It was another high stakes week on “American Idol,” as the Top 5 contestants of Season 21 — Zachariah Smith, Megan Danielle, Iam Tongi, Wé Ani, and Colin Stough — competed on May 14, 2023, with hopes of advancing to the Top 3. The final trio of singers, named at the end of tonight’s live voting, will get to go on hometown visits and perform next week during a star-studded season finale with hopes of being named the winner.
The five remaining contestants spent the week visiting Disneyland with their families — including each spending quality time with their moms for Mother’s Day — and working with guest mentor Sofia Carson to prepare for the annual Disney Week episode, during which they’re all singing their favorite Disney classics. Midway through the show, “The Little Mermaid” star Halle Bailey also performed “Part of Your World” in front of the castle at Disneyland.
Fans had to vote during the two-hour live show, which kicked off at 8 p.m. Eastern time. Each fan could cast up to 30 votes total for their favorite contestant — online, on the “American Idol” app, and/or via text.
Spoiler alert: Heavy provided updates live throughout the night, so if you do not want to know what happened on the show or the voting results, do not read any further.
‘American Idol’ Disney Night Full Recap
The Disney episode of “American Idol” opened with Ryan Seacrest granting the judges one “wish” — to open the show dressed in a funny array of Disney garb — and pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles performing the 1939 classic “When You Wish Upon a Star,” joined mid-song by all five remaining contestants.
Seacrest then introduced the judges, with Perry dressed up in a Disney costume for the sixth season in a row. Her 2023 skin-tight outfit is of Elastigirl from “The Incredibles,” which she said she’d chosen in honor of “all the mothers out there” on Mother’s Day. Last year’s costume, when she dressed as Ariel in the “Little Mermaid,” was so difficult to wear that she tipped over in her chair live on air.
The show then continued with the contestants receiving mentorship from Carson and performing their chosen songs.
Wé Ani Visits Disneyland for the First Time
ROUND ONE: Standing on a veranda overseeing Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Ani told Carson that visiting the amusement park for the first time felt magical. Carson recalled singing with the “Idol” finalists during the Season 19 finale, calling it “such a special week for me.”
Ani revealed she’d be singing “Into the Unknown” by Idina Menzel from the hit movie “Frozen,” which Carson joked was “super easy, not a challenging song at all.”
“It’s about reclaiming your power,” Ani said, explaining why she chose the tune. “All of us have had that small moment when you’re like ‘I’m so afraid’ and you’re fearful of the unknown’ but I’m going to try to trust myself.”
Carson said the song was a tricky one since it’s so beloved and well-known, and advised Ani to “honor that song but still make it your own.”
Dressed in a sparkling royal blue gown with matching arm-length gloves, Ani drew a standing ovation from the judges. Still standing, Richie exclaimed, “What a way to start the show!”
“You look like a star, you sound like a star, you act like a star,” he added, saying that he loved her “popular approach” to the Disney classic.
With a play on her Disney costume, Perry said Ani’s performance was “incredible” and called her a “superhero of vocals.” Meanwhile, Bryan said he didn’t think Ani had hit a bad note the entire season and called her a “superstar.”
If Ani advances to the Top 3, she told Seacrest she’s looking forward to going home for a favorite deli sandwich in Harlem, New York, and gave a shout-out to her community for supporting her so fiercely.
ROUND TWO: Ani was shown having a blast with her mom, Jackie, at Disneyland — embracing and celebrating their day together riding rides. As the show shared retro photos of Jackie, Ani told producers that her mom once had dreams of becoming a singer, but that “she gave it all up to raise me and my siblings.”
“She works four jobs, plus taking care of kids plus trying to keep your mental sanity,” Ani said. “She’s a superhero for sure,” calling her the real “Mrs. Incredible” after reading a sweet note to her.
Ani then performed “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus from “Hannah Montana: The Movie” while dressed in a shimmering copper-colored gown and backed up by an orchestra. Her mom was shown wiping her tears while sitting in the audience.
Bryan told her that “once again, you delivered perfectly” and said it was the perfect way to show her “elegance.” Richie said that as both a writer and producer, “I’m in love with you,” which got Ani choked up.
He continued, “What really makes the different is that when you get an artist that makes you feel something. And you make any song you sing, you feel it. And that’s a characteristic you hold onto for life.”
Perry referred to Ani’s “climb” to the top, telling her she’s made it because her delivery was “superb” and that “you are just a master of your craft now.”
Zachariah Smith Roars Through Disneyland With His Family
ROUND ONE: After many weeks away from his Mississippi home, Smith loved being able to spend time with his family — his wife, three stepkids, and his mom. Smith chose to sing “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” the first song from the “Lion King” performed on “Idol,” according to Seacrest. His family was thrilled to meet Carson, who told his mom Deborah that she had a “remarkable son,” which brought her to tears.
During his mentorship session with Carson, she said that when he digs into “that grit and that rock and roll of your voice, and you threw in that Michael Jackson at the end, what a powerhouse of a voice you have!”
