American Idol saw its two-night finale get off to a rough start on Sunday as the final three singers struggled with new songs during the opening round.
The young singers wrestled with nerves as they performed the single they will release if crowned the season 16 winner during Monday night’s finale.
Katy Perry, 33, panned the opening set of performances by Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Gabby Barrett and Maddie Poppe.
Disastrous start: Katy Perry called out the three finalists on American Idol on Sunday for flat opening round performances during the first of the two-part season 16 finale
The Firework singer and Lionel Richie, 68, both told them they often had to ‘fake it’ during their illustrious careers when the pressure was on.
The American Idol winner will be crowned during the second night of the finale on Monday.
First up was Caleb who met with mentor Bobby Bones who complimented him on his 85lbs weight loss.
‘I had kinda hit a low. I had some really close relatives pass and some family stuff go on,’ said Caleb.
Final three: Gabby Barrett, Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe performed three times
Special mentor: Bobby Bones was back as special mentor and congratulated Caleb on his weight loss
Before and after: The singer lost 87lbs since auditioning for the show
He also explained that he was wearing his late great-uncle’s military dog tags and carried his spirit with him when he performed.
‘I feel like he is with me through this whole thing,’ Caleb said.
Caleb, 19, said that he knew it would not be ‘handed’ to him and that he ‘was put on the earth to do this.’
Tough time: The teen from Dallas, Georgia admitted hitting a low with some relatives dying and family issues
The teenager from Dallas, Georgia, then took to the stage to perform new song ‘Johnny Cash Heart.’
‘Now you understand when I say welcome to the business. From now on out you will be a part of this chart world. Every time you live and breathe you will check where you are on the charts for the rest of your life,’ said Lionel.
Katy, however, was not impressed.
Music legend: Lionel Richie had high praise for Caleb after his initial performance
She told him that she had listened in the car while driving to Santa Barbara and that it ‘was interesting for you.’
‘I really wish you had embodied it as Caleb Lee Hutchinson’s song. You have to make me a believer and I didn’t feel like a believer. That was actually your weakest performance I have ever seen..’
Luke Bryan told Caleb that he seemed ‘more tight than I have seen you’ and asked him to be more relaxed.
Lighten up: Luke Bryan told Caleb that he was ‘more tight than I have seen you’
‘It ain’t over yet,’ he added.
Next up was Gabby who told Bobby that she was ‘capable’ of winning and planned on moving to Nashville with her family to become a country star whatever happened.
She told Bobby that she had tried to distance herself from comparisons to Carrie Underwood.
Country singer: Bobby met up with Gabby who wished to distance herself from the Carrie Underwood comparisons
Bobby told her not to take her dad to Nashville as it was time to cut the cord, get her own apartment ‘and go through the struggles of a brand new artist.’
Gabby, 18, a high school student from Pittsburgh, then performed her single ‘Rivers Deep.’
‘Girl, you’ve changed for the better,’ said Katy.
Teen talent: The 18-year-old high school student performed her single Rivers Deep
Katy added that they were all getting their bearings on the songs and learning to perform them live on stage.
‘I’ve had fumbles,’ she admitted as she said it was difficult to refine and perfect songs in the modern music industry.
Luke told her that it is hard to perform a song no-one knows but that he was impressed at how she had got comfortable by the end of it.
Learning curve: Lionel, Katy and Luke all sympathized with the finalists for having to perform new songs that they’re learning how to perform live
Lionel added that they all needed to select songs ‘from the stage back’ and not for the studio.
Maddie told Bobby she wanted to be known for more than being on a TV show.
‘A year ago I had no idea what I was going to do, I was scared and didn’t believe in myself,’ she admitted and said the experience had made her feel as if she was now ‘winning.’
Winning attitude: Maddie told Bobby that she was scared a year ago but now feels like she’s ‘winning’
Maddie, 20, a student from Clarksville, Iowa, then performed her single ‘Going Going Gone.’
‘In my opinion you felt the most comfortable we have seen out here so far. I could relax watching you and take a breath. Way to come out and deliver a solid performance,’ said Luke.
Lionel told her that he was impressed she was so comfortable with a song after two weeks.
Most comfortable: The judges agreed that Maddie was the most comfortable with her single
‘You are in the salesmanship business now and I think you did a fabulous job,’ he said.
Katy said she agreed with them both and told Maddie that she had to ‘continue to bring your A game out there, outside, in the big leagues. It is a real business and you have a real chance and I want you to thrive not just survive.’
‘I think you are a real star but once you leave the nest of American Idol its up to you to get that wingspan girl,’ Katy told her.
Bring it: Katy encouraged Maddie to continue to bring her A game
Lionel told host Ryan Seacrest that all three had demonstrated ‘massive discomfort’ in performing the new songs but that it was up to them ‘to fake it.’
Bobby then told Ryan he felt the judges had been overly critical of the contestants.
Caleb then kicked off the second round with a performance of ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ by Keith Whitley, which he had performed during Hollywood Week.
The host: Ryan Seacrest kept the two-hour show moving
‘Your voice is your stamp of approval my friend, it is solid as a rock, it is who you are, own it and every song you choose from now on put that voice out front of everything,’ said Lionel.
Katy told him that it ‘was light years different.’
‘You let your amazing, incredible and interesting textured voice come through on this song and I am really proud of you and you can see the difference.
