Katy Perry went on a wild emotional roller coaster ride with her fellow American Idol judges Sunday as the show saw its top five contestants cut to three.
Madison VanDenburg, 17, Laine Hardy, 18, and 24-year-old Alejandro Aranda were voted to the top ahead of next Sunday’s finale, as fan favorites Wade Cota, 27, and Laci Kaye Booth, 23, learned it was time for them to go home.
‘I’m just waiting for commercial break ’cause I’m a mess right now,’ said Katy, 34, after hearing Laci’s last song, a performance of the Fleetwood Mac classic, Dreams, which she’d dedicated to her grandmother on the Mother’s Day show.
Getting emotional: Katy Perry was on an emotional roller coaster on Sunday’s episode of American Idol as the field was whittled from five to three singers
‘I’m not yet a mom but I feel like everyone’s mom,’ Katy explained. ‘And I feel like it’s really hard, because some people—we don’t know [who yet]—are going home. We love every single one of these contestants like they’re our own children.’
The judging panel was also visibly affected by Wade’s decision to dedicate his last song, Hard Luck Woman by Kiss, to his stepfather Dan, and mother Terri.
‘Dad, you have no idea how much it meant to have you as a father figure after what I went through as a child,’ Wade wrote in a letter Terri read aloud.
‘Mom, you’re one of my best friends, and more than one time in my life, you were my only friend. I grew up with you always saying I was special and I finally have the opportunity to prove you right.’
Finale set: Alejandro Aranda, Madison VanDenburg and Laine Hardy will compete in the finale next Sunday
Laine, the Louisiana teen whose cool outfits got judge Luke Bryan, 42, referring to him jokingly as ‘a whole snack,’ movingly thanked his older brother Kyle for his support.
‘[It] made me feel a lot of pride to have someone look up to me, and it made watch every step I took,’ Kyle responded. ‘I knew you were going to step in the same track eventually.’
Earlier in the evening, contestants performed songs chosen for them by radio personality Bobby Bones, their in-house mentor for the season.
Teen talent: Laine, 18, returned to the show and this time made it to the finals
Katy was moved in a totally different way by Laine’s performance of Bayou Boy, by the Marshall Tucker Band.
‘Laine, let’s pretend that you don’t win this show,’ said Katy. ‘I want you to keep scaring yourself. You see that guitar? That guitar is your girlfriend. Treat her good.’
‘Great song choice, Laine,’ offered Luke. ‘Great arrangement with the band, too. Way to make it kinda modern-day funky, and like I said, And Katy’s right…’
Top five: Wade Cota and Laci Kaye Booth were sent hom as the field narrowed to three
‘Rrrraw! Just give it to us!’ Katy growled, swinging her ponytail around.
Host Ryan Seacrest, 44, had some fun at Katy’s expense throughout the show.
After Wade performed Bobby Bones’ song choice—Ray la Montagne’s You Are The Best Thing—Ryan joked: ‘That’s a popular first dance song at weddings, they tell me. I’ve never had one myself, but Katy, maybe that’s one for you.’
‘Why not, Wade?’ said Katy, wryly, quoting one of the show’s tag lines.
Fan favorite: American Idol introduced viewers to Wade who became a fan favorite
Contestants also belted out renditions of Elton John’s greatest hits, in advance of Rocketman, the film about his life out May 31, which they saw at a VIP screening.
John himself taped a message for the top five.
‘We all appreciate the sacrifice and hard work it takes to make music,’ he noted. ‘I’m honored that my songs can play a part in your musical journey.’
The judges: Lionel Richie, Katy and Luke Bryan critiqued the performances
Madison delivered a soulful version of his Grammy Hall of Fame classic Your Song.
Katy looked at her oddly.
‘Have you ever had a cheeseburger with no ketchup and no mustard?’
Nailed it: Madison delivered a soulful version of Elton John’s Grammy Hall of Fame classic Your Song
‘Once or twice,’ Madison responded.
‘It was good. It was fine. But you just gave us the ketchup and the mustard!’ Katy roared.
‘It’s an honor,’ Madison laughed.
Teenage singer: The 17-year-old singer was compared to a cheeseburger with mustard and ketchup by Katy
‘And maybe some Thousand Island!’ Katy shouted.
‘Katy’s still channeling her cheeseburger outfit from the Met Gala,’ Ryan quipped.
As usual, Alejandro Arando, 24, reaped plaudits throughout the show. Judges recalled that even during the audition stages, they knew they were not worthy of assessing his talent.
The frontrunner: Alejandro reaped plaudits throughout the show after being named early as a frontrunner
Arando put his unique spin on John’s 1976 hit Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, earning a standing ovation from the judges—his third of the night.
‘You are owning the night, my friend,’ affirmed Luke. ‘Wrap your head around being a ginormous star. Because there is no other way around it.’
Katy once again fell somber.
Own spin: The singer put his unique spin on Elton John’s 1976 hit Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, earning a standing ovation from the judges—his third of the night
‘When I was growing up, music was the thing that spoke the language of all of my feelings. It comforted me, it gave me joy. That song was so sad; I am so sad right now. But it’s OK. You were so connected. You decided to actually play in this competition. And it shows.’
She stepped back and made fun of herself, pretending to sob. ‘I’m sad!’
American Idol will return next Sunday on ABC with the season 17 finale.
Moving on: Alejandro was the last singer to make the finale as Wade and Laci were sent home
Final three: Show host Ryan Seacrest announced that either Alejandro, Laci or Laine will win American Idol