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American Idol - Top 7: Disney Night/Mother's Day


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Happy Mother's Day and to all the Moms and all those working on the front-lines, you are truly our American Idols. So we would be delighted if you would do the honors. This is American Idol!


Our national heroes, thank you once again. We have a magical night tonight as we celebrate the beloved Disney songbook. Our contestants, along with Chris Pooley and the band, have worked together from their homes to bring some unforgettable performances to you. Plus, the contestants have some emotional Mothers' Day dedications lined up. But first, please welcome our judges, Lionel Ritchie, Luke Bryan and dressed like Mrs. Jumbo from Dumbo this week, Katy Perry! 


Only 7 of your Top 11 will get to sing tonight, and voting will open after all the artists have performed. Tonight, you will decide who competes in the Grand Finale next week. No time to waste, let's get to it. On the screen are Jovin Webb, Louis Knight, Makayla Phillips, Francisco Martin, Sophia James, Dillon James, Arthur Gunn, Julia Gargano, Grace Leer, Just Sam and Jonny West. One by one, I'll be naming who you voted into your Top 7, America.


In no particular order, after the nationwide vote, the first person into the Top 7 is...   Arthur Gunn!


Arthur those who voted for him and says this is beyond his wildest dreams. Singing Kiss The Girl from The Little Mermaid, his living room has been turned into an underwater paradise complete with hidden (or sitting) Mickey. His vocal is a unique arrangement of this classic ballad, full and happy, up tempo and leveraging all his talents. A fun start to Disney night. Katy says he looks relaxed and cool and engaged, it was like we were on the beach with him. Luke says you transitioned from a soft-spoken, quiet guy to a truly massive recording artist. Lionel says anything you sing will have the Arthur Gunn stamp on it and that's the most important thing, to sell your style, your identity.


Let's jump  back into your results. After the nationwide vote, the next person into your Top 7 is, America, is...   Just Sam! 


Just Sam says she did her own makeup just like Auntie Katy. From Cinderella, she sings A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes. With a little video effect, Just Sam channels the multi-planar camera to place her in a fairy tale kingdom as she sings this classic Disney anthem, Bert, Mert & Luke dancing around. Her voice is strong and confident, as if she has sung this thousands of times. This was no longer Just Sam, the confident young woman who has come to believe that her dream has come true. 


Luke says she is deserving of Top 7, your voice holds up at every level of her range. Just Sam says as a kid, she always dreamed of a Cinderella moment growing up and it feels like it has come true. Lionel says it is absolutely priceless that you just said "as a kid," because you are our kid - we you walked in the door not quite sure of anything and we watched you grow up right in front of us, and now you have America and the world voting for you, not Just Sam, but Sam.  Katy says I love hearing Disney songs that hold special places in our hearts, like when you gave it a little gas towards the end, I wanted more. Millions have already fallen in love with you - you are already a star. Jennifer Hudson came in 7th, and she got an Oscar. 


Let's find out who's one step close to being the next American Idol. After the nationwide vote, that person is...   Jonny West!


I'm in, Jonny calls to his family, hanging in the next room. "Go, Go, Jonny, Go Go Go" says Katy. I am very moved, Jonny says, before beginning his performance of Almost There from The Princess and the Frog. Originated by Tiana, Jonny claims this as his own, with his white wall serving as an animation screen, delivering a laid back take on this entrepreneurial song. His voice has a bit of Ray's New Orleans twang, but the arrangement is missing a the swagger of the Big Easy. Beautiful vocal, but I think it missed the soul of the song.


Lionel says he's their casual assassin, makes it look so effortless. Katy says he is a concoction of Billy Joel, Randy Newman, and Paul Simon. Good on you staying true to yourself with the correct song. Luke says Disney Night forces people down a path they are not used to and I just kept thinking this guy is just a pro, an artist who delivers. Way to pick the right song. 


Let's find out who else has made it into your Top 7. After the nationwide vote, the next person to make it through is...   Louis Knight! 


Louis wishes his mom Happy Mother's Day as his family mobs him on his back porch. Singing Can You Feel The Love Tonight from The Lion King, Simba delivers a picture perfect performance, his voice producing a magical moment full of the sincerity and honesty of a Boy Band Disney Star. I wasn't quite sold on the arrangement, however, and his vocal was missing that tender, emotional connection the song so naturally conveys.


Katy says she got lost in the performance thinking about his future in the next 10 years when he's a massive star reflecting on when he performed in his backyard in front of a ring light, on an iPhone, to nobody. What a time to be alive. Lean in vocally to your next performance. Lionel says he loves the tenderness but it got a little linear about 3/4 into the song. Lionel says normally you can feed off a crowd, but it's difficult to stay on the mark with just your neighbors around you, and you kind of drifted off the mark at times. It's just a matter of focus - just lean forward.


