Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan & Katy Perry Explain ‘American Idol’ Saves: ‘I Had One of Those Hallelujah Moments’

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Bryan chose Dimitrius Graham, Perry picked Alyssa Raghu, and Richie dramatically ushered Uché into a seat of safety.

After the end credits roll on the live American Idol shows, the judges and contestants still have work to do: They have to meet the press. It’s time to answer questions while they are still processing what just happened to them during the last two hours.

During the broadcast, the top 14 was divided into two groups: seven who were safely in the top 10 and seven who had to sing for their lives to secure one of the three remaining spots in the top 10. Each judge made one selection: Luke Bryan chose Dimitrius Graham, Katy Perry picked Alyssa Raghu, and Lionel Richie dramatically ushered Uché into a seat of safety.

Bryan admitted on-air that he made his choice at the last minute. “Right after Dimitrius was given the news that he was not voted through, he gave his best performance of the whole contest,” the country star told Billboard afterward. “It’s tricky with Dimitrius. Maybe he tries to over-sing a little, but tonight he held it in and he had me hanging on every word. I thought that was worthy of getting another shot.”

“I definitely thought I was going home,” Graham confessed to Billboard. “I was mentally preparing myself to pack up and get on a flight. Idol’s been really good to me and I’ve had a great time. I’m shocked that I’m still here.”

Raghu made a bold song choice, performing Perry’s own “The One That Got Away.” “Look, I don’t particularly love when people cover my songs,” Perry bluntly told Billboard, “but when they do and they reinvent them is when I’m really proud. I was looking at the chessboard. And I know it’s strange to think these are people’s dreams and we’re playing chess with them, but I was strategizing. I asked myself: ‘Who in this seven is going to turn the beat around in one week? Who can grow in light-speed time?' And I thought Alyssa had done that very well.”

When Ryan Seacrest told Uché that he was not voted into the top 10, the 24-year-old from Texas was clearly shaken and immediately emotional, prompting Richie to leap out of his chair and walk from the judges’ table at the back of the stage to where the contestants were positioned in the front. “I thought he was just going to give me a hug,” Uché told Billboard after the show. “I was really sad and I don’t like to cry at all and I couldn’t stop, so I thought he was just going to console me.” 

“I’m all about the performance,” Richie explained to Billboard. “We’ve all had nights where we’ve missed a couple notes. Maybe we were sick that night. But when we rocked the house, we rocked the house. Every night, Uché has been rocking the house and he’s been bringing us this personality and this entertainment and that’s what it’s all about. Can you entertain that crowd? He just killed it tonight and I had one of those hallelujah moments where I had to just rush the stage, but I couldn’t just say, ‘Thank you very much for your participation. Now go over and sit down.’ No, no, no, no.”

Richie escorted Uché to a seat on the safe side of the stage as the young man broke into tears. “It reminded me of when your kid comes over and drops his head right on your shoulder,” Richie said. “He was so defeated at that point. I told him, ‘You stand up straight. You’ve got something else to do.’ I had to pick him up. He was fabulous.”