‘Idol’ Judges Reveal Showstopper ‘Plot Twist’: Meet the Top Contestants

American Idol Top 26

Heavy/ABC Season 21 "American Idol" Top 26 contestants celebrate

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


ABCSeason 21 hopefuls Matt Wilson, Iam Tongi, and Colin Stough receive the judges’ feedback after the Showstopper round

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

Top 26 contestants

ABCTop 26 “American Idol” Season 21 contestants celebrate

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:

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.

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