Four spots taken, three remain. After the nationwide vote, the next name to be called to make it into the Top 7 is...  Julia Gargano!


This is insane, Julia says as she gets kisses from her mom and brother. Singing Beauty and the Beast from, you guessed it, Beauty and the Beast, the arrangement is jazzed up a little, more R&B in a deep vocal, not really punching the big notes but powering through the performance, not Dame Angela Lansbury or Emma Thompson but Julia Gargano. Luke says the song was a little low in her range, but she still owned those moments. Chuck (Luke's dog) approved too. Lionel says if you're going to stay low, concentrate on your lower register; the performance was amazing but on this song, the lows did not compliment you as well. Once you got to your mid and highs, off to the races. I call her Julai Gargorgeous, Katy says, because her voice sounds Gargorgeous. The star quality is already at a 10, super soulful, I agree with Luke and Lionel but you're a star no matter what happens.  


We're up to more results. After the nationwide vote, the next person into the Top 7 is...   Francisco Martin!


Francisco can barely breath to thank everyone so much for their votes. Singing You'll Be In My Heart from Tarzan, Disney's magical editors have put him in the middle of the forest in his home as he channels his inner Phil Collins with a straight forward, humble rock-a-lullaby. At times, it feels like the animation around him is reacting to his solid vocal performance, which just added to the joy and familiarity of his vocal. 


Lionel says we are witnessing the transformation of Francisco. I saw several times during that performance you were actually smiling at yourself, giving us your confidence and enjoyment and we love to see that as an audience. I did have fun shooting that, Francisco admits, Katy says that was amazing, you looked relaxed, all that self doubt stripped away, and what you gave us at the end was kind of what I wanted from Luis Knight (Luke gives out a whistle of "wow"), this is a competition, only one idol, you were spot on and then let us have it at the end with the talent of your voice. Luke says you were king of the jungle and king of American Idol. 


One Idol journey continues and for four, the journey comes to an end. Let's go. After the nationwide vote, the final person to make it into the Top 7 is...   Dillon James!


That means we say goodbye to Jovin Webb, Makayla Phillips, Sophia James and Grace Lear.  Dillon is genuinely shocked as Mom thanks America for him. Dillon sings Our Town from Cars, an unexpected choice, but perfect for him as he delivers postcard perfect lament of a town time passed by, drawing on his country rasp, offering up an honest and emotional vocal and body performance that could have run during the end credits of the movie.


Katy says he took everything they said last week and applied it magnificently.I was engaged in the performance; you were making love to the camera. It was so sincere and beautiful. Luke says there were dynamics in there, it was emotional, it was great from top to bottom. Lionel says you are a storyteller. I wasn't thinking about the notes, I was watching you tell us a story like a true artist. 


Voting is now open for your Top 7. Who will get to sing for the title of American Idol? Text one of these numbers to 21523: 5 for Louis Knight, 12 for Francisco Martin, 15 for Dillon James, 16 for Arthur Gunn, 17 for Julia Gargano, 19 for Just Sam and 20 for Dillon West. Voting closes at 9am ET on 5/11, so west coasters should vote tonight unless they are getting up before 6am!


Now we wrap up our celebration of Disney music with a very special performance by a bayou boy who won the hearts of America when he walked away with the Idol crown last year, with Life Is A Highway from Cars, here's last year's Idol winner, Lane Hardy!


We check in next with mentor Bobby Bones who says for their Mother's Day dedications, the contestants need to connect with songs that mean something to them. It is time to shower their mothers with love on American Idol!


Happy Mother's Day to all the moms, grandmoms, aunts and moms-to-be, Katy, because this time next year, this holiday will have a whole new meaning to you. Katy has changed from her elephant suit to a mom suit. I don't know exactly what it means to be a mother yet, she says, but I'm stepping into the next level. She shows off her baby bump and says she's kickin' too, especially when the performances are good. So be good but not too good, because it's painful! 


We have asked the contestants to dedicate a song to their mother or a mother figure in their lives. First up, Arthur Gunn sits next to his mom, Maiya on the couch, and says she is the sweetest, most amazing person. I am forever grateful to have you as my mom, Arthur reads from a letter, and I feel very blessed about it. You are not only a mother, you are one of the most beautiful creations on the earth. She is very happy and proud he is on American Idol. I am forever grateful for all you have done for me, he concludes. 