Dressed in a shimmering shirt with African patterns and lion heads, Smith performed a fast-paced version of the song and pulled out some fancy footwork at the end, sending the judges to their feet again.
“Wow, listen, you actually may become king,” Perry said, adding that at one time Smith was considered the underdog. “And look at you now! You’re in the top of tops — we’re one week away!”
Bryan remarked on how Smith has reached a new comfort level, moving about on stage with ease rather than worrying about his facial expressions or how he looks. Richie agreed, saying it was a “tough arrangement” of the song to do even without dancing.
“You were right in the driver’s seat,” he said.
Smith said that if he advances and moves on in the competition, he’s looking forward to seeing his brother, whom he said is on the autism spectrum and does not walk or talk, to help him feel more involved in the excitement of Smith’s rise on “Idol.”
ROUND TWO: Smith shared that it’s been particularly special to be able to spend the week with his mom because they’ve never been able to do a trip like that together, and she said that being at Disneyland allowed Smith to feel like a kid again.
Smith, 20, read aloud from a Mother’s Day note he wrote to his mom, revealing that after his dad died when Smith was just eight years old, “you had to be both mom and dad.”
The two talked about Smith’s younger brother, Nicholas, who has special needs — including having an extra chromosome and autism, causing developmental delays. Smith said he doesn’t know how his mom carried the weight of raising them both alone, but said that helping out taught him “to be strong, courageous and to never give up, and has made me the husband and dad that I am today.”
“He doesn’t walk, he doesn’t talk, but he loves Zach so much,” she said. “I don’t think I could ever put into words how proud I am of him. It’s just like I’m in a dream.”
Smith then appeared in the “Idol” audience to start performing “Life is a Highway,” which is featured on the “Cars” soundtrack. Wearing a gray sequined denim jacket over a black shirt and pants that were also decorated with sequins, he made his way to the stage to finish the song with two band members playing electric guitars beside him.
The crowd went wild for his performance and Richie joked, “Who do you think you are?” and compared him to Michael Jackson, saying, “You are the entertainer’s entertainer. I love when you bring the fire to the stage.”
Perry said that when he hit the chorus, Smith was going “100 miles per hour, it was just perfect for your voice” and also thanked him for acknowledging his mom and being “a good man.”
Bryan said he was “out of stuff” to say because he’s so impressed by Smith and all the contestants.
Colin Stough Races Toward the Finish Line on ‘Idol’
ROUND ONE: Saying that his favorite movie is Disney’s animated hit “Cars,” revealing that he still watches the movie twice a month. Stough’s mom, who signed him up for the competition, told “Idol” producers that he always wanted to be Lightning McQueen, and they filmed him loving the rides and “meeting” Mater in the “Cars Land” area at Disneyland.
Stough revealed that he’s singing the soundtrack’s “Real Gone” by Sheryl Crow, adding that his favorite line is “Mama taught me wrong from right.” The 18-year-old was shown giving his mom a bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day and talking about how hard it’s been to be away from home and her, but said it’s “worth it” to pursue his dream, which includes getting to give his mom new experiences and gifts. The show did not share any moments of him prepping for the song with Carson.
Dressed head-to-toe in black, including a black cowboy hat, Stough rocked out to the song with clips from the movie playing behind him. For the third time that night, the judges jumped to their feet.
“Well, we’ve been wanting you to get real comfortable all year, and I didn’t realize a ‘Cars’ song was gonna get you there,” Bryan told him. “That’s the most you’ve really, like, let loose, had fun. Great song choice!”
Richie said it was his favorite performance Stough has done all season and that his confidence level has skyrocketed. Meanwhile, Perry said he “finally did exactly what we’ve been wanting.”
Just as he did after his performance in Hawaii earlier in the season, before leaving the stage, Stough shouted “Love you, Mom!”
ROUND TWO: After being shown loving riding rides at Disneyland, “Idol” showed Stough’s mentorship session with Carson, which he called “super, super cool” because he used to watch her on Disney Channel.
Stough chose to sing “Nobody Knows” from the movie “Pete’s Dragon” for his second song of the night.
“One of the lines is ‘nobody knows how to say goodbye’ and that was a really hard hitting line for me because it’s, like, honesty,” he said.
When Carson said it can be “magical” when artists strip away the music to do a softer, acoustic version of a song, Stough joked, “Like Ramen noodles without the seasoning packet.”
She encouraged Stough to dig in and lean into the dynamics of the song after starting it out softly, which he did. Standing center stage in a cowboy hat and denim shirt under a taupe sportcoat while playing his acoustic guitar, Stough delivered a very intimate and quiet performance.
“I feel like you were giving everyone their own special performance,” Perry said, saying that he drew everyone in and that they could “hear a pin drop” in the studio.
Bryan said it’s very hard to hold the audience’s attention just holding a guitar and singing a ballad, and that it takes some people years to master that. Richie agreed, and said that stage presence comes naturally for Stough.
