If you're like the rest of the nation, you've been getting used to new social norms, such as Zoom meetings to chat with your buddies and family members. American Idol, too, is adapting to the times, adopting COVID-19 pandemic-appropriate best practices by continuing its current season in a quarantine-appropriate way.

On Sunday night (April 26), the TV singing competition's Top 20 contestants sang from their homes, as judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie offered analysis from theirs. Host Ryan Seacrest, meanwhile, held the whole thing together as the show aired its first "live" episode of Season 18.

"Using ground-breaking technology, tonight we make Idol history," Seacrest said to open the show. "This is our show like you've never seen it before. One thing stays the same: You vote, you decide.

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"We've had to shift the way we made our show," he added. "Idol has the history of making the most of technology. We were determined to make this work, not only for you, but for the Top 20."

Seacrest's words were filled with gravity, but when he zoomed in on the judges, the mood became quickly lighter. Perry showed up on camera dressed in a hand sanitizer costume, and described going through her first pregnancy during a pandemic.

Meanwhile, Bryan told the audience, "My family is safe and healthy. I'm really excited for these kids. They're so talented and they deserve to get their career. I'm so thankful for everybody at Idol that we can still pull this show off."

Richie perhaps put things the best by saying, "This is probably the most excited I've been in a very long time because I can actually say I have never done this before in my entire career."

From there, the show clipped along at a rapid rate, as the Top 20 performed from their homes, garages and yards. The overall mood was cheerful and uplifting, even spurring Perry to remark at one point that the format "reminded me of what it was like to be at home and practicing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush."

Performances took place everywhere from stark apartments to lushly pretty vistas (Lauren Smith's Canadian lakeside setting was particularly lovely). The by-now-familiar stacked Zoom windows showing background singers and instrumental players added another layer of fun, too.


American Idol airs on Sunday nights at 8PM ET. Next week's theme, show mentor and country radio DJ Bobby Bones explained, is "songs that remind them of home."

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