Singing Hey, Ma (Bon Iver) with his parents sitting off to the side, Arthur delivers has trademark big volume vocal, full of soul and passion, looking at his mother and smiling during the chorus. This is so far from the young Arthur Gunn we first saw audition, he could be performing in front of hundreds in a coffee house, or thousands in an auditorium or arena, his voice strong and joyous. Mom gives him a big hug. Luke says when you get to that high part of your voice, it's such a natural, signature sound. You're spoiling us. Lionel says you could sing the phone book and that's a compliment - whatever you sing sounds like Arthur Gunn. Katy says I got my triangle tissue, that was so beautiful, a beautiful indie-folk song that is your genre, you make me believe you are a professional touring musician.


Next up is an emotional dedication from Just Sam. I was 6yrs old when my grandmother (Elizabeth) adopted me and my sister, she says, she is my shelter in the storm. My mother was in jail for most of my life, and my grandmother would dress us up and take us to wherever she was incarcerated. Having to leave her after each Sunday visit hurt. She cries, as the memories flood in. My grandmother loves me like any mother would love their daughter. I really miss her (Just Sam is in Los Angeles to protect her grandmother, rather than returning home to be with her). Grandma sent a surprise video message to Just Sam telling her how proud she is of how much Sam has grown and she is doing in the competition. Just keep believing in God and let people keep seeing the beautiful smile that you have.


Singing I Turn To You (Christina Aguilera), her opening notes seem to be trying to find the pitch, and her vocal seems a little nervous, but her smile is big and her voice is as pure as the power note she hits midway through. Lionel says she's the angel in the group, not an easy life, but wherever she goes, he'll be Papa Lionel for the rest of her like, Luke and Katy too. That was just one more step closer to being Sam the Star. Katy says no longer Just Sam, you have an incredible story and have shown incredible growth with your talent, victory in your voice. Luke says her midrange is smooth as butter and she left a rover-mark on us and the little girls she inspires week after week. Anyone can do it, Just Sam says.


This next dedication comes from Jonny West to his biggest fan, Michelle. She is a saint, he says, his biggest supporter. He added his own verses to the original Amazing Grace in his song to make the song reflective of how he sees his mom. She was adopted and taken into a stranger's home, and it's by her amazing grace that he's even there. He is packing up his stuff and moving to Marietta to spend the rest of quarantine at home with his parents - a surprise to his mom. Foregoing social distancing, they embrace warmly. I couldn't ask for a better mother's day present, Michelle says, than having my Jonny Boy home. 


With his mom sitting by his side and his piano turned into an organ, Jonny takes us to church with a personal performance, new lyrics making this a song heard by millions but sung to only one. His vocal lives in his upper register, bringing an emotional sincerity and truth. His mom and grandmom both come over to offer their positive judgments. 


Katy says he's so original, so talented, a lot like Alejandro but definitely his own star. I think you should win, but if you don't, you'll have the biggest career. That's the craziest thing I've ever heard, Jonny says humbly. Luke says the added lyrics were just great, god-given songwriting talents, you capture every bit of my attention and that's an important thing. Lionel says you are a songwriter. I don't know many who could write a Mother's Day verse to Amazing Grace, a challenge even for me. You have a future in the business. We are so glad you came to the University of American Idol to get your Confirmation.


Next, Louis Knight celebrates his mom, Amanda. I was definitely a mommy's boy, and Mom bought me my first piano when I was 14. I would not be here if she had not done that. It was very apparent at an early age, Amanda says, that he head a love of singing. This Idol experience has only brought us closer. She has been there for every single performance - there's is no greater joy than seeing a child doing exactly what they love doing and being good at it. After serving her breakfast, he has written her a letter: You've instilled in me the desire to wake up every morning thinking how can I be the best version of myself today. These are the things I've learned from you and will carry the rest of my life. Love you to the moon and back. 


Louis dedicates You've Got A Friend (Carol King & James Taylor) to his mom. His voice cracks with emotion as he steals glances at his crying mother as he performs, his vocal dripping with feeling, delivering power notes with ease. Yeah, man, Lionel says, way to go. Luke says on the Disney song I wanted more dynamics in your voice and in this song, you gave them all to me - great placement of emotion in the lyrics, my favorite performance of yours since Quarantine. Lionel tells Louis' mom Happy Mothers Day and he mistakenly passes on Happy Birthday. Mom corrects him live. Lionel says that's exactly what you needed to do, simple and heartfelt. Katy says he made her cry, gave them the wingspan they were looking for.


Next, Julia shares a special moment from the heart with her mother, Jeanne. Mom is hilarious, affectionate and a role model. From the time she was little, they did everything together and it brought them closer. She has arranges a super-secret surprise for her mom, a car parade. I am forever grateful, she reads to her mom, for every laugh, cry, argument, every moment that we share. So much of me is you. She is not only her mom, but also her stage hand, wardrobe, makeup, promoter, Julia can't imagine doing any of this without her mom by he side.


