“American Idol” 2018 for April 9 was part serendipitous and part surgery with no anesthetic, as the first dozen of the Top 24 sang duets with stars, and then had to suffer the slashing down to only seven by the judges. All of these talents are already stars in the making, some just need to find their personal identity and artistry, while others are not quite ready for the ringer of the “American Idol” process. The stage belonged to them in these performances, and they proved worthy of the spotlight.

Set to take off

Catie Turner wasn't daunted in the least by being the first to perform.

The buoyant and positive Andy Grammer was the best possible partner for Catie, and he saw the potential in her with “Fresh Eyes,” just like his song. The two tore into “Good To Be Alive” as though they had toured together for years, playing off each other vocally and in performing like pros. The number closed with Catie playfully tweaking Andy’s nose, never shy with her big hugs. Katy Perry called her a “natural” and said she was soaring “all over the place.” Lionel Richie put it succinctly with “You killed it.”

In a complete change of mood, Cade Foehner came forth with his perfect gravel voice to open the INXS song, “Never Tear Us Apart.” Bishop Briggs is Scottish by heritage, and London-born, but her presence in music is already much felt, far in advance of her debut album, “Church of Scars,” which releases on April 20.

Briggs has the kind of presence and energy that can overtake a stage, but Foehner has a power of his own, simply by singing. Lionel Richie put it best, praising “Put the tickets on sale!” Katy Perry offered a word of caution to Cade in riding this wave, telling him not to become “the Pied Piper” and go off any stardom cliff.

For now, there doesn't seem to be any danger of him losing his humble side. He still has a hard time not saying “yes, ma'am,” and that's a good thing.

Layla Spring could literally be seen floating as she sang “Stuck Like Glue” with Sugarland duo Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. Her energy was infectious and appreciated by the gracious Nettles.

Lionel Richie said how tough it was “to go toe to toe” with her as a singer because he’s done it.

Dominique pulled off his best performance to date with Aloe Blacc on his self-affirming anthem, “Wake Me Up.” It was a wonderful moment with the two singers perfectly suited for one another, and Blacc called him and his protégé the “American Idol” from the stage. Luke Bryan called Dominique a “world-class singer,” and Lionel Richie noted the performance as “so smooth”

Brandon Diaz went multicultural with Luis Fonsi, daring to do the song of last summer, “Despacito” and pulling off the Spanish without a hitch. Lionel Richie said that that gift was “another in your arsenal,” and Luke Bryan said “I'm sold,” with no hesitation.

Kay Kay struggled hearing herself with a band and her first singing partner in Pat Monahan from Train. Monahan counseled her to keep her energy and have fun, saying the rest would come into place. His song “Drive By” showed a lighter side of the singer, and Lionel Richie commented that “you took care of business.”

Emotional highs and lows

The second half of this “American Idol” duet night held some of the most special moments in the competition. Trevor McBane poured on the feeling with Bishop Briggs' "River," and Briggs again brought her intensity. Katy Perry praised that Trevor was coming out of his shell.

Michelle Sussett showed a completely different side of herself singing the song that Luis Fonsi called his favorite, “I Can't Make You Love Me.” The song was eloquently moving and personal between the pair.

Ponzi asked, “Can I stay in the competition?” after closing the number. Lionel Richie praised the evident “chemistry” between the partners, and Luke Bryan said he didn't want their song to end. Katy Perry told Michelle that acting, singing, and many other avenues are open for her.

Andy Grammer must have interpersonal magic, because he got tall crooner Jonny Brenns to let loose with a real smile on “Back Home.” The two singers had sweet harmony on the song about good values, and the judges noticed their good time, particularly Lionel Richie, who called the performance Brenns’ first taste of “real performing.”

Many fans will remember the earnest and pure audition of Dennis Lorenzo singing “Unaware” by Allen Stone.

Luke Bryan immediately praised how Lorenzo's guitar “with a hole” had all the heart and soul needed to make everyone feel every note. Dennis Lorenzo played that same guitar onstage with the man who wrote his audition song, and their union was pure, magical artistry. Lorenzo is already his own artist, and the two were equals, trading riffs, and soaring verses. Stone commented after the performance that he “might not play the song ever again” after the heights reached with Lorenzo. Lionel Richie’s word was “spectacular.” Katy Perry encouraged, “just keep doing what you're doing.” This moment is one that neither performer nor anyone viewing will ever forget.

It may not have been exactly romance, but Michael J Woodard and Pat Monahan definitely found connection and chemistry of their own with Monahan's “Angel in Blue Jeans,” written for his wife.

It's a blessing that Woodard never hides his emotion, and he certainly had soaring moments. In rehearsal, Monahan requested “just tone down the greatness,” of his partner, but their performance left everyone feeling great. Lionel Richie reminded Michael that he was rising in every sense, Luke Bryan remarked that he is “throwing love” every time from the stage, and Katy Perry spoke that Woodard’s “authenticity and heart” set him apart.

Gabby Barrett had the good fortune of going last, and singing the hit, “Stay” with Sugarland. She sang the song in homage to hard times with dad and found a newfound maturity. Luke Bryan said. It was the first performance to “nail it top to bottom.” Katy Perry admired that Gabby is not getting too comfortable, and Lionel Richie praised that Gabby didn't just follow the dots laid by Nettles, she “had the dots.”

For the first time in 2018, the call to “dim the lights” came on “American Idol” as the yearning hopefuls prayed to hear their names.

Cade Foehner, Michelle Sussett, Dennis Lorenzo, Gabby Barrett, Jonny Brenns, Michael J Woodard, and Catie Turner made it to the Top 14. Next week, the trials will come for the last dozen. There were tears for the five not called, but they will certainly not have the same future as before this experience on the most famous oval.