Megan Danielle Shares Her Heart During Disney Week
ROUND ONE: Danielle spent her first-ever visit to Disneyland with her mom, Monica, saying it was extra special because they don’t get to spend lots of quality time together. During a picnic lunch on the grounds, the 21-year-old gave her mom a lengthy Mother’s Day card and read aloud from it, saying she’s better at writing that talking about her feelings.
“I just want to let you know that after everything we’ve been through, I love you so much,” she read. “After you and Dad’s divorce, you have done so much to carry this family and lead us into the right direction.”
Danielle’s mom tearfully told producers, “When their dad left, it hurt us all and we didn’t know what to do. But she has helped in a lot of ways with my life. If I get down or depressed, she helps me through it.”
Danielle chose to sing the song “You Can’t Stop the Girl” from the Disney flick “Malificent” because, she said, the song reminds her of her mom and how resilient she’s been. Danielle’s mentorship session with her mom was not shown before her performance.
In a black sleeveless gown with a tulle skirt and sequined belt, Danielle delivered the Disney tune with force, showcasing the grit in her voice.
“Do you have any idea how much you’ve grown?” Richie asked her after all three judges also gave her a standing ovation, to which she replied, “I do now, yes sir.”
He said the high note she hit was “amazing” and Perry, continuing to play up her Elastagirl costume, said “I think that was the most you’ve ever stretched your vocals” and that she “wasn’t just the country girl with the gritty alto voice” and that she was “competing with all of the big ones,” on a level playing field with all of the other contestants.
Bryan said, “I just want to tell you you’re a vocalist. That’s what that term is designed for,” adding that her voice has elevated her from the girl they met at auditions who had to compete in a sing-off just to stay in the competition weeks ago.
ROUND TWO: Before her session with Carson, Danielle said, “I literally love her” and then told her mentor that she’d just watched one of her movies, “Purple Hearts,” the previous night.
Danielle chose to sing the ballad “Carried Me With Me” by Brandi Carlile from the movie “Onward.” Carson loved her rendition and got Danielle to tear up when she said, “I want you, when you stand on that stage, you need to believe that you deserve to be there because you do.”
“So effortless, so natural,” Bryan told her, adding that he’s loved her voice from “Day One.”
Richie said that artists “pray for” people to recognize them in the first 15 seconds of a song and that Danielle has that kind of voice.
Perry said, “There’s a light that you switched. You switched something inside of you and you can see it and you can hear it.” Perry added that she brings her to an “angelic place” whenever she sings.
Iam Tongi Draws a Crowd During Disney Week
ROUND ONE: Tongi said he could confirm Disneyland “is the happiest place on Earth” after being dazzled by his first visit to the resort and park. He was a bit starstruck meeting Carson, whom he said he’d watched on Disney Channel “all my life,” but he was floored when Carson told him she was a fan of his.
“You sing and it’s like you’ve lived a million lifetimes,” she told him.
Tongi chose to sing “Lava” from the 2014 Disney short film of the same name, about the evolving love story of two tropical volcanoes over millions of years, which he said reminds him of Hawaii.
As 18-year-old Tongi sang, a crowd formed on the street below to cheer for him, so he sang the song — which he hopes helps him represent his homeland well — to them from the veranda.
“You know who exactly who you are and honey, that is a superstar,” Perry told him after the three judges gave him the fifth standing ovation of the night.
Bryan agreed with her, saying that he loves Tongi’s authenticity, the way people gravitate to him and that “you make a room light up.”
Richie said they had no idea he’d be such a “phenomenon” when he first auditioned, but that he now considers him a “master storyteller” and that “your dreams have come true,” which made Tongi smile big.
Tongi told Seacrest he can’t wait for a hometown visit to Hawaii for some of his favorite foods, including short ribs. He walked off the stage with the crowd shouting his name.
ROUND TWO: Seacrest told the audience that Tongi chose to honor both his mom, Lillie, and his late father, Rodney, for Mother’s Day. Tongi said that his song choice, “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens from “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.”
“I absolutely loved it and it does remind me of dad,” she told him.
When his dad passed away in December 2021, Lillie said, her son didn’t want to sing anymore, so to hear him now sing songs that remind him of his dad makes her so proud.
The crowd shouted Tongi’s name again after his performance, and Richie
Richie told him, “There’s a moment in time in your life when magic happens and this is magical for you, because this is a time when all the stars align. It’s really happening.”
Perry told the high school student, “I know you’re IAM, but when I see your name, I see ‘I AM the next ‘American Idol.'”
Bryan said, “Katy puttin’ it out there!” and then thanked Tongi’s mom for signing him up for the competition. He added that in six seasons together, the judges have never had so many people come up to them to talk about the finalists, including Tongi, because of their incredible stories and talent.
Here’s Your ‘American Idol’ Season 21 Top 3
After the final commercial break, Seacrest returned with the results of the night’s voting and to reveal which three contestants will advance to the finale.
The first person who made it through is Colin Stough.
The second person who advanced is Megan Danielle.
The third person in the Top 3 is Iam Tongi.
That means We Ani and Zachariah Smith are both have been eliminated from the competition. The “American Idol” Season 21 three-hour finale will air live on May 21.