Former "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert brings out the best as twelve become ten — one reduces Luke Bryan to incoherent tears, another has Katy Perry joking she feels "threatened," while a third brings the crowd to a deafening roar that won't stop.

With two quick cuts at the end of the night, a Top 12 was slashed into a Top 10 on “American Idol.” Not nearly as savage as last week’s elimination of eight people, the lower stakes might be why we got some incredible moments — fewer nerves, perhaps.

In a great get for the show, former “Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert returned to give some advice as someone who’s been there and gone on to incredible fame and success in his own musical lane. His advice was spot-on in every instance. He’s such an incredible vocalist and stylist, he really understands what it means to find yourself under the pomp of the show.

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We love that Adam loves coming back to this show to help the contestants. With the caliber of performances we got this week, and the growth in confidence from some of these contestants, we found ourselves wishing maybe he’d find the time to become a permanent part of the family.

In a bold move, fan-favorite Iam Tongi opted to perform without his father’s guitar (or a guitar at all) for the first time ever. The first time he had to go without because it had broken in Hollywood Week, he was a bit of an emotional wreck, so we appreciated him challenging his own growth.

For the first time this season, it was a live coast-to-coast vote, so what happened tonight meant more than ever. We were happy that no one fell flat on their faces by forgetting lyrics or singing flat, but there were a few performances that went beyond sleepy to a little bit boring. Still, those were offset by a lot of incredible performances that producers must have known were good because the best was definitely back-loaded on the schedule.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

And just for fun, I’m going to rank the performances from worst to first to see who my favorites are in each round. That way I can see who’s the best and then see if you get it right with your votes – i.e., agree with me.

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Adam Lambert

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(“I Can’t’ Stand the Rain,” Ann Peebles [as performed by Adam Lambert]) Returning to the stage that made him, Adam has only gotten finer with the years. His voice is absolutely incredible and his interpretation of this song, from his new album “High Drama,” is filled with kinetic energy. He also knows how to command the stage. This is the kind of performance these contestants need to see to understand what level of commitment they need to deliver — and coming from a former contestant makes it all the more impactful.

TOP 12

Oliver Steele

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(“Georgia on My Mind,” Ray Charles – 25, Mount Juliet, TN) We’re not sure if Adam got in our heads or not, but we found our minds drifting a bit as Oliver went along on this one, as well. Other than a moment toward the end where he gave a little extra sauce on the chorus, it was a lot of the same. He delivered a consistent sound that was nice, but he’s sharing this lane with two other singers and not standing out … which will eventually squeeze him out. He played this to a bar instead of a competition stage.

Marybeth Byrd

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(“Dancing Queen,” ABBA – 22, Armorel, AR) Marybeth ditched the mic stand to force herself to loosen up and get out of her head, but it didn’t really work. She was still stiff and awkward throughout this performance. Vocally, though, she put a great country spin on this and really gave us something interesting that felt like her. She needs to work on her confidence. She asked Adam what a confident stance would be, but it comes from inside; once she feels it fully, we’ll see it. So it was great vocals, okay visuals, and a solid if unremarkable performance.

Colin Stough

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(“Midnight RIder,” The Allman Brothers Band – 18, Amory, MS) Interestingly, Colin was torn between two songs before his time with Adam and neither of them were the one he wound up singing. Adam encouraged him to keep pushing in new directions, and this was definitely a departure from last week’s incredible performance. It was another consistently strong vocal, but he really didn’t do anything with the song at all, making the piece repetitive until he took it up a step for the final few bars. He definitely would have fit right in with this era of music, with a rich and full voice that totally nailed the original arrangement, but we selfishly would have liked him to inject a piece of himself into it and a little more energy.

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Lucy Love

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(“All Night Long (All Night),” Lucy Love – 28, Holly Grove, AR) Lucy was smiling into the camera, but she still had those fighter’s eyes from last week. We appreciate that this is a fight, but there was a visual disconnect. As Adam told her, this was the song to get out of her head and have fun because she needs to be bringing the party. Her voice is stellar with lots of power and control, but we found ourselves a little thrown off by some of the somersaulting runs she tossed into a few lines here and there. Some worked, but there were a few lines we weren’t loving them at all.


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(“The Show Must Go On,” Queen – 26, Tbilisi, Georgia) Adam suggested Nutsa try a song that wasn’t so diva-esque and belting, but she worried she wouldn’t have time … so she decided to incorporate that note into this song. She did just a hint of that softer side early on before going right into that belting mode we saw last week. It didn’t work last week, though, which makes us wonder if it’s going to work this week. She did have a great sound on this and she really attacks these stage performances. We were loving the outfit, too, which really enhanced the experience and juxtaposed beautifully with the black-and-white imagery behind her. It was a whole show.

Warren Peay

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(“House of the Rising Sun,” The Animals – 24, Bamberg, SC) Warren started this song in a place we’ve never heard before, displaying the tenderness he has underneath all of that gravel and grit that’s usually flying all over the stage. It was deep and low, with a rumble that lures you in before his full belt kicks you in the face. While not as polished as his full sound, it was used effectively here, creating a full experience from top to bottom and throughout the song. This is a song of pain and regret, and Warren definitely delivered just that.

