'American Idol' Recap: Top 5 Revealed After a Night of Prince Songs (Critic's Take)

Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Maddie Poppe, Cade Foehner, Gabby Barrett & Michael J. Woodard
ABC/Eric McCandless

Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Maddie Poppe, Cade Foehner, Gabby Barrett & Michael J. Woodard

This could very well be this year’s most jam-packed episode of American Idol yet. First thing to unpack from Sunday (May 6) night: Ryan Seacrest announces that ABC has picked up the series for another season. So let that sink in. He also confirms that all contestants who made the Top 7 will be going on tour this summer.

Ahead of all that, the seven remaining singers are tasked with singing two songs: one from the Prince catalog and one from the year they were born. For the former, celebrated percussionist and singer Sheila E., who collaborated numerous times with the Purple One, is on stage to perform with the band. Additionally, Nick Jonas mentors the gang through their birth year selections.

By the way, Cade Foehner, who was born in 1996, is the elder of remaining contestants, in case anyone needed a reminder that there’s always someone younger and prettier behind you on the staircase. The youngest of the bunch are Gabby Barrett and Catie Turner, each born in 2000.

The final item worth noting is that Katy Perry, who previously showed up dressed as Snow White for Disney Week, is donning a black wig atop her blonde pixie cut that’s reminiscent of, well, 2008-era Katy Perry. Seated between fellow judges Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, she looks as if she’s carrying the torch for dearly departed Ada Vox.


The Top 7 is soon to be the Top 5 by the end of tonight, and this just feels like the right time for Jurnee to take her leave. Granted, she kicks the show off by belting out Prince’s “Kiss,” and it’s the best she’s ever sounded. She even wore purple boots for the occasion! However, for her birth year song, she goes with Brian McKnight’s “Back at One,” and it’s sadly back to blah.

Nick Jonas tells Jurnee during rehearsals that she has a real opportunity to win. (Oh, Nick.) But she overdoes an already bland ballad with far too many runs. I’ll be astonished if she’s still around when the clock strikes 10 p.m.

Gabby Barrett

Back in 2000, there was a kickass remix of Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” by Brian Rawling, who was part of the Metro production team that whipped up hits for Cher and Enrique Iglesias. It sounded like a cross between “Believe” and “Be With You.” Ah, the salad days.

Alas, Gabby does not go with said mix. Rather, she opts for Womack’s tried and true ballad version (yawn), and it’s another technically perfect performance from Idol’s resident country gal. More exciting is her Prince selection, “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore.” Gabby channels her church days for the tune and the performance leaves Lionel saying, “That was what you call, my dear, ownership.”

Michael J. Woodard

“I Would Die 4 U” isn’t the most obvious hit in the Prince catalog, and Michael isn’t the most obvious contestant. So it’s a perfect pairing. He fumbles the lyrics a bit, but with Sheila E.’s expert accompaniment and Michael’s ability to cover any mistakes on stage with a few ad-libs and his smile, it’s barely noticeable.

Less inspired is Michael’s take on Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” When he also admits that he’s never seen Titanic, I reach for my pacemaker. As much as I truly want Michael to succeed, he gets lost in the enormity of the song. It’s another good example of why the kids should just not try it with legends like Celine, Whitney and Adele.  

Cade Foehner

Old man Cade puts his spin on Jewel’s “Who Will Save Your Soul.” That basically means he starts off soft with the song, then eventually works his way up to his trademark growl. Katy says she’s not 100 percent feeling what Cade was rocking on stage, but the consolation is that her mother is in the audience voting for him.

He fares better with his funky rendition of the Prince-penned “Jungle Love,” which was a 1985 hit for The Time. The performance has Katy pulling out her thirsty “weak in the knees” shtick: “I don’t what’s coming over me. I could be your babysitter!” As for Katy’s mom, she probably spontaneously burst into a cloud of purple glitter.

Catie Turner

Nick Jonas, it turns out, has been Catie’s crush since she was five. She’s too uncomfortable to look him in the eyes but takes his advice to heart enough to turn out a solid, swingin’ ‘60s reinvention of “Oops!… I Did It Again.” Katy tells Catie, “It sounds like you were Amy Winehouse singing a Britney Spears song.”

On the flip side, the teenage contestant has a disastrous showing with the Prince-penned, Bangles-performed '86 smash “Manic Monday.” She completely botches the first verse, and those few seconds feel like a painful eternity. Luke consoles Catie by saying she’s not had one glitch in the competition until tonight, but I can’t shake the feeling that this might have been a fatal mistake.

Caleb Lee Hutchinson

Nothing seems to faze Caleb. That easy confidence combined with his talent has kept him afloat all this time. His country-boy take on country-pop hit “Amazed” by country band Lonestar is as good as you would expect. Like with Gabby, there’s not much to say when Caleb stays put in his wheelhouse.

It’s when he steps outside of the box that we’re reminded what a star Caleb truly is. He starts off his “When Doves Cry” performance armed with just his acoustic guitar. By the end you’re kind of wishing for a full Caleb Lee Hutchinson album of Prince covers.

Maddie Poppe

Maddie didn’t have the highest self esteem at the onset of the competition. (Remember when her only goal was to land in the Top 24?) Week after week, though, her confidence has grown, and here she is sitting behind a purple-illuminated piano doing a lovely rendition of Prince composition “Nothing Compares 2 U" -- a No. 1 Hot 100 hit for Sinéad O'Connor in 1990. 

She swaps the ivories for an electric guitar when singing birth-year hit “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow, and it’s also a knockout. A month ago I wouldn’t have predicted that Maddie would be in the Top 7. Now I’m pondering if she could, at the very least, make it to the runner-up position on finale night.


Like last week, Idol airs simultaneously in every U.S. time zone, with voting results announced at the end. No surprises here: this time around we say adios to Jurnee and Catie.

That means Caleb, Maddie, Cade, Gabby and Michael are the official Top 5. They next jet off to Nashville to be mentored by Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood. Superfan Gabby is gonna need a sedative, y’all.


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