We laughed. We cried. We laughed some more. Thanks, Katy Perry!
The “American Idol” finale may have been a little lackluster in terms of star power, but the judge in the middle seat — when she could endure sitting in it for more than a minute — more than made up for it. Whether it was begging Bachelorette contender Becca Kufrin for her hand — and a chance to compete on the ABC show — or spinning herself silly after the revelation that Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe are now a couple, or mock fawning over hottie Trevor Holmes, who showed up again in a cute video sendup of Richle’s “Hello” with Ada Vox and Noah Davis, between Perry’s snappy retorts, her physical comedy or her pop culture know-how, there was not a dull moment.
But even beyond the judges’ table, creative pairings (Katy and Catie) and natural ones (Ada Vox and Patti Labelle; finalists — and lovebirds– Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe), and a jubilant opening with Lionel Richie singing his hit “All Night Long” (aided by the audience, who were given flashlights to create a cool effect on television), made for an all-around entertaining night, highlighted by these 11 moments…
1. Perry Turner Overdrive: Perry’s pairing with Catie Turner on a stripped down version of “Part of Me” was inspiring, with Turner vocally rising to the occasion and Perry clearly getting emotional as the two committed to the lyrics. Truth be told, we couldn’t get enough of the judge that keeps Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan on their toes. Lucky for us, we have season two to look forward to.
2. Hey Sista, Go sista, Soul sista, Flow sista: Audience members got to feel just how electric Ada Vox’s “Lady Marmalade” duet with Patti Labelle was on the “Idol” stage. Even former “Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe — who was in the crowd— couldn’t get enough of “Ada Marmalade.”
3. Sanjaya Returns: Bringing out Jimmy Kimmel and the “American Idol” time capsule was pure genius. In it was Simon Cowell’s shrunken black T-shirt, Seacrest’s frosted tips, Adam Lambert’s fingerless gloves, and finally … Sanjaya Malakar, hair icon from season six. The only thing missing was “crying girl.” (We stand corrected: Crying Girl was in the building.)
4. Bright Lights, Big City: Cade Foehner is first and foremost a self-taught guitarist who loves Jimi Hendrix and plays with the dexterity of Lindsey Buckingham and a voice that straddles rock and R&B. Enter: Gary Clark Jr., an artist who has played with the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and B.B. King and who made for guitar magic. Foehner, who performed the song earlier on the show, more than held his own with the guitar great, and Dennis Lorenzo displayed pure grit in his delivery. This jam was a treat.
5. Jurnee Gets Jealous: Joining Nick Jonas for a duet of his hit “Jealous,” Jurneee shined and showed true pop star potential. She looked fantastic, and played off of the Jonas brother like a consummate pro.
6. Michael Woodard Shines: In these dark times, contestant Michael Woodard is a ball of sunshine. Pairing him with gospel star Yolanda Adams for the Burt Bacharach classic “What the World Needs Now” proved a throwback to the “Idol” of old, bringing with it a positive message that had the theater — and Lythgoe once more — swaying in unison.
7. When You Wish Upon a Frog: When Maddie Poppe first auditioned with this classic from “The Muppet Movie,” she probably never imagined singing it as a duet with the iconic Kermit the Frog. It was a delight to all in attendance. Usually stars wait years before they’re booked to guest on a show like “Sesame Street” and pull off a moment like this, but Poppe seems already as seasoned as John Denver was when he joined Kermit for various TV specials — no small task, despite the puppet’s size.
8. The Top Three are “Meant to Be”: Bebe Rexha was an MVP for “Idol” this season, joining the show first as a mentor and then reprising her hit with Florida Georgia Line — “Meant to Be” — with the final three. Bonus points go to Hutchinson as his deep vocals crooned the male part — “Don’t you know that you’re beautiful?”— and earned screams from female admirers in the audience.
9. CMAs bound? Gabby Barrett’s sweet duet with Luke Bryan was one of the show’s top feel-good moments and could have easily been a performance worthy of a slot at the Country Music Awards, while the song’s positive message, that “people are good,” provided nice moment with a song that has a positive message, and much needed at the moment.
10. A Rimes Surprise: You couldn’t ask for a better TV moment than when 16-year-old Layla Spring and her adorable 7-year old sister Dyxie turned around midway through their performance of LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue” to find Rimes there in the flesh.
11. Born on the Banjo: Hutchinson can pick like a pro. Joining Darius Rucker for a duet of “Wagon Wheel,” America got to see the finalist once again display his skills. The pairing of Hutchinson with the former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman was a perfect matchup, and made for a fun performance that once again showcased Hutchinson as the multi-talented musician he is. Hopefully that banjo will make its way onto the “Idol” tour bus this summer.
Bonus: Jimmy Kimmel pulled together an all-star reunion of “Idol” alums for a laugh-out-loud send-up of “We Are the World.” Among the grads to participate: Haley Reinhart, William Hung, Kevin Covais and Scott McIntyre.