American Idol 2018 Finale Recap – Top 3 Live Blog (VIDEOS)

Tonight on American Idol the Top 3 sing THREE songs as they vye to win the crown. The singers will reprise a song they have already performed, sing a Hometown Dedication and perform brand new original single. Also, clips of each singer’s hometown visit will be aired. 

For these final two shows, it’s back to ET/PT viewing and overnight voting. The winner will be announced tomorrow at 9 pm ET/PT (May 21) at the end of the American Idol 2018 Grand Finale

American Idol 2018 Top 3 Power List – Ranking the Contestants
American Idol 2018 Song Spoilers: Top 3 Winners Single and More

Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan have NO say on which singer takes it all. It’s up to America who stays and who goes.  

Voting rules!

Put your hands together for YOUR JUDGES! Katy is blond again, continuing to cosplay. This week she’s doing a Marilyn Monroe thing.  

Reminder: You have until 9 am ET tomorrow to vote for your favorites. The Winners Singles round is first! The kids drew numbers to determine performance order.

Caleb Lee Hutchison – Johnny Cash Heart written by by James Slater, Jay DeMarcus & Kat Higgins –  Bobby Bones mentors this round. Caleb shares that he decided to lose weight after some close relatives passed. He wears his great uncle’s dog tags. He bought Caleb his first musical instrument and always supported his dreams. Caleb feels he was born to perform music. And once again, Bobby’s actual “mentoring” is minimal.

Oops. Caleb misses his cue. No big deal. Honestly, I think this song–written by members of Rascal Flatts–is the most commercial of all the singles. It’s a good fit for his deep resonant voice as well.  However, Caleb’s flow is off. Maybe that missed cue rattled him. Caleb is at his best when he stops thinking and allows himself to feel the music. “Welcome to the music business,” says Lionel. Katy likes the chord changes and melody, but feels Caleb has to personally embody the song. Ohhh. She’s definitely laying on the criticism. She thinks it’s the “weakest of all his performances she’s ever seen.” Luke notes that he seems “tight.” He says, “Just relax!” It wasn’t his worst performance by far! But he definitely seemed nervous and maybe a tad under rehearsed up there.  

Next, it’s a Macy’s sponsored clip of the Top 3 oohing and ahhing as they climb into the private jet that will take them home. They open boxes full of new clothes once they are settled. 

Gabby Barrett –  Rivers Deep by Andrew Goldstein, Jessica Karpov, Evan Bogart, Emanuel Kiriakou & Ella Henderson – Gabby thinks she’s capable of winning. Bobby wonders what she’ll do if she DOESN’T win. She’ll move to Nashville. She reiterates that she wants to be a COUNTRY star. Bobby makes her repeat this out loud. The biggest criticism she’s gotten on line? That she has tried to copy Carrie Underwood. She wants to bring her family to Nashville with her, particularly her dad. Bobby tells her that she’s gotta cut the cord. Move, get an apartment, and live all the struggles of a young artist.

This song was written with a feature in mind. If she had a rapper to do the pre chorus, it might not be so jarring? The verse and chorus is hella catchy though. The song gives her an opportunity to show off her R&B chops. I would have expected her to work the stage more? It seems like it’s all she can do to remember the song! Also, I still don’t know who she is as an artist. This song choice does not tell me. Katy calls it a “really cool” song and thinks they are all getting their own bearings on their own songs. Luke says that it reminds him of putting out his own single. He felt she wasn’t entirely comfortable with the song (like Caleb) but she got in the swing by the end. Lionel says always choose a song from the stage back. It has to be comfortable to perform live. He feels she didn’t become comfortable until the wind machine started blowing. Heh.  Poor Gabby seems really confused by these very mixed remarks. No wonder, the judges comments have been toothless since the lives began.

Maddie Poppe – Going Going Gone by Mitch Allan, Lindy Robbins & Julia Michaels – Bobby is wondering if she’s willing to play concerts for free.  He must be talking about radio tours, where the artist basically plays gratis for radio play.  Her American Idol experience has given her confidence, Maddie says. “I didn’t believe in myself at all.” That America and the judges accepted her meant everything.