Singing Sweetest Devotion (Adele) to her mom, Jeanne. With mom holding her hand as the notes begin, a heart glowing on the neighbor's roof behind her, Julia jumps into her performance, a strong, confident chip off the block, delivering a powerful, heartfelt vocal, joyful in the moment, taking Mom's hand again as the lyrics describe what her mom means to her. She takes a deep breath at the end as Mom breaks into tears. 


When moms cry, I cry, Katy says, it's like looking into a mirror. Your relationship is beautiful and one I look forward to with my own daughter. I love how your voice expands from ballads to pop songs to classic songs, this will be a fantastic launching pad for you, so get ready. When they let us lose, you are going to fly, girl. What a crazy thing to hear, Julia says. Happy Mother's Day, Jeanne says to Katy. Luke says this performance was just bad-ass. It was delivered like you owned it, every emotion you can go through as a mother, he tells Jeanne, hold your head high. Lionel says that's the first time I've heard you ride the pocket, giving us attitude, not thinking about the song but delivering the song, you believed it and were in the moment.


Here's how much his mom, Fatima, means to Francisco Martin. It is also his mother's birthday so he makes her breakfast, and delivers his love letter. Dear Mom, she reads, or should I say superwoman, because that's who you are to me. Not only are you heroic, you are loving, caring and the most important person in my crazy life. She's always there for us, he say, putting a smile on our face, especially me when I was going through a lot when I was a teen. I remember when I was going through a rough patch, Mom continues, and you were so worried for me. I wouldn't leave my room for days and you were always there to comfort me. You did everything in your power to see a smile on my face. That's what mothers are for but you are more than that. You care for others, working diligently on the front lines (at the Laguna Honda Hospital) with that beautiful smile.


With his mother Fatima in front of him, Francisco picks up his guitar and belts out River (Leon Bridges), giving his mother and the audience a soulful, intimate vocal, a smile for every happy tear his mom wipes from her face. His voice integrates seamlessly with the recording from the band, as if they together in the same room. From singing Tarzan to River, Katy says, what happened? You've grown even more. This set of Mother's Day songs is really separating the pack and you are making it difficult for the others, that was so soulful and beautiful, real and heartfelt. 

Luke says he beat the original record, that was better than the actual song, from the first note, I would buy that right now. Lionel says when I say BBQ Sauce, that's what I'm talking about. Your confidence is front and center, you're no longer in your head, it's all about your delivery. We've come a long way from Sun River, Francisco says. Tell me about it, replies Lionel, we were checking your pulse! You have a career and we saw it happen here on American Idol..


The last performance and dedication comes from Dillon James to his mother, Lindy. She's done so much more for me than I could ever imagine, he says. He hands her his heartfelt letter. I was with him on his journey the last 5 years, she says, I saw the lows and how far he's come. I'm writing this letter to the most wonderful woman I've ever known in my life, she reads, you are my best friend, the person I can tell anything to, my other half. You have always been a real mother to me, but I have not always been a true son to you. That's not true, Lindy whispers. You guided me back to myself, to a new life, and for that I can never repay. But I can start by being the son you always deserved. Dillon tears up as his mom reads, I wanted you to know you saved my life. You saved me. 


Singing Hang On, Hang On (Amos Lee) by an open fire pit next to a swimming pool, the performance brings in the band in a way we hadn't seen yet tonight, with pictures of Katy tearing up. The vocal is emotional, honest and full of feeling, the joy of singing on his face, his detour over, his life back on the track it was destined to be. Mom says thank you for singing my song. 


Luke tells Dillon he has been really vocal about his struggles in life, and to get through to the other side, to be able to look at your mother, I can't imagine how many sleepless nights she's had (Many, Lindy says), and her love got you through it. But the bottom line is you just did a great performance, and you are going to go far, no matter what number you wind up finishing at. It means everything hearing that from you, Dillon says. Lionel says there are kids out there struggling like you did, trying to figure out how to come out of that tunnel, and you are a fabulous inspiration to them and to us. This is the best of the best you have done. It's a dream, Dillon says, to be surrounded by family and then to have American Idol in my backyard. My life seems like make believe right now. 


Katy tells Dillon you could tell you were coming out of a really dark place and fighting it, but look so much lighter and freer, a beautiful story of your mother saying just come back, I will always be here. Isn't that the definition of a mother? Good for you for making this performance about her. You can be pretty much lost, Dillon says, and if you have people around you who love you, you can still ask for help. I'm so grateful, Lindy says, that you see him the way I do.


Next week is the Grand Finale where we will name our next American Idol with great music and performances. See you then!

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