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We're so close to crowning a season 19 champion, can't you feel it? Of course, you've probably heard that Caleb Kennedy was disqualified after a video from his past surfaced online that many found to be racially insensitive. The show really glosses over what happened and moves right into the competition: We're down to a Top 4 and tonight they're competing for three places in next week's finale.
But before we get to that, we have to wade through absolute chaos. Chayce Beckham, Casey Bishop, Grace Kinstler, and Willie Spence will all be performing three times tonight: The first is a personal idol tribute. That is all well and good and feels right, doesn't it? But then they'll also be singing in a weird hybrid round where they'll perform part of their new singles and do a reprise of a song they performed before this season. Why they couldn't split these up into two separate rounds (perhaps one for the finale?) so that the artists could, you know, really dig into these songs (especially their singles!), no one knows. It's a mystery. And then finally, the four idols will pair up for duets to songs by guest mentor and superstar producer Finneas. I mean, sure?
If that's not enough performances for you, judge Luke Bryan will take the stage to sing "Waves" and Finneas will be joined by Ashe so that they can perform their own duet. Apparently, there is not enough time, however, to have season 17's winner Laine Hardy or season 16's Top 5 contestant Michael J. Woodard (who recently signed with Katy Perry) perform their new singles, and instead, they just have them awkwardly talk to Ryan Seacrest for like a minute each. Idol's doing them dirty! Anyway, back to this season: Let's get into some singing, shall we?
Personal Idol Round
Chayce Beckham, "Colder Weather" by Zac Brown Band
In his mentor session, Finneas makes sure the arrangement on this song will highlight Chayce's voice — he thinks the best thing for our Americana singer-songwriter is to keep things "voice forward." The beginning of this performance is shaky and Chayce seems to be drowned out by the band. Still, once he hits those big power notes, his rasp really shines. It would've been great to hear this song stripped down. Alas! Chayce was toying with the idea of not playing the guitar for this round, but he ends up using it. Katy thinks that was a good choice — she loves how he moves with it. Luke tells him that he's here because he's "real" and that being real and authentic will "take you so far." He tells him to never lose that.
Casey Bishop, "wish you were gay" by Billie Eilish
Well, isn't this a treat for our resident rocker? She's a huge fan of Billie Eilish and Finneas, and now here she is rehearsing the song with one of its co-writers. Finneas is honored that Casey would cover it, especially once he hears her "rich tone" and knows she can do it justice. Casey is so moved by the experience! It's nice to see. "You just crushed every aspect of that whole thing," Luke Bryan tells her after she finishes her performance. He thinks it's the best she's ever performed on the show. Lionel Richie agrees, telling the teenager that she is now owning every part of this competition, from vocals to stage presence. He loved that performance.
Grace Kinstler, "A Moment Like This" by Kelly Clarkson
Well, this is a song choice. Of all the Kelly Clarkson songs! I guess... we're going with it? Finneas loves Grace's voice and his only advice is to really "be in love with the song" while performing it. She has to sell it. She does her best to make it feel a little more modern and she certainly nails those soaring notes toward the end — complete with perfectly timed pyrotechnics. Luke Bryan tells Grace that she doesn't even need the pyro because her "voice is vocal pyro." Katy sees a lot of similarities between Grace and Kelly Clarkson, which is a huge compliment, obviously, but I can't even focus on it because Ryan Seacrest comes out on stage to remind us all that Grace was only 1 when Kelly sang this as her Idol coronation song. You know, in case you wanted to feel insanely old this evening.
Willie Spence, "Glory" by Common and John Legend
Before Willie gets started in his rehearsal, Finneas tells him that he has "one of the best voices [he's] ever heard" and describes it as a voice that "could stop a train." Tonight, Willie's voice certainly sounds powerful enough to do just that. Katy calls his performance of this Academy Award-winning song "spiritual," and all the judges are up on their feet throughout the rousing number. Lionel thinks that more than just "stellar" vocals and stage presence, Willie is "uplifting" and that is a thing to see. Luke takes that idea even further when he tells Willie that he is going to "save people's lives with [his] voice." The idea brings Willie to tears.
Original Singles/Reprise Round
Chayce Beckham, "23" by Chayce Beckham // "You Should Probably Leave" by Chris Stapleton
This round is ridiculous, but here we are. Lucky for Chayce Beckham, his single is very Chris Stapleton-esque, so the two songs do feel like they could be from the same artist doing a medley at his own concert. Chayce feels like a "seasoned pro" up there, as Luke points out, and his single feels much more in line with the songs Chayce has excelled at during this competition, as opposed to his Zac Brown Band cover the previous round. He's back! Lionel is amazed at the "complete transformation" Chayce has made since he began his Idol journey. "You are a rockstar," Katy tells him. It certainly felt like a Chayce Beckham concert up there.
Casey Bishop, "Love Me Leave Me" by Casey Bishop // "Live Wire" by Mötley Crüe
Casey's single sounds great on her, and it's a nice way to bring her rock vibe into a more pop-rock, radio-ready format. Her transition from that into the reprise of her audition song, "Live Wire" isn't as easy as Chayce's was, but there's no denying she owns the stage when she gets back into her Mötley Crüe roots. It's not as convincing as it's been in the past, but you can tell she's having a blast. Lionel Richie wants "front row seats and backstage passes" to whatever Casey does next. The judges are ready to rage and Katy Perry thinks Casey is "ready to party," professionally speaking.
Grace Kinstler, "Love Someone" by Grace Kinstler // "Father" by Demi Lovato
Out of the four, Grace probably suffers the most from not being able to sing her full single. There aren't any big moments in this snippet, and it seems like a song that really needs time to build (although Luke does tell her that he loves the melody on it). But her Demi cover does all the things the single can't: It gives Grace space to have intimate, emotionally connected moments and those big Demi notes. Luke thinks that using "Father" here again was a smart move and that the song seems "made for [Grace.]" Katy loves how much she felt Grace coming through in that cover. "Father" allows Grace to be vulnerable on stage.
Willie Spence, "Never Be Alone" by Willie Spence // "I Was Here" by Beyoncé
It's no surprise that Willie gets a single that has soaring notes and an uplifting message, but where he really shines here is in his Beyoncé cover. The original single is a little generic, but "I Was Here" is even better — both vocally and emotionally — than the last time he performed it. It feels like a finale moment, for sure. The judges heap on the same praise they've been giving Willie for weeks. Lionel applauds Willie's voice and stage presence again. Katy says she got chills in places on her face she "thought [she] had frozen." Luke knows Willie is "ready" to take on the next step in his career.
All four semi-finalists sing one more time tonight, paired up for duets on Finneas songs. The pairings seem pretty obvious: Our power vocalists Grace Kinstler and Willie Spence team up on Finneas's "What They'll Say About Us" and it's gorgeous and dreamy and sad, although not totally connected. Afterward, you can hear Luke Bryan lean over to Katy Perry and comment that it was "like a fairytale." That leaves our edgier duo, Casey Bishop and Chayce Beckham to duet on "Break My Heart Again." Casey especially sounds great (and more comfortable!) on this song and their voices sound cool — and extra-heartbreaking — together.
As nice as it is to see these four teaming up, one of them has to go home tonight. After the live vote, Ryan reveals that we're saying goodbye to Casey Bishop! That, of course, means our season 19 top three are Chayce Beckham, Willie Spence, and Grace Kinstler. Who's taking this thing home next week?