Ryan chats for a minute with Maddie’s dad. Oh. Julia Michaels is also from Iowa. Maddie needs a big gospel choir behind her for this one! Ha. The live version is definitely better than the original, although Maddie’s performance feels lackluster. I kept waiting for a BIG moment, and it never came.  Luke says Maddie felt the most comfortable, “I could relax watching you.” Lionel says now she’s in the salesmanship business. And he agrees with Luke. And so does Katy. She calls Idol a “bubble.” She says the “big leagues” are a real business. “We’re going to keep pushing you.” Also she thinks it’s the best of the three songs.  It’s ironic that Maddie always talks about her insecurity, but she always seems so comfortable in her skin on stage–even here. She says she only rehearsed the song twice today.

Lionel says he saw MASSIVE discomfort in this first round. “Fake it!” he insists. “Fake it until you make it,” says Katy.  A trip back home right in the middle of the contestants’ week broke their routine and took precious rehearsal time away. That time was crucial, considering they had brand new songs to learn. I agree that Maddie’s performance was the best of the round. However, it certainly wasn’t near her personal best. 

Bobby is on stage with Ryan pimping his new book and insists that the judges were a little harsh! Other than Caleb messing up, he felt they did pretty good. Also, the AUDIENCE is learning the new songs as well. Bobby mentions that the three were rattled by the judges critiques. When the judges suddenly change course and begin being honest, of course they’re rattled. 

Reprise Round is next!

Caleb Lee Hutchinson – Don’t Close Your Eyes by Keith Whitley – Back in his comfort zone, Caleb can relax enough to delivery an assured, emotional performance. Solid job from Caleb. Lionel says his voice is his stamp of approval. “Put that voice out front of everything.” Katy calls it “light years difference,” to his first performance. “I’m really proud of you.” Katy “respectfully disagrees with Bobby.” She’s always going to be honest because she wants them to succeed. “Welcome to the music business,” says Luke, noting the ups and downs coming his way. “Good job,” he says. 

Gabby Barrett – Little Red Wagon by Miranda Lambert – Gabby does her thing, working the stage, showing us what kind of country singer she could be. Soul with a country twang. She plays off the crowd and musicians. Over the course of the season, this song was one of her best performances. “There she is!” says Katy. She thinks the reprise shows obvious growth. “Next time you wear fringe I want to see it move!” Luke says she should have let it out even more. Gabby gave them a preview of a hair flip. Lionel says, “Ain’t comfortable wonderful? I saw relaxation. You’re owning the stage. Sell your goods my dear.” Gabby says the new songs were nerve wracking for all of them. They did not want to mess up the words. Aw. Cade is in green room. She gives him a big hug!

Maddie Poppe – Don’t Ever Let Your Children Grow Up (Original) – It’s a bit of a risk to pull out an ORIGINAL song from Hollywood Week. But it’s smart. The pick says “I’m an artist” and shows that she knows exactly who she is.  Maddie accompanies herself on guitar. It’s a spare arrangement with some background vocals. This may be the first time a contestant’s original song was performed during the finale? Maddie will write better songs in the future, but she’s comfortable and in fine voice here.  Luke was happy to hear the song again–even if he couldn’t remember quite when it was sung. “Quintessential Maddie Poppe” he calls it. “It’s owning your style,” says Lionel, “Welcome back. You have to love you.” Katy loves that she took a risk and that she wants to show off that she’s a “fully fledged artist…at least the world knows that you are as authentic as heck.” Maddie says she’s most excited about the last song. 

Katy thinks Maddie killed the first round, Caleb the second round. And she’s waiting for Gabby to do a full-on take over in the next round. She pulls no punches, calling the first round a “full on disaster.” But they did get their confidence back for the second, she says. She’s ready to see why they made the Top 3 in this last round. WOW. Suddenly the judges are actually judging. It’s so disconcerting. 

OH HAI SCOTT BORCHETTA! The former American Idol mentor (season 14 and 15) is in the audience!

