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American Idol: Lionel Richie, 70, embraces working from home for first time as top 20 sing remotely

Lionel Richie embraced working from home as American Idol’s top 20 performed remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday’s episode of the ABC show. 

To make the show work, the top 20 contestants had to rely on ‘groundbreaking technology’ to transmit their sound, though all used the same ring lights and microphones when they sang.

They performed in a wide variety of settings, from Florida to Canada, supported by a remote backing band and often surrounded by family.

Remote episode: Lionel Richie embraced working from home for the first time on Sunday as the top 20 performed remotely on Sunday’s episode of American Idol on ABC

Luke Bryan, 43, said he had been ‘nervous’ that the show might not be able to continue and was happy for the contestants that they had been able to pull it off.

But Lionel, 70, announced that he was ‘excited’ to work from home for the first time in his career, and pointed out that the show’s unusual situation might bring out something special in its contestants.

‘These artists are now going to get the best test ever,’ he emphasized. ‘Without all the lights, without all the glitter, the glamour, they are going to have to understand: You bring your light to the table.’

Katy surprised her fellow judges when she appeared wearing a giant hand sanitizer bottle costume.

At home: The 73-year-old music legend participated remotely from his home in Los Angeles

At home: The 73-year-old music legend participated remotely from his home in Los Angeles

‘Just want to make sure that American Idol is staying as safe as possible,’ the 35-year-old singer cracked as she lowered herself into a chair at her Los Angeles home.

Seeing Katy emerge in an ‘American Idol Instant Music Sanitizer’ outfit sent Lionel and Luke into gales of laughter at their Los Angeles and Nashville homes.

It was a memorable moment on a historic episode that marked Idol’s first-ever fully remote broadcast, taping in 25 different locations to observe coronavirus social distancing regulations.

Hand sanitizer: Katy Perry arrived as a giant bottle of hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer: Katy Perry arrived as a giant bottle of hand sanitizer

Katy sat in front of a wall of contestants’ portraits as Idol host Ryan Seacrest, 45, asked her how she’d been feeling lately.

‘I’m doing well, thank you,’ replied Katy, who was around seven months pregnant.

‘When I look back at this time, this will be a time I will never forget: My first pregnancy in a pandemic, having cravings that I can not necessarily fulfill if I want,’ she said. ‘But I think that there’s a lot of things that I’m grateful for these days.’

First pregnancy: The 35-year-old pop star discussed being pregnant amid the coronavirus pandemic

First pregnancy: The 35-year-old pop star discussed being pregnant amid the coronavirus pandemic

Ryan, who was signing on from his own Los Angeles home, sat in front of a lit-up American Idol sign and rested his arms on the show’s old judges’ table, which had been stored in his garage.

‘Before we get going, do you need to de-bottle?’ he asked the 13-time Grammy winner.

‘No, I’m full up,’ Katy joked as she shifted in the boxy costume.

Nice desk: Ryan Seacrest hosted from his Los Angeles home that featured the old judges' table

Nice desk: Ryan Seacrest hosted from his Los Angeles home that featured the old judges’ table

The first singer up was Kimmy Gabriela, 17, who turned in a sultry cover of Ariana Grande’s Leave Me Lonely from her porch in Lakeland, Florida, as artificial flowers blew around her.

Katy applauded Kimmy’s polished look and vocals, saying that she didn’t recognize her at first but felt that she was starting to take her craft more seriously than she had before.

‘It’s so funny to hear you say you didn’t recognize her when we’re looking at you in THAT,’ Ryan teased Katy, alluding to her wild costume.

First up: The first singer up was Kimmy Gabriela, 17, who turned in a sultry cover of Ariana Grande's Leave Me Lonely from her porch in Lakeland, Florida

First up: The first singer up was Kimmy Gabriela, 17, who turned in a sultry cover of Ariana Grande’s Leave Me Lonely from her porch in Lakeland, Florida

Jovin Webb, 28, then wowed with a scorching cover of Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends, which he performed in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana garage.

Katy observed that Jovin had ‘texture galore’ in his voice, noting that his professional sound was even more incredible because he was using the same basic equipment everyone else had.

Music teacher Franklin Boone, 28, next sang Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World from a living room in North Carolina, as his family stood nearby holding signs.

Scorching cover: Jovin Webb, 28, wowed with a scorching cover of Joe Cocker's With A Little Help From My Friends, which he performed in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana garage

Scorching cover: Jovin Webb, 28, wowed with a scorching cover of Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends, which he performed in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana garage

Katy said she could tell Franklin had the ‘It Factor’ even at a distance, and admitted she’d been moved by watching his wife and baby dancing.

‘I started tearing up, and I was like, ”How ridiculous do I feel as a hand sanitizer, crying?”,’ she shared.

Luke said he had ‘chillbumps’ the whole time, calling it ‘definitely Top 10-worthy, America.’

Music teacher: Franklin Boone, 28, sang Tears For Fears' Everybody Wants To Rule The World from a living room in North Carolina, as his family stood nearby holding signs

Music teacher: Franklin Boone, 28, sang Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World from a living room in North Carolina, as his family stood nearby holding signs

High school student Olivia Ximines, 16, showed ‘another side’ of herself singing Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy from her living room in Southern California.

