Just one night after revealing its Top 20 contestants, based on 33 million votes cast by viewers, “American Idol” returned on April 24, 2023, with its first live episode of Season 21. Host Ryan Seacrest announced the previous night that 10 of the contestants would be determined by viewer votes cast overnight and that celebrity judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie would choose the final two singers to complete the Top 12.
Seacrest also announced during the show that the Top 12 would all receive a special perk: a trip to the Stagecoach Music Festival, a huge country music event in Southern California, with front-row tickets to see Bryan perform there on April 28.
During Tuesday’s episode, each contestant performed a solo, though some had to “sing for survival,” Seacrest said. Throughout the night, he individually called members of the Top 20 to center stage, informing them whether they had advanced to the Top 12 or were in the “danger zone,” meaning they would need to impress the judges enough with their performance to earn one of the final two spots.
Spoiler Alert: If you do not want to know who made it into the Top 12 and who was sent home, do not continue reading past this point.
Meet Your ‘American Idol’ Top 12
The following 10 contestants were voted through by viewers online, via text or via the “American Idol” phone app.
Wé Ani, 24, from Harlem, New York: Ani, who was the last contestant to earn a spot in Monday’s night’s Top 20 reveal, was the first singer to be told she’d made the Top 12. Since each contestant was prepared to sing a new song for the judges and live audience, she performed “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack.
Warren Peay, 24, from Bamberg, South Carolina: Peay sang “It’s Not My Time” by 3 Doors Down. When Seacrest told him he seemed “so relaxed tonight,” Peay said he was actually “sweatin’ bullets.”
Haven Madison, 17, from Clarksville, Tennessee: Madison sang her original tune “15,” which she performed when she originally auditioned for the judges and has since released as an independent single.
Tyson Venegas, 17, from Vancouver, British Columbia: After singing an original tune to earn his spot in the Top 12, Venegas opted for the Elton John classic “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” After performing, he was nearly speechless when Seacrest asked him how he was doing, and then blurted out that he was “relieved.”
Colin Stough, 18, from Amory, Mississippi: After hearing Bryan tell him he needs to believe in himself even more, the small-town country singer told Seacrest that he was beginning to trust that he could be a star. He doubled over in surprise, though, when Seacrest informed him he was in the Top 12 and then went on to sing a country version of “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn. Bryan ran up onto the stage and gave Stough a huge hug afterward. Perry then told him, “Colin, one moment can change your life and that was the moment!”
Marybeth Byrd, 22, from Armorel, Arkansas: Clearly relieved that her original song, “People Pleaser,” had impressed viewers enough to vote her through, Byrd thanked the audience and then sang Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up.” Cameras panned to her family, tearing up in the audience, and to the judges as they gave her a standing ovation.
Oliver Steele, 25, from Mount Juliet, Tennessee: Fans were smitten with Steele’s original tune performed the night before and the story of his dad’s recent hospitalization, so they voted him through. When Seacrest told him he could go out and just sing for fun, knowing he was in the Top 12, Steele performed “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain. After singing, Steele admitted that he keeps second-guessing himself and his ability to do well in the competition but said, “I think it’s time for that to stop.”
Iam Tongi, 18, from Kahuku, Hawaii: After hearing he’d been voted through to the Top 12, Tongi delighted the judges, who danced as he played one of Richie’s hits, “Stuck On You,” in his own laid-back style. Richie ran up onto the stage to give Tongi a hug after the performance.
Zachariah Smith, 20, from Amory, Mississippi: After a huge sigh of relief following the news that he’d made it through, Smith put his own spin on Toto’s “Hold the Line.” When Seacrest asked what they can look forward to with him in the competition, Smith said he was looking forward to just being himself, which Perry celebrated from behind the judges’ desk.
Megan Danielle, 21, from Douglasville, Georgia: After being surprised by superstar “Idol” alum Lauren Daigle during her initial audition, Danielle performed her song “Thank God I Do” after learning she had earned enough votes to advance in the competition. She said she was “shaking” after performing, grateful for the opportunity to continue.
The final two contestants in the Top 12 were chosen at the end of the show by the judges. Richie announced the first one to move forward, saying it had been the “hardest decision” because it’s the “most talented class we have ever had.” He then announced the first person they’d chosen as Lucy Love, 28, from Holly Grove, Arkansas.
Appearing serious and focused, the single mom had performed Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and the crowd kept cheering her name afterward. Richie said she loved her “game face” and Love said she was feeling “great, feeling ecstatic.”
Perry and Bryan announced the last person in the Top 12 as Nutsa, 26, from Tbilisi, Georgia. The singer, who hails from the country of Georgia, had sung “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls after being placed in the “danger zone.” Bryan told her she “knocked that out of the park” and that her entire journey has been inspiring.
To announce her inclusion in the Top 12, Bryan and Perry yelled, “We’re nuts for Nutsa!”
Which Contestants Were Placed in the ‘Danger Zone’ and Ultimately Sent Home?
The following contestants were placed in the so-called “danger zone” for not receiving enough votes and, after the judges made their final decisions, were ultimately sent home.
Michael Williams, 21, from Mason, Ohio: Williams sang his rendition of “golden hour” by JVKE. The judges were given little time for feedback, but Perry quipped that she thought anyone who did not vote for him did so because they were “jealous” of him. “That’s all I have to say,” she said.
Hannah Nicolaisen, 24, from Houston, Texas: Nicolaisen sang “Royals” by Lorde, which Richie told her was the “right song” with the “right energy.” She told Seacrest that she’s learned “song choice is so helpful” and that she wanted to sing about “taking on the moment.”
Mariah Faith, 22, from Conway, South Carolina: After Faith sang “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” by The Steeldrivers, Bryan praised her energy and presence by saying, “Way to show up after heartbreaking news.” He added that he thought her song choice the previous night had likely cost her votes but that she’d come back strong.
Nailyah Serenity, 22, from Charlotte, North Carolina: Serenity, who works as an astrologer when she’s not singing, performed Sia’s “Alive.” Perry told her, “You bring the soul to this show,” adding, “you know what’s written in the stars” and then called her a “true star.”
Paige Anne, 16, from Idaho Falls, Idaho: The high school student had been eliminated from the show once already but was brought back by the judges after Top 26 contestant Max Beckett dropped out. To try to continue to stick around in the competition, Paige Anne sang “I Am” by P!nk. Richie told her she deserves to be at the “front of the class.” The teen said that even if she didn’t go through, she was still extremely grateful for the opportunity.
Matt Wilson, 21, from Buffalo, New York: A favorite of the judges since his audition, Wilson sang “For Tonight” by Giveon, which he has performed on the show previously. Clearly surprised he hadn’t been voted through to the top 10, Bryan said, “You know I love you and I’m sorry you are in this spot, you have to sing for your life,” adding that he did a great job with that tune again.
Kaeyra, 21, from Algonquin, Illinois: Despite Perry having given her an “A+” the night before, viewers did not vote Kaeyra through to the next round. She sang “If I Were Your Woman” by Gladys Knight & The Pips and Seacrest noted that she did not get distracted by a fly buzzing around the stage during her performance. Perry noticed, too, and gave her another top grade.
Olivia Soli, 21, from Los Angeles: Dressed head to toe in purple, the powerhouse singer performed “God is a woman” by Ariana Grande. Bryan said he and his fellow judges were all stunned she hadn’t been voted through, noting that she was one of the greatest voices he’s heard in his “six years sitting behind this desk.”
On April 30, the “American Idol” Top 12 will perform during a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-themed night, with the Top 10 revealed the following night.