American Idol set itself apart this season by allowing contestants to sing original songs at all stages of the competition. Next, it’s a group of contestants performing a medley of their self-penned tunes.  First, Harper Grace sings “Yard Sale.” How was she eliminated at Top 50? This gal has talent. Scott should scoop her up. Johnny Brenns is next, performing “Blue Jeans.” He’s very comfortable singing his own songs. When he’s got it together, he’s an interesting artist–just needs more experience. Now, Michelle Sussett sings “I’m a Dreamer.” This isn’t a particularly strong song. Also, she sounds a little hoarse and pitchy. And last but not least, Catie Turner performs her most excellent original song “21st Century Machine.” Somebody sign her already. C’mon. 

Hometown visits are next! Love me some hometown visits

Caleb Lee Hutchinson – Dallas Georgia – Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash –  Caleb is up bright and early. He heads to the radio station first. Next, his high school from which he only graduated last year. He admits that he wasn’t exactly popular in high school and it’s really crazy “how quick you go from nothing to everything.” Then he heads home and reunites with his doggo. Aw. Dad notes that it’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to Dallas Georgia. If Caleb is happy, he’s happy! Parade is next! The Mayor declares Caleb Lee Hutchison day. He heads to Atlanta to throw the first pitch at a Braves game. 

The song gives Caleb an opportunity to show off his deep voice. He hits those low low notes beautifully. It’s a jaunty song! He plays off the guitar player. His comfort level has improved considerably here. He hits his stride on the last verse, kicking it up a notch. Lionel says, “Now you’re in your wheelhouse…that is your comfort zone. You were just as convincing as hell.” Katy notes that he’s a big deal! “I loved watching what you just performed. You just invited us in.” Luke says he had fun watching him go back to their shared state, Georgia. “Congratulations man.”

Gabby Barrett – Don’t Stop Believing by Journey – Whoo hoo! Gabby heads to the Steel City, the place of her birth. AND MINE. I’m kinda excited for this one.  Is there a more beautiful skyline than Pittsburgh? OK I am biased, I admit. Aw. Her mom is crying. Her grandma Ginger is wearing a homemade T shirt. She sings a little duet with Grandpa. The reunion with her family is very emotional. Next, she heads to Goodwill where her dad worked as a maintenance man. Gabby cries all the way through the parade. When she’s surprised by her gospel choir the waterworks really begin. Next, she heads to the Rivers Casino just north of downtown. She performs a little concert for her fans. Fireworks! 

Man. Gabby has chosen a REALLY difficult song. However, she does hit those massive notes! Her range is insane. Should she have picked a country song for her cover? If she wants to be a country singer like she says over and over again, I think yes. Props to her taking on a challenging song, even if she didn’t bring anything new to it. She hit those high notes–especially at the end. But there were a few dicey moments–like when she awkwardly pointed the mic at the audience.  OH WOW STEVE PERRY IS IN THE AUDIENCE. This dude is FAMOUSLY reclusive. “She was amazing” he says. Whoo boy. Dragging in Perry to give her the stamp of approval? I think the producers want her to win. Gabby runs out to the audience to give him a big hug. “It’s the most amazing version I have ever heard,” he says. Really Steve? Really? Whoops. No time for critiques now! 

So…did the producers invite Stevie Nicks to watch Gabby perform? (Nope).

Maddie Poppe – Clarksville IA – Landslide by Fleetwood Mac – Maddie says there were so many moments when she wanted to give up. She graduated with 22 kids in her high school class.  The gymnasium is filled with elementary school kids–they sing “Rainbow Connection” with her. Back home, she sings “Amazing Grace” with her family. Then, the streets of Clarksville are filled with people for her parade. The mayor declares “Maddie Poppe Day.” “I’ve cried so much today,” she admits. Maddie performed for over 10,000 people that day. 

Ohh. This is cover of Landslide is lovely. Maddie’s subtle phrasing is gorgeous. She changes the melody just enough to make it her own. This is so pretty. And she’s totally in the moment. Her best performance of the night. Ha. She smacks her on with the mic. Katy is basically, “Get used to it.” Luke says,  ‘That’s why I signed up for this,” And Katy slyly adds, “I’me voting for you.” Ooh. SAME KATY SAME.

About mj santilli 30189 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!