Light years: Caleb kicked off the second round with a performance of ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ by Keith Whitley and Katy said it was ‘light years different’
‘I respectfully disagree with Bobby. There is a real world out there, I really want you to succeed and I am really invested and I really care and that is why I am going to tell you the truth every time.’
Luke told him he was experiencing the ‘music business roller-coaster.’
‘You came out here and gave us what you have been spoiling us with and that is your good old voice,’ said Luke.
Respectfully disagreed: Ryan talked to Bobby who disagreed with Katy’s review of the first round
Gabby then took on Miranda Lambert’s hit song ‘Little Red Wagon.’
‘There she is, hey girl. That was awesome,’ said Katy as she praised Gabby’s growth as a performer.
‘I must say one thing, next time you wear a fringe, I want to see it move,’ Katy added.
Hit song: Gabby took on the Miranda Lambert hit song Little Red Wagon
Luke urged the contestants not to ‘tighten-up’ and Lionel praised her comfort on stage and urged her ‘to sell your goods.’
Maddie then performed an original song called ‘Don’t Ever Let Your Children Grow Up.’
‘Maddie, I missed that song. It was quintessential Maddie Poppe,’ said Luke.
Killed it: Maddie performed an original song Don’t Ever Let Your Children Grow Up
‘It is owning your style, welcome back. You have to love you before you step out on stage, make sure you are in love and like everything you do on this stage and that was very comfortable for you right there,’ said Lionel.
Katy told Maddie she loved that she had taken a risk and ‘shown off that you are a fully fledged actual artist, and that you have many layers you are not just a performer or a singer, you are a songwriter,’ said Katy.
‘Wherever that gets you, great, but at least the world knows that you are authentic as heck.’
Good times: Luke made a funny face while goofing around with Katy, Lionel and Ryan
Katy then told Ryan that after two rounds Maddie and Caleb had stood out.
‘Maddie killed the first round and Caleb killed the last round and I am waiting for Gabby to do the full takeover,’ said Katy.
She then told Ryan that the first round of the show had been ‘a disaster’, but they had regained their confidence for the second round.
Poor performances: Katy described the first round as ‘a disaster’
Luke then pretended to pound coffee to liven things up and accidentally managed to spill ‘whiskey’ over Katy Perry.
‘Daddy’s drinking on the job,’ laughed Katy.
A collection of the season’s competitors, Harper Grace, Jonny Brenns, Michelle Sussett and Catie Turner then took to the stage to perform for the audience.
Back again: Jonny Brenns was among the former contestants who returned for a medley
Sweet voice: Michelle Sussett also was among the former contestants back for the finale
Idol then showed each of the finalists on their hometown visits to Georgia, Pennsylvania and Iowa.
‘I’ve never had that much enthusiasm looking at me, that was really, really cool,’ said Caleb as he told his parents he was ‘having the time of my life.’
He enjoyed a trip back to his high school before a parade and a concert in Dallas, Georgia, and an appearance at an Atlanta Braves game.
Home visit: Caleb enjoyed a parade thrown in his honor back in Dallas, Georgia
Caleb then took to the Idol stage to perform ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ by Johnny Cash, which earned him a standing ovation from the judges.
‘Now you’re in your wheelhouse, that is it my friend, that is your comfort zone,’ said Lionel.
Katy said she was ‘nervous’ and that he was ‘a big deal’ back home in Georgia.
Country classic: The Georgia native belted out ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ by Johnny Cash and got a standing ovation from the judges
‘That was so fun and an audience member wants to have fun and is waiting for you to invite them and you just did,’ said Katy.
Gabby was then shown back in Pittsburgh where got a police escort to her home and was met by her emotional family and friends.
She took the chance to sing with her her grandfather, Eddie, before going to Goodwill where her dad worked as a maintenance man when he lost his job.
Tender moment: Gabby during her hometown visit sang with her grandfather Eddie
Gabby could not hold back the tears as she performed with her gospel choir and then gave a concert for fans.
She then took to the Idol stage and performed Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and received a standing ovation from the band’s original frontman, Steve Perry.
‘She was amazing, that’s my critique,’ Steve told the audience before Gabby ran over and gave him a hug.
Home concert: Gabby was excited during her hometown concert in Pittsburgh
Rock classic: The Pittsburgh native later sang Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
The original: Steve Perry of Journey was in the audience and surprised Gabby after her rendition
‘It was the most amazing version I have ever heard, it was just beautiful,’ the rocker told her.
‘I have always thought Gabby is one of the best singers I have ever heard and she proves it night in and night out,’ said Luke.
Maddie Poppe then returned to Iowa where she visited her small high school school where students performed ‘Rainbow Connection’ with her.
Loved it: The former Journey frontman said it was ‘the most amazing version’ that he’s ever heard of the rock classic
She then returned home and sang with her musical family before a parade through the town and a concert at the county fairground in front of more than 10,000 fans.
She then took to the Idol stage and performed Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide.’
‘To see your hometown come out for you and to see the pride on your parents faces, you have done an amazing job my dear,’ said Lionel.
Fan favorite: Maddie also performed before a large crowd during her hometown visit in Iowa
Local support: The singer drew about 10,000 fans to her hometown concert
Nailed it: Maddie later nailed her version of the Fleetwood Mac song Landslide
Katy then grabbed her phone and simply said: ‘I am voting for you.’
The winner of season 16 of American Idol will be crowned on Monday.
American Idol moves this season to ABC after running for 15 seasons on Fox.
Phone vote: Katy grabbed her phone and said she was voting for Maddie