Judge Lionel Richie kicked off Sunday night’s (April 18) episode of American Idol with Oscar-winning “Say You, Say Me” from the movie White Nights (1985). The luminary artist’s moving performance introduced the Oscar-nominated song theme from which the Top 12 contestants selected as their weapon of choice, fighting for one of nine available spots. Rather than waiting until the following episode to announce, the unlucky three were revealed at the end of the episode: Beane, Madison Watkins, and even after a highly promising run, Ava August was eliminated.
As the competition tightens, each performance rivals the next. Yet, an undeniable highlight of Season 19, Episode 14 was 16-year-old Casey Bishop’s bold rendition of Judy Garland’s enduring classic, “Over The Rainbow,” from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. Her celestial string-backed performance, marked by a few personal touches, is a far stride from last week’s fiery performance of Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” and previous rock songs that had defined her in a genre lane.
Bringing all three judges—Richie, Luke Bryan, and Katy Perry—to their feet, the young contestant was heralded a “frontrunner” of this competition. Richie said he’s constantly amazed at Bishop’s young age—the same age Garland was when she was cast in The Wizard of Oz. “I keep looking down at 16, wondering what the heck the DNA is made of,” Richie tells her. “Because you are hell under pressure. You’re controlling every facet of your delivery. Rock to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ It’s just unbelievable.”
Perry, who holds an emotional attachment to the movie—as it was the first one she ever saw and reminds her of childhood—says, “You can do anything you want,” adding “It’s all inside of you.”
Heeding Perry’s advice from last week, Grace Kinstler opened the show with Pharrell Williams’s high-energy “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 (2013). Perry, though impressed, further challenged the artist and her plans post-Idol stage, saying “you can sing anything, but what are you going to say?” Bryan, who is also “Happy” to return after missing last week due to COVID-19, but also “really happy to see how you command the stage.”
Caleb Kennedy stunned Richie with his performance of Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” from Honeysuckle Rose (1980). His gritted rendition deceivingly portrayed the 16-year-old artist—who has yet to even drive—as a vetted troubadour. Richie promises, “If you keep this up, you’ll be on the road for a very long time.”
Hunter Metts took on “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, from Once with the steady grace he’s continued through the rounds. Saving himself in the second half of Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do it for You” from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Bryan declared Chayce Beckham another “frontrunner.”
Alyssa Wray continues to shine after “This Is Me” by Keala Settle, from The Greatest Showman (2017). Richie calls her a “subtle force,” after taking notes from the past few weeks she held back on going full throttle until the back half of the song because “when [she] finally delivered, we were all cheering,” he says.
According to Bryan, Deshawn Goncalves did “exactly what [he] need[s] to do” to move forward in this competition with his performance of “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand from The Way We Were (1973). From the movie Spectre (2015), Cassandra Coleman took her vocals to an unforeseen level with Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On the Wall.” Willie Spence brought it home with a characteristically powerful rendition of “Stand Up” by Cynthia Ervio, from the movie Harriet (2019). Richie calls it a “religious experience” and Bryan says Spence just “taught [him] to never use the word ‘frontrunner’ again until the whole show is done.”
Sunday’s winners won’t return to the show again until Sunday, May 2, according to a show publicist. Idol takes a break on April 25 and 26 for the Oscars and a TV special on Sesame Street. Monday night (April 19) contestants from the 2020 season will go head-to-head in an effort to land the last spot in the Top 10 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.