There are just four weeks of “American Idol” 2018 left in this fast-paced return season, and the tensions were especially ramped up for the 14 talents awaiting America's vote to determine who would make the coveted cut to remain in the Top 10 on April 23. The public vote tally would choose six of the group, and the last four would be chosen by the judges, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan. It was a relief to both the contestants and fans that the results were revealed throughout the night rather than making everyone wait for a final, wrenching verdict.

The goodbyes were still painful, but the panel played their roles as mentors with care, encouraging each talent to stay committed to an artistic future and keep putting in the hard work.

A positive start

Maddie Poppe started the night off on a positive and playful note. The singer from Clarksville, Iowa was the first to know she was chosen for the Top 10, and she sang “Walk Like an Egyptian” decked out in a shimmering gold pantsuit.

Michelle Sussett did not get the same happy news, but she sang her own composition, “I'm a Dreamer,” and got good feedback. Luke Bryan told her that he still saw “star ability” in her, and Katy Perry admired how she “rises above” time after time. Lionel Richie reminded that her performances have to move beyond singing, and “tell us who you are.” The singer did her best favor to herself by inserting a verse in Spanish.

Marcio Donaldson also got the dreaded news of having to sing for survival. He turned to “Jealous” by Nick Jonas again, and showed himself a true performer in the emotion-packed performance. Luke Bryan didn't leave much hope for the doting dad, saying the performance wasn't Marcio’s strongest. Katy Perry was more life-affirming, reminding that “you have always been enough.” Lionel Richie continued the constructive vibe, telling Donaldson that the music business is about being able to take punches and still never give up.

Rocker Cade Foehner had his dreams fulfilled, getting word that he was voted into the favored six talents. With gracious jubilance, he tore into “Bright Lights,” the Gary Clark Jr. classic. Garrett Jacobs came up next, getting news that his singing could seal his fate. Katy Perry said he had never sounded better than on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

“What a way to state your case,” praised Luke Bryan. Lionel Richie reminded the still-learning singer that at this stage, performances have to be “so serious.”

Gabby Barrett got her seat among the six, giving her a super energy boost on Miranda Lambert's “Little Red Wagon.” The judges weren't supposed to critique, but that didn't stop Katy Perry from asking Gabby what she ate for dinner.

The judges gave unanimous standing ovations to Dennis Lorenzo for his heartfelt version of “This Woman's Work,” after hearing that he fell short of the vote. The performance was made all the more empathetic with his wife and young daughter watching from the audience. Luke Bryan and Katy Perry both assured “we'll fight for you,” and Lionel Richie echoed his love of country, but countered that “America doesn't know what they're doing!”

Few seats left

Ryan Seacrest started the last half of the night with the announcement that next Tuesday's results would feature simulcast viewing and voting in real time, a first for “American Idol” or any talent competition.

Jonny Brenns showed that he was defining his artistic style by his choice of Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” as his survival selection. Luke Bryan praised how the song suited Brenns, and how he should bring back playing instruments for his future. Katy Perry noted that Jonny was looking “like a rock star,” and Lionel Richie also mentioned that Brenns was defining his character.

Caleb Lee Hutchinson had relief all over his face when he got the word that he was voted into one of the remaining seats. He went old-school country with Chris Young’s “Gettin’ You Home.” By this time, social media was already buzzing that this top, public-voted “American Idol” group was looking distinctly whitewashed.

Mara Justine did not make the top cut, but she went bluesy and bold with “Love on the Brain.” Luke Bryan said he was in shock over her status.

Katy Perry reflected on how much Mara had learned in this process, and Lionel Richie reminded that it was not about singing great songs but having the whole package.

Jurnee, too, was told that her performance could mean survival, and she chose “Never Enough” once again. It was the song that she sang to her wife in the audience a few weeks back, and the singer was still emotional now, for different reasons. Luke Bryan praised again how her talent made singing seem so easy. Katy Perry confirmed that there was no more “qualified woman” for the job. Lionel Richie closed remarks with a simple, “I love you,” as he does in so many songs.

Michael J Woodard won his way to the special seating with the vote and sang a powerful “Believe In Yourself” from “The Wiz” as a gift offering to the audience.

Wondrously quirky Catie Turner seemed as surprised as she could be to hear her own wonderful news of taking the final seat for the six voted talents. She sang “Havana” by Camila Cabello like she was off for a Cuban holiday. Not only is her vocal ability wide open, but so is her heart. Catie ran to hug all of the hopefuls in “the danger zone” before taking her own seat among the top voted contenders. She also couldn't say enough good things about her “American Idol” competition mate, Ada Vox, insisting that her/his song would “knock America’s socks off.”

Ada Vox knew that this was the time to pull out all the stops, so what better song than “And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going” from the musical, “Dreamgirls,” to prove it.

Not only was the performance beyond compare, but it also earned the singer the first judges’ vote into the Top 10, with Katy Perry assuring that “we know talent!”

Minutes were ticking away, and the last three “American Idol” hopefuls were wrecks as they waited to hear the judges’ decisions. Diversity and talent were in the works as Jurnee, Michelle Sussett, and Dennis Lorenzo took the final Top 10 slots. While it was hard to see Marcio sent home, he couldn't stop hugging his roommate, Dennis. This is not the last anyone will see of these talented young artists.

Hold on for the ride.