The second night of the Showstopper round on Season 21 of “American Idol” was full of jaw-dropping surprises, including two Platinum Ticket holders getting sent home and the judges revealing they couldn’t narrow the competition down to a Top 24. Instead, they said the show will move forward with a group of 26 hopefuls — and one of them hasn’t been named yet.
The “plot twist,” as judge Katy Perry called it, left contestants and fans shocked at the end of the Season 21 episode that aired on April 10, 2023. Here’s what you need to know:
‘Idol’ Showstopper Round Yields Show’s First Top 26
After the Showstopper round, in which contestants perform solo for the first time with a full band in front of an audience, judges Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie revealed in meetings with each singer which ones had advanced to the Top 24 and who was going home.
During that process, they shocked many fans and fellow contestants by sending home Kaylin Hedges and Cam Amen, who were two of the season’s four Platinum Ticket holders — singers who impressed them so much during the initial auditions that they got to bypass competing in the first round of Hollywood Week. Other controversial eliminations included mattress salesman Tre Louis, Willie Spence’s friend and past contestant Kya Monée, and pianist Adin Boyer, who bravely shared what his life is like with autism during his appearances on the show.
On Twitter, fans lashed out at the judges over their choices. One of Amen’s fans wrote, “biggest mistake of their careers as judges these last 6 seasons” while another tweeted of their decision to keep Nutsa, “Not a fan after how she left her partner in the dust during Duets. Her voice is good but there’s room for improvement in her character. Kaylin Hedges would’ve been the better choice.”
The judges have repeatedly remarked on Season 21 being their best pool of talent yet, and by the end of the second Showstopper episode, only one spot in the top 24 remained but three contestants who’d become friends during Hollywood Week — Matt Wilson, Colin Stough, and Iam Tongi — remained. The judges called all three in to talk with them at the same time.
Perry, Bryan and Richie gave them all high praise for their Showstopper performances, and then announced Tongi would be advancing to the Top 24. The two other young men got up to hug and congratulate him, but Perry had a surprise.
“Plot twist,” she exclaimed. “As judges we like to change it up every season. We have so much talent this season we don’t think there’s a top 24… we think there’s a top 26.”
Tongi, Wilson, and Stough were stunned and thrilled by the announcement. However, only 25 contestants were actually named on the April 10 episode; ABC said one additional contestant who advanced will be revealed during next week’s performances in Hawaii, according to FanSided.
List of Season 21 ‘American Idol’ Top Contestants After Showstopper Round
So who made it to the Top 26? Here’s a complete list — minus the contestant to be named on the April 16 episode, when they all perform at Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa in Hawaii with celebrity mentors Allen Stone and Noah Cyrus. The top contestants for Season 21 are as follows:
- Colin Stough, 18, an HVAC technician from Gattmann, Mississippi
- Dawson Wayne, 21, a Brigham Young University student from San Antonio, Texas
- Elise Kristine, 19, a Utah Valley University student from Issaquah, Washington
- Elijah McCormick, 21, who nearly died in a car crash the day he graduated from high school in Raeford, North Carolina
- Emma Busse, 20, a theater school graduate from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
- Haven Madison, 17, a high school student from Clarksville, Tennessee
- Iam Tongi, 18, a high school student in Decatur, Washington who’s originally from Kahuku, Hawaii
- Kaeyra, 21, a singer at an L.A. steakhouse who hails from Algonquin, Illinois
- Lucy Love, 28, a mom and church music leader from Holly Grove, Arkansas
- Malik Heard, 26, a former contestant on “The Voice” from Dallas, Texas
- Mariah Faith, 22, who was inspired by her stepdad to be a singer, from Conway, South Carolina
- Marybeth Byrd, 21, a singer from Armorel, Arkansas
- Matt Wilson, 21, an independent artist from Buffalo, New York
- Megan Danielle, 20, who earned her spot in a sing-off, from Douglasville, Georgia
- Michael Williams, 21, a former amusement park entertainer from Deerfield Township, Ohio
- Nailyah Serenity, 22, an astrologer from Charlotte, North Carolina
- Nutsa, 25, who is from the country of Georgia but lives in Dubai
- Oliver Steele, 25 — who was accompanied to his initial audition by his dad after suffering a stroke — from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee
- Olivia Soli, 20., a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, California
- PJAE, 23, an R&B/Soul artist from Lawton, Oklahoma
- Tyson Venegas, 17, a high school student from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
- Warren Peay, 24, an appliance repairman from Bamberg, South Carolina
- Wé Ani, 23, a Paterson, New Jersey native who now lives in New York
- Zachariah Smith, 19, a “burger flipper” and stepdad from Amory, Mississippi
According to On Camera Audiences, “American Idol” filmed its Top 26 contestants performing in Hawaii on February 12 and 13. According to ABC, viewers will get to vote based on those performances after the April 16 and 17 episodes to create a Top 20.