‘You know, for 16 years old, you have everything you need to be a superstar,’ Lionel considered, as Olivia confessed she had to ‘pump [herself] up’ to perform in her living room.

‘I know about pumping myself up,’ Katy affirmed.

Teen talent: High school student Olivia Ximines, 16, showed 'another side' of herself singing Billie Eilish's Bad Guy from her living room in Southern California

Teen talent: High school student Olivia Ximines, 16, showed ‘another side’ of herself singing Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy from her living room in Southern California

Pizza deliveryman Louis Knight, 19, debuted an emotional version of JP Saxe’s If The World Was Ending from his bedroom in Philadelphia.

‘I bet you didn’t think, ”From the foot of my bed, I’m going to be doing American Idol one day”,’ Luke ribbed Louis, calling it ‘a great song choice.’

High schooler Makayla Phillips, 17, nearly left Lionel speechless with her cover of Ariana Grande’s Greedy, which she sang in her Temecula, California, living room.

Pizza guy: Pizza deliveryman Louis Knight, 19, debuted an emotional version of JP Saxe's If The World Was Ending from his bedroom in Philadelphia

Pizza guy: Pizza deliveryman Louis Knight, 19, debuted an emotional version of JP Saxe’s If The World Was Ending from his bedroom in Philadelphia

Living room: High schooler Makayla Phillips, 17, nearly left Lionel speechless with her cover of Ariana Grande's Greedy, which she sang in her Temecula, California, living room

Living room: High schooler Makayla Phillips, 17, nearly left Lionel speechless with her cover of Ariana Grande’s Greedy, which she sang in her Temecula, California, living room

Katy said she saw herself in Makayla, but urged her to push herself more next time.

She them told Aliana Jester, 19, to ‘lean in a little bit more’ into her soft cover of Whitney Houston’s Run To You, sung in a Fort Walton, Florida, garage.

In her own garage, Faith Becnel, a 20-year-old server from Destrehan, Louisiana, unveiled a moody cover of Bishop Briggs’ River, which Luke called his ‘favorite rendition’ of the song.

Garage performance: Aliana Jester, 19, did a soft cover of Whitney Houston's Run To You, sung in a Fort Walton, Florida, garage

Garage performance: Aliana Jester, 19, did a soft cover of Whitney Houston’s Run To You, sung in a Fort Walton, Florida, garage

 

Moody cover: Faith Becnel, a 20-year-old server from Destrehan, Louisiana, unveiled a moody cover of Bishop Briggs' River

Moody cover: Faith Becnel, a 20-year-old server from Destrehan, Louisiana, unveiled a moody cover of Bishop Briggs’ River

Katy gave it ‘six-and-a-half’ ‘sanitized stars.’ 

Nick Merico, 24, crooned the Plain White Ts song Hey There Delilah in his Woodland Hills, California, apartment, and Katy called it ‘one of [his] better performances.’

Nick said his heart was pounding when he sang, adding that the technology Idol gave him was so good the sound was unfortunately amplified.

Apartment show: Nick Merico, 24, crooned the Plain White Ts song Hey There Delilah in his Woodland Hills, California, apartment

Apartment show: Nick Merico, 24, crooned the Plain White Ts song Hey There Delilah in his Woodland Hills, California, apartment

High school student Lauren Spencer-Smith, 16, belted Jessie J’s Mama Knows Best in front of a gorgeous Vancouver Island lake, as Katy noted that the teen was ‘growing during quarantine.’

In her Jonesboro, Georgia, living room, Cyniah Elise, 17, turned out a smoky cover of Demi Lovato’s Warrior, to which Luke gave his ‘stanky look face,’ meaning he enjoyed it.

College student Francisco Martin, 19, impressed Katy by singing her hit Teenage Dream in his San Francisco living room, which she called a ‘dice roll’ that paid off.

Nice view: High school student Lauren Spencer-Smith, 16, belted Jessie J's Mama Knows Best in front of a gorgeous Vancouver Island lake

Nice view: High school student Lauren Spencer-Smith, 16, belted Jessie J’s Mama Knows Best in front of a gorgeous Vancouver Island lake

Split screen: In her Jonesboro, Georgia, living room, Cyniah Elise, 17, turned out a smoky cover of Demi Lovato's Warrior

Split screen: In her Jonesboro, Georgia, living room, Cyniah Elise, 17, turned out a smoky cover of Demi Lovato’s Warrior

Paid off: College student Francisco Martin, 19, impressed Katy by singing her hit Teenage Dream in his San Francisco living room, which she called a 'dice roll' that paid off

Paid off: College student Francisco Martin, 19, impressed Katy by singing her hit Teenage Dream in his San Francisco living room, which she called a ‘dice roll’ that paid off

She still offered him technical advice, acknowledging that she was ‘being overly critical of a song I’ve sung tens of thousands of times.’

