The spirit of Prince was alive and well at Sunday’s taping of “American Idol,” where the remaining seven contestants performed two songs each — one from The Purple One himself, and the other a song from the year they were born.
The top seven contenders worked with Sheila E., a close friend of Prince, to perfect their renditions of his songs. Nick Jonas, who helped hone their skills in performing the second song chosen from the year they were born, also mentored them.
Michael J. Woodard, one of the top five, said, “I knew I wanted to do ‘I Would Die For You’ because it’s my ultimate favorite. I knew it was big shoes to fill especially with Prince being such an amazing entertainer, so I had to really prepare and practice harder than I ever have before to really master the song, master the moves, and really keep people entertained.”
Country singer Caleb Lee Hutchinson, a long time fan of the enduring artist, delivered a searing rendition of “When Doves Cry,” which he says was his “first choice” when he heard the show would be tackling Prince’s catalog.
“I grew up listening to Prince,” he said. “About a year or two ago I kind of re-discovered that song and it was really pertinent to a lot of the things I was going through. …I’d always heard it as pitch, but I’d never really read the lyrics — to me the lyrics are so intense — and it just struck me. And so when I heard that we were doing Prince, I was like, ‘Man, that’s my favorite Prince song!’ …That song means so much to me, and it really is one of my favorite songs of all time. I was honored to do it.”
Hutchinson noted that he “kind of freaked out” over getting to work with Jonas, as well, calling Nick his “favorite Jo-Bro.”
“He’s just kind of like the symbol of my childhood in a way,” Hutchinson said. “At first I was like, ‘Whoa, here he is, in the flesh,’ but he really is super kind and it didn’t take too long before I felt like I was talking to one of my friends. He’s got so much knowledge [and] even with him being so young, it was incredible.”
The contestants also learned they would be going on tour this summer, with former “Idol” season 8 winner Kris Allen taking the stage alongside them and ABC’s “Boy Band” winning group In Real Life as their opening act.
Singer Gabby Barrett said that the tour was “the best news” she could possibly get.” After calling it “crazy” that she was in the top five,” she noted that she was “so thankful and so blessed for the opportunity” the show is affording her.
“I’m so excited to go on tour. That was a complete shock — none of us knew that we were going on tour, so that was something. I’m so excited because I want to meet the people that voted for me, at least to tell them thank you, just for that, because they’re the ones that put us in this spot,” Barrett said.
Rounding out the final five with Barrett, Woodard, and Hutchinson are Cade Foehner and Maddie Poppe. Now they’re all on their way to Nashville to work with mentor and former “American Idol” winner, Carrie Underwood.
“When I was younger I remember I had a Carrie poster hung up in my room, and I know her whole ‘Some Hearts’ album, I know that entire album by heart. Just the fact that she knows what we’re going through she understands us more than any mentor so far, will, and I’m just so grateful,” Poppe said.
Foehner summed up most everyone’s feelings on making it to the top five when he said, “It is extremely humbling, because you know deep down…so many people could have filled this spot, and yet it’s the grace of the Lord for you to be here. …Humbling is the word.”
“American Idol” has also been renewed for a second season on ABC, with current judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan returning for the next round.
“You couldn’t ask for a better departure from the old way it was, to the new ‘Idol,'” Richie said. “They said, ‘Come back for the second season,’ and we said, ‘Uh, yeah!’ The camaraderie here is so great. And the truth of the matter is now that we know finally what the hell we’re doing, of course we want to come back for the second season.”
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