American Idol went completely remote on Sunday night, taking its top 20 to their own homes in the wake of social distancing measures. It was distinctly different from Idol episodes of the past, but the top 20 filmed themselves singing songs for America’s vote. Coaches Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry also provided remote commentary, but the results are now out of their hands. Perry was dressed like a bottle of hand sanitizer throughout, and Ryan Seacrest also hosted remotely.
Kimmy Gabriela got things started from Lakeland, Florida, singing “Leave My Lonely.” She sang in her backyard and gave a delicate performance. The judges seemed more impressed by her personality and energy than by the actual vocals.
In Baton Rouge, Jovin Webb sang “With A Little Help From My Friends.” The performance was engaging but lacked dynamics. Richie thought his identity came through, and the judges were overall impressed.
Franklin Boone sang “Everybody Want To Rule the World” by Tears for Fears from his home in North Carolina. He gave a soft rock performance and secured standing ovations from Bryan and Richie. Perry actually got emotional from the performance.
Olivia Ximines gave a performance of “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish from California, and the song choice helped her stand out. It was a strong arrangement, and she made the song her own. Richie said she could be a “superstar.”
In Pennsylvania, Louis Knight played the keyboard during his performance of “If The World Was Ending,” delivering solid vocals and instrumentalism. Richie said it was “on point,” and Perry echoed the sentiment. It was a very well rounded performance.
Also in California, Makayla Phillips sang “Greedy” by Ariana Grande, and while her runs were strong, it was so close to the original that the performance didn’t really help her stand out. “That was about as professional as it’s ever going to be,” Richie said. The other judges similarly gave general feedback that had more to do with the structure of the remote episode than with her actual performance.
Back down in Florida, Aliana Jester gave a stripped-down yet powerful performance of “Run To You” by Whitney Houston. “You put so much passion into it, and you gave it incredible dynamics,” Perry said, adding that she got goosebumps. It was one of the best vocals of the episode.
Faith Becnel sang “River” by Bishop Briggs from her home in Louisiana. She had interesting tone and brought personality to the performance. “Your delivery was wonderful,” Richie said. Bryan was impressed by her “big time notes,” adding it was his favorite rendition of that song.
In California, Nick Merico sang “Hey There Delilah” and played the keyboard. It wasn’t the most exciting song choice, but Merico tried to imbue it with some emotions and charm. “I would have loved to have heard you just dig in a little more,” Bryan said.
Next up, young contestant Lauren Spencer-Smith sang “Mamma Knows Best” by Jessie J from an outdoor space. She stood out by really delivering a high-energy performance with a lot of “stage presence” despite not having an actual stage to work with. “Your voice is amazing,” Bryan said. “You brought the attitude to the table,” Richie added.
In Georgia, Cyniah Elise sang “Warrior” by Demi Lovato and gave an intimate and captivating performance with great ad libs and runs. “I think you’re one of the best singers in the competition,” Bryan said. But the judges seemed to think she still needs to work on the performance aspects even though the voice is so strong.
Francisco Martin boldly sang Perry’s own “Teenage Dream” from his home in San Francisco. He played the guitar, and he had some pitch issues, but the arrangement was good. “You made it you,” Bryan said.
Also performing in California, Sophia James played keyboard as she sang “Burning” by Maggie Rogers. She brought her signature resonant tone and lower register to the song, showcasing range and style. “You’re sneaky good,” Bryan said, suggesting she’s not necessarily a frontrunner but could be an underdog in the competition. He gently discouraged her from playing piano should she advance though.
DeWayne Crocker Jr. was up next, singing “I Feel Good” by James Brown from Colorado. While it wasn’t the most vocally complex song, he made up for that with some interesting runs and a ton of presence. He connected well, giving a smooth performance. Perry wished it was “dirtier,” and Richie wanted him to let go a little bit more.
Dillon James in California sang “Let It Be Me,” playing his guitar. It was a very effortless and experienced performance. While it was understated, that actually worked for him. Richie said he already has the look and sound of someone who has put out a lot of records. They all thought he was very ready to make it in the industry.
From Kansas, Arthur Gunn had fun with his performance of “Lovin Machine.” He let loose for this performance, delivering grit and entertainment. Perry said she wanted him to look more with his eyes at the camera, but she also said she liked his vibe. “It’s just powerful,” Richie said.
Singing “Human” by Christina Perri from New York, Julia Gargano played keyboard and gave a rich, dynamic performance. “That was an amazing performance in your style,” Richie said, adding that it was perfectly in her wheelhouse.
Grace Leer’s performance of “Cry” by Faith Hill in California was emotional and connected, Leer able to give an intimate and engaging performance even without a live audience. “That was a great delivery,” Richie said. “You rode that bull real well,” Perry said, complimenting the dynamics and saying that she could be a country star.
Just Sam sang “Believe” by former Idol Fantasia and really focused on the vocals. “You own every aspect of your range from the top to bottom,” Bryan said, praising her confidence and growth. It was definitely her best performance of the season, and it was immediately memorable.
Jonny West closed things out from California with his original performance of “What A Wonderful World.” He accompanied himself on the keyboard and gave his best vocal of the season. “I heard movie soundtracks; I heard so many things,” Bryan said. “You have a vocal arsenal,” Richie said. “You have it all.”
Idol will continue with more remote episodes next week on ABC.