spiritual experience. Truly incredible. Watch:
Spence’s single, “Never Be Alone,” is exactly what I expected it to be — a soaring gospel number with lots of heart. And he crushed it, as expected. Beyoncé’s “I Was Here” was also a nice pick to revisit. He’s a softie, but it’s also nice to remember that he also has got plenty of attitude to dish out, should the need arise. Click here to watch.
Your thoughts on this season’s Top 3? Drop a comment with your review of Sunday’s performances and results below.