The lucky top five even got to sing on stage with Underwood, who, 13 years after winning the show, said that coming back felt surreal. “It does feel pretty full circle,” Underwood said. “In some ways, I kinda feel their nerves because it’s like flashbacks, you know? This is like looking in a mirror 13 years ago. Now I kind of get to be on the other side. I hope they can look at me and be like, OK, this is what’s possible. I can still be doing this 13 years later.”
Each of the contestants got one-on-one time with Underwood, but it was when Underwood met her biggest fan, Gabby Barrett, that touched our hearts. “Oh my gosh, I’ve looked up to you my whole entire life,” Barrett told Underwood, as she cried tears of excitement. “I started singing country music because of you. I think you’re an amazing example as a mom, and your husband is very attractive.” The two ladies both laughed, then Barrett stood up to sing “Last Name” to her idol. “I’m amazed at Gabby’s composure, and how much older she seems,” Underwood said. “She’s so good.” The star even told Barrett, “I do kinda see a lot of myself in you. But I was not as good as you are at your age. Once all of this craziness is over, you’ll be able to figure out exactly who you want to be.” Barrett shared that meeting Underwood was “the holy grail” for her. And some of Underwood’s Idol luck may have even rubbed off on Barrett, as America voted her into the final three, along with Maddie Poppe and Caleb Lee Hutchinson.
Of course, Underwood couldn’t come back to her stomping grounds without performing, and she totally blew everyone away with her performance of her latest hit, “Cry Pretty.” Host Ryan Seacrest told Underwood that the song was like a workout. He then asked Underwood what she saw in the top five contestants after performing with them on stage. “They’re bringing it tonight,” she said. “First and foremost. They mean business. And I’m just so proud that I got to be a part of that journey for them, because this is life-changing. This is real, this is their dreams coming true. And they’re the nicest group of people. Like, I’m just, I’m in awe.”
Check out this ‘American Idol’ contestant flubbing her performance, and getting eliminated, while also making TV history:
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