Sophia James, 21, warbled Maggie Rogers’ Burning in her Long Beach, California, den, getting a hug afterward from her brother James, the inspiration for her stage name.

‘When you look into the camera, you can melt hearts,’ Lionel told her.

Nailed it: Sophia James, 21, warbled Maggie Rogers' Burning in her Long Beach, California, den

Nailed it: Sophia James, 21, warbled Maggie Rogers’ Burning in her Long Beach, California, den

DeWayne Crocker, Jr., a 23-year-old worship leader, sang James’ Brown’s I Got You (I Feel Good) from his living room in Castle Rock, Colorado, where a Christmas tree was up.

‘Whoo! Whoo!’ Katy cried, spinning around in her chair as she watched.

In Bakersfield, California, construction worker Dillon James, 26, covered Ray Lamontagne’s Let It Be Me, and Lionel called him ‘a world-class artist.’

Worship leader: DeWayne Crocker, Jr., a 23-year-old worship leader, sang James' Brown's I Got You (I Feel Good) from his living room in Castle Rock, Colorado, where a Christmas tree was up

Worship leader: DeWayne Crocker, Jr., a 23-year-old worship leader, sang James’ Brown’s I Got You (I Feel Good) from his living room in Castle Rock, Colorado, where a Christmas tree was up

Construction worker: In Bakersfield, California, construction worker Dillon James, 26, covered Ray Lamontagne's Let It Be Me

Construction worker: In Bakersfield, California, construction worker Dillon James, 26, covered Ray Lamontagne’s Let It Be Me

Arthur Gunn’s confident rendition of Wynonie Harris’ Lovin’ Machine, sung on his porch in Wichita, Kansas, had Katy dancing.

Luke called the 20-year-old contestant a ‘ginormous’ star.

Lionel admired the style choices of college student Julia Gargano, 22, from Staten Island, New York, calling her an ‘artist’ for her take on Christina Perri’s Human.

Confident rendition: Arthur Gunn's confident rendition of Wynonie Harris' Lovin' Machine, sung on his porch in Wichita, Kansas, had Katy dancing

Confident rendition: Arthur Gunn’s confident rendition of Wynonie Harris’ Lovin’ Machine, sung on his porch in Wichita, Kansas, had Katy dancing

Artistic cover: College student Julia Gargano, 22, from Staten Island, New York, was praised by Lionel for her 'artist' take on Christina Perri's Human

Artistic cover: College student Julia Gargano, 22, from Staten Island, New York, was praised by Lionel for her ‘artist’ take on Christina Perri’s Human

‘I love how we’re hearing all the nuances in the contestants’ voices,’ Luke added. ‘You can really sit back and hear how great you are.

‘I mean, I believe we’ve had five superstars in a row. My brain is scrambled right now. I do not know what America is going to do with these kids,’ he said.

Idol mentor Bobby Bones, 40, who was stationed in Nashville like Luke, revealed that next week the contestants would again perform remotely, singing songs that reminded them of home.

Show mentor: Bobby Bones, 40, who was stationed in Nashville like Luke, revealed that next week the contestants would again perform remotely, singing songs that reminded them of home

Show mentor: Bobby Bones, 40, who was stationed in Nashville like Luke, revealed that next week the contestants would again perform remotely, singing songs that reminded them of home

Sales professional Grace Leer, 29, then tackled Faith Hill’s Cry in her San Ramon, California backyard, and Katy felt she ‘checked a lot of the boxes’ to become a big country star.

Samantha Diaz, 20, a subway busker from New York City, was the only contestant who had decided not to return home, and she performed Fantasia’s I Believe, from a California location.

‘Oh my goddess,’ Katy exclaimed, telling the artist known as ‘Just Sam’ that she was proud of her, which made Sam tear up and say, ‘Thank you so much, Auntie Katy.’

Boxes checked: Grace Leer, 29, tackled Faith Hill's Cry in her San Ramon, California backyard, and Katy felt she 'checked a lot of the boxes' to become a big country star

Boxes checked: Grace Leer, 29, tackled Faith Hill’s Cry in her San Ramon, California backyard, and Katy felt she ‘checked a lot of the boxes’ to become a big country star

Subway busker: Samantha Diaz, 20, a subway busker from New York City, was the only contestant who had decided not to return home, and she performed Fantasia's I Believe, from a California location

Subway busker: Samantha Diaz, 20, a subway busker from New York City, was the only contestant who had decided not to return home, and she performed Fantasia’s I Believe, from a California location

Piano teacher Jonny West, 23, capped off the evening with a reworked version of Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World, sung from a bedroom in Studio City, California.

‘We’re not worthy!’ Katy yelled as he finished, calling it one of her ‘Top Two favorite performances tonight.’

‘Get me out of this!’ she cried then, yanking off her massive costume. ‘I’m safe!’

American Idol will return next week on ABC. 

Reworked version: Piano teacher Jonny West, 23, capped off the evening with a reworked version of Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World, sung from a bedroom in Studio City, California

Reworked version: Piano teacher Jonny West, 23, capped off the evening with a reworked version of Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World, sung from a bedroom in Studio City, California

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