Christian Guardino definitely became the king of everything the light touches on American Idol Sunday night (May 1). Taking the stage for the show’s Disney-themed showcase, the 21-year-old singer chose the perfect song to show off the lion’s-roar power in his vocals — Elton John‘s “Circle of Life,” aka the iconic Lion King song.
Joined by a choir of backup singers and silhouetted by a radiant yellow sun backdrop, Guardino pulled out all the stops to ensure that he secured a place in this season’s top seven contestants. Smoke billowed around him as he built suspense at the beginning of the performance, while fire cannons sparked once he weaved his way to the song’s high point with intricate, belted runs.
At first, the theatrical setup was enough to concern judge Katy Perry — appropriately dressed for the evening as The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel — just a little bit. “Before you started the song I was like, ‘This is a whole bit, and I hope he doesn’t overdo it,'” she confessed after Guardino finished. “It was perfect. It was a perfect circle, it was, I think, your best performance yet. You did confidence, friend.”
His performance was so good, in fact, he earned a new nickname from Perry’s fellow judge Luke Bryan. “Christian Gonna-Need-a-Security-Guard-Ino!” the country star joked. “I don’t want to speak for Katy, but we were like, ‘Gosh, we hope he nails this. And you nailed it — like, you sang it perfectly.”
Lionel Richie’s review was also nothing but glowing. “You were standing totally in your light,” he said. “You actually were shining bright.”
Composed by Sir Elton in 1994 for Disney’s now-beloved animated film The Lion King, “Circle of Life” spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 18, and was nominated for best original song at the 1995 Academy Awards, where it lost out to “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” another of John’s Lion King compositions.
Guardino’s knockout performance of “Circle of Life” was more than enough to sway Idol‘s live voters in his favor. He joins Leah Marlene, Jay, Noah Thompson, Fritz Hager, Huntergirl and Nicolina Bozzo as they move on to compete in the next episode.
Watch Christian Guardino’s roaring performance of “Circle of Life” below: