The sweet sounds of synergy filled the American Idol studio on Sunday as this season’s Top 9 (plus one!) performed classic entries from the Disney songbook.
But first, one returning finalist from last season was given a proper wish-upon-a-star moment, as Ryan Seacrest revealed that America voted Arthur Gunn (aka last season’s runner-up) back into the game. And just like that, we were back to a Top 10.
Before we break down this week’s performances, let’s jump straight to the results. Following Sunday’s two-hour broadcast, the following three finalists were eliminated from the competition: Deshawn Goncalves, Alyssa Wray (!!!) and Cassandra Coleman (also !!!). That leaves Chayce Beckham, Casey Bishop, Willie Spence, Hunter Metts, Caleb Kennedy, Grace Kinstler and Arthur Gunn as our Top 7.
Read on for our breakdown of Sunday’s performances, with official video being added as it becomes available:
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CALEB KENNEDY, 16 | First of all, I’m zero-percent surprised that this walking bottle of Nyquil chose to perform a song from Cars. I’m just relieved he didn’t do “Life is a Highway.” To his credit, Kennedy appeared to put an ounce more excitement into this performance than he has in songs past (I’ll credit the pixie dust), but it was still the same old routine he’s given us every week. Katy Perry once again tried to coax more energy out of him (“Every time you engage us, we lean in!”), but the expectations are so low, Lionel Richie applauded him for “actually giving us a smile.” Click here to watch.
WILLIE SPENCE, 21 | Rocking a new ‘do, this beautiful soul kept the show going with a joyous arrangement of The Lion King‘s “Circle of Life.” It wasn’t as jaw-dropping as some of Spence’s previous performances, but a last-minute key change and a strong final note ensured that we’d remember this one for hours to come. Luke Bryan saying “You just made me feel alive in your circle of life” also wins the award for weirdest comment of the night. Watch:
DESHAWN GONCALVES, 20 | After conferring with Stamos in the bathroom, Goncalves decided to try something a little different this week, putting a jazzy spin on “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio. There was something a little awkward about that opening segment, but once the song settled into its jaunty groove, Goncalves was very much in his element. The notes weren’t always there, and it did feel like a full-blown lounge performance at times, but the judges absolutely ate it up. Click here to watch.
CASEY BISHOP, 16 | When I saw that Bishop was performing “When She Loved Me,” my expectations were instantly through the roof, and I was not disappointed. Not only did she deliver chill-inducing vocals, but she was the first finalist of the night to tell a full story on that stage. More vulnerable (but no less exciting) than some of Bishop’s previous performances, this Toy Story 2 ballad also showcased emotional new pockets in her voice. The whole experience was like floating on a cloud, not unlike the ones on Andy’s bedroom wallpaper. Watch:
CHAYCE BECKHAM, 24 | I was practically raised on Dumbo (you know, minus that one scene), so I’m always worried when someone performs “Baby Mine” on this show. And by that, I mean I’m worried how much I’ll sob. (Perry’s cover got me last year, even with that ridiculous costume.) Anyway, Beckham’s ’90s alt-rock take on the world’s most depressing lullaby was perfectly adequate, though it didn’t elicit the tears I expected. I guess I also agree with Bryan that it was “awesome on the ears.” Click here to watch.
ALYSSA WRAY, 19 | The vocals, the dress, the vibe — everything about this performance of Cinderella‘s “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” got a big yes from me. Idol loves updating classic songs, so I appreciated that Wray stayed true to the period with this one. It felt like a true Disney throwback, more so than most of the night’s other performances. And what began as a lovely take on a beloved princess ballad pivoted into a bombastic display of Wray’s incredible pipes. Just wonderful.
ARTHUR GUNN, 23 | After treating us to a basement performance of “Kiss the Girl” during last season’s Disney Night, Gunn jammed out with a unique take on “Remember Me” from Coco — a movie he needs to watch immediately, and you, if you haven’t already. I was initially against the idea of bringing someone back from last season, but I’m singing a different tune after this absolute treat of a comeback performance. Gunn belongs on that stage. Frankly, I’m just surprised he didn’t try to convince the judges that “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” was secretly a Disney song.
CASSANDRA COLEMAN, 24 | I feel like we rarely get to hear a song like Hercules‘ “Go the Distance” performed by a female vocalist, much less an actual wood nymph, so this was really delightful. As she sometimes does, Coleman took a minute to find her footing, but once she arrived at that bridge, she absolutely took off. Confident, powerful and totally in her element, Coleman built up to a powerful finish, one deserving of a hero’s welcome.
HUNTER METTS, 22 | Fresh off that emotional lyric flub, Metts returned to the stage with a renewed confidence. His soft, sweet take on Tarzan‘s “You’ll Be In My Heart” was beautiful, gradually growing into something really impressive. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Metts after last week’s dramatic incident, but this performance was a solid reminder of everything he has to offer.
GRACE KINSTLER, 20 | And then this happened. Idol typically saves it showstoppers for last, but even I was unprepared for this face-melting performance of “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II. Equal parts Idina Menzel and Panic! At the Disco, Kinstler blew the roof off the studio, giving us the biggest moment of the night. And then the next biggest moment. Then another.
Your thoughts on this week’s performances and (somewhat shocking) eliminations? Drop ’em in a comment below.
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