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Tyson Venegas

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(“For Once in My Life,” Stevie Wonder – 17, Vancouver, BC) With a helpful push from Adam, Tyson picked a great song to showcase his playful side while still delivering the goods vocally. We could have used a little more oomph on the performance side, but his vocals were so smooth and silky throughout, we found our eyes drifting away to fully soak them in anyway, so maybe it didn’t matter as much. This was as solid a performance as you can have at this stage of the competition. Hopefully, it holds up and can survive the deadly opening slot on the night.

Haven Madison

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(“Livin’ on a Prayer,” Bon Jovi – 17, Clarksville, TN) A little shaky when giving it a shot before the first time she returned to the stage, that was the only moment it seemed Madison didn’t feel completely comfortable in her choices. She took Adam’s note to loosen up a bit and lose the polish, which was a smart move on a rock classic, and really delivered an energetic performance that spotlighted a new side of her personality. Her voice is always great when it’s intimate, but she showed a lot of impressive control when pouring it all on, as well. It was such a strong performance, Katy joked that she felt “threatened” by Haven, calling her “the next big pop star.”

Zachariah Smith

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(“Don’t Bring Me Down,” Electric Light Orchestra – 20, Amory, MS) An absolutely fearless performance, Zachariah brings so many different toys to his playground on the stage. He did work in a smile, as Adam suggested, and even got his own “fly” jacket to sport, but this was all about an incredible vocal performance and charisma for days and weeks on end. Zachariah is so at home on the stage, he’s a natural performer. We find our adrenaline kicking up a notch when he’s up there. On top of that, he went a cappella a few times, slipped into a falsetto and proved that vocally, he’s in complete control.

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Wé Ani

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(“Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” “Etta James” – 24, Harlem, NY) Halfway through the show, Wé walked us all up with a rousing performance that did everything she needed to do. She came out looking fierce. She attacked the stage, played with the band and the audience and she delivered a killer vocal that was frustratingly swallowed up at times by the band and the sound mix. There was so much personality in this piece, and so much joy and passion in just performing, we found ourselves as lost in her moment as she appeared to be.

Iam Tongi

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(“Bring It On Home,” Sam Cooke – 18, Kahuku, HI) Wow, what a huge step forward for Iam in confidence and stage presence. Losing the guitar brought out a renewed focus and energy on the voice, and he really brought every bit of it to bear. This was an incredibly strong vocal, with power and control and depth and resonance and beautiful heart. He sounded as if he’d written the song, it was so effortlessly controlled with beautiful nuance, little vocal infections and everything that made him a frontrunner from his first audition. He’s back and the roar of the crowd drawing out the judges helped remind us he’s always been here and he is so loved!

Megan Danielle

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(“Angel from Montgomery,” Bonnie Raitt – 21, Douglasville, GA) So tasteful, so classy, utterly heartbreaking. She had tears welling in the corners of our eyes from the very first line, which left us a bit stunned. That’s the power of her connection to these songs, that grit in her voice and that perfect control of her instrument. On the one hand, we hope Megan figures out how great she is — she says she’s starting to — but on the other, we hope it doesn’t mess with whatever magical blend inside her is bringing these palpable moments to the stage. This was subtle and it was everything we wanted to feel on this show in two minutes.

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Our Top 5 tonight could easily be the Top 5 of the whole competition — certainly we’re feeling strong about our Top 4 as they continue to deliver week after week after week. In other words, none of those people are in danger of going home.

Flipping to the bottom, we do worry that Oliver Steele was a little boring and too much in a lane occupied — and occupied stronger — by Warren Peay and Colin Stough. If we had to predict, we’d guess he was one of the two going home.

The other one is a little harder to guess. Marybeth was very solid and there is a strong country music following on these shows today, so that should be enough to save her … and put Lucy Love and Nutsa back in danger. Both were saved last week, so it would make sense to see them back on the chopping block.

We’ve seen some online chatter and backlash that Nutsa’s not American on a show with that word in its title, but “America’s Got Talent” has been bringing international talent without problem. People can get hung up on weird things. But we don’t know if it’s just a lot of noise or there’s something to it.

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Ultimately, though, while we had Nutsa higher than Lucy in our rankings, we get that we have some disconnect about Lucy that the judges have certainly not been seeing. We’ll guess America is seeing more than we are, too, and Nutsa was the second to go.

The 2023 “American Idol” Top 10 kicked off with a vote for Warren Peay. He was quickly joined by Wé Ani, Iam Tongi, Megan Danielle, and Zachariah Smith. Those four made up our personal Top 4, so this was just what we expected to see.

We also expected the next few results, with Haven Madison followed by Colin Stough. But then a wrench was thrown in as Oliver Steele somehow made it through. Clearly, America is digging this gravelly, bluesy sound this year. Are they going to get rid of two women? Could Marybeth Byrd really join Nutsa … or were we off in every way?

Tyson Venegas slid into the Top 10, leaving Lucy Love, Marybeth Byrd and Nutsa on the stage. America didn’t pick two of them last week, would they pick either of them this time? Also, this means the guys will have a 6-4 lead over the women in the Top 10 — but those are some fierce women!

In the end, America doubled down on what was said last week. Marybeth Byrd slipped into the Top 10, leaving Lucy Love and Nutsa on the outside again, only this time there was no Judges’ Save to keep them in the competition.

“American Idol” next cuts to a Top 7 as the show continues Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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