'American Idol' recap: top three named

Posted Sunday, May 13, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

If it feels like the live portion of "American Idol" is speeding by, it is. In a matter of three weeks, we have gone from a top 10 to a top three tonight. The season finale is in a mere eight days.

After 20 million votes, the top three are Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Gabby Barrett and Maddie Poppe.

That means Cade Foehner and Michael J. Woodard were eliminated.

My predicted top three: Gabby, Cade and Caleb. So I called it wrong with Cade but am happy to see Maddie in there.

Overall, today was a lot of good performances, not a lot of great ones.

(Make sure to watch the "American Idol" final three this Sunday May 20 at 8 p.m. on Channel 2!)

And for the fourth time, a Georgian will be in the finals following season three runner-up Diana DeGarmo, season 10 runner-up Lauren Alaina and season 11 winner Phillip Phillips. Caleb is from Dallas, GA, about 40 miles west of downtown Atlanta. I'll be following Caleb around on Tuesday for his hometown visit, highlights which will air Sunday. He will visit Channel 2 Action News, B98.5, his high school and downtown Dallas, where he'll perform in the early evening. (Note: this is the first time "Idol" has a top three finale rather than a top two.)

It was the third and final real time voting across America tonight. The themes: songs dedicated to mom and Carrie Underwood covers.

The Top 5 open the show with Carrie's song "See You Again." She is arguably the biggest star "Idol" has ever generated and the timing works well for Carrie since she has a new album coming out. She first meets them at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville to do some mentoring. She later sings "Cry Pretty" live and of course, she sounds fabulous.


The judges must have heard the critiques that they are too soft. At one point, Lionel addressed it, then gave no actual critique. Basically his point is: I don't care! But at least Katy tried during the first hour. She did point out correctly, for instance, that Caleb's stage presence isn't as strong as others on the show. Lionel and Luke are seriously phoning it in when it comes to saying anything remotely interesting. In other words, any of the commenters below could do a better job at this point.

Season 15 winner Trent Harmon also stops by to promote his new album.


Michael J. Woodard ("Flat on the Floor") - She is worried that he will not be able to bring the "sass" to the song. She hopes he can turn at one point into "Michael J. Beastwood." I don't think he has a "beast" mode, but he is very pleasant and offers up a solid performance. Grade: B/B-plus


Gabby Barrett ("First Name") - This is a great song choice for her because she channels her inner Miranda Lambert and shows off her energetic stage presence. The question is: how can she differentiate herself from Miranda or Carrie? Grade: B-plus/A-minus


Cade Foehner ("Undo It") - Carrie wants him to tell a story with the song. He should do this song a bit angrier based on the "break up" lyrical content. Otherwise, he does a perfectly passable rock-i-fied version of an already rock-heavy song. Katy made a stab at constructive criticism and said he lacks subtletly at times. Grade: B/B-plus


Caleb Lee Hutchinson ("So Small") - Carrie said he needs to get out of his own head and just go with the song. He is very earnest on stage and that makes up for his relative inability to use the stage. He is most comfortable just standing there and when he does, he can find his pocket and sit in it. Lionel: "You're about as real as it comes." Katy noted that others are physically outperforming him. "You have to flap your wings a little harder," she said. Grade: B-plus


Maddie Poppe ("I Told You So') - She said Maddie might be overthinking things. This is an absolutely gorgeous Randy Travis classic. She does alright, as Randy Jackson might say, not great, not terrible. I can't say that helped her cause too much. Grade: B/B-plus

Now onto Mom songs:

Gabby Barrett ("I Have Nothing" Whitney Houston) - This is the most overplayed song in "American Idol" history. Why? It allows female singers to show off their vocal prowess. The list includes Trenyce, Jennifer Hudson, Vonzell Solomon, Katharine McPhee and Jessica Sanchez, to name a few. She did a perfectly decent job. I can't say she exceeded what others have done but it probably will generate enough votes to get her into the top three. Grade: B-plus/A-minus

Cade Foehner ("Simple Man" Lynyrd Skynyrd) - This song actually works well with Cade's voice and he sings it without histrionics, literally keeping it simple. Grade: B-plus

Michael J Woodard ("Still I Rise" Yolanda Adams) - He clearly chose this song for his mom but it can't possibly help him to take something so unfamiliar to a mass audience. Still, he does it sincerely and honestly. He could possibly go into gospel or Christian pop. Grade: B/B-plus

Caleb Lee Hutchinson ("Stars in Alabama" Jamey Johnson) - This ode to his mom is sweet and simple. Though it was not any better known than Michael J. Woodard's song, it did work for him. Grade: B-plus/A-minus

Maddie Poppe ("God Only Knows: Beach Boys") - My favorite Beach Boys song ever and she does it proper justice, even breaking down a bit at the end. Grade: A/A-minus

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.