Crying tears of joy on Katy Perry’s shoulder, Modesto native Ryan Hammond has advanced to the Top 20 of “American Idol.”
The Modesto High graduate has made it past thousands of other applicants on the 17th season of the hit reality singing show, which began airing on ABC in March. Hammond had previously made it into the Top 40 finalists, which earned him a trip to Hawaii to compete in the Showcase/Final Judgment Round that aired Sunday.
After that performance, Hammond again went to face the celebrity judging panel of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. The 25-year-old singer had belted out the Donny Hathaway ballad “A Song for You” in front of a live audience on the beach.
Perry praised Hammond for listening to their critiques and making adjustments in his performance. She then delivered the happy news in a surprise way to him.
“I think you are probably finding out who you are in general for the first time. So whatever you’ve been saying to yourself has been really working for you. So I want you to say this with me, a positive affirmation, before we deliver the news: ‘I. Am. In. The. Top. 20’.”
Upon hearing the news Hammond burst into tears, a common yet joyful occurrence during his run on the show so far. Then Perry gave him a hug, and told him, “You’ve arrived.” Afterward, Hammond’s parents — who Perry made famous during his audition — were there to celebrate with more hugs.
Hammond had dedicated his Hawaii performance to his new boyfriend, Chris. He wasn’t able to make the trip to Hawaii with Hammond, so he said he hoped “I did (the song) justice for him.”
The Showcase/Final Judgment round narrowed the field to the Top 20, and the remaining singers must perform both solo and all-star duet performances to make it to the next stage. Hammond’s solo Top 20 performance back in Los Angeles was “You Say” by Lauren Daigle, which aired on Monday.
Afterward, Richie praised Hammond’s voice, and offered some advice moving forward.
“OK, so you’ve got the power,” he said. “What I’m loving more is that you have a storytelling voice. A lot of people have a powerful voice, but they can’t tell the story with all that power. If I have to add one more thing to your equation, I want you to own the stage. Don’t get lost in here. Sell what you have.”
Hammond has previously connected with the judges about growing up with his family in their Modesto church and his dramatic weight loss in the last two years.
The singers will next perform in All-Star Duets, which will include musicians Jason Mraz, Pat Benatar, Ben Harper, Chris Isaak and Shaggy. Those performances will air over Sunday and Monday nights on ABC. The field will again shrink after the round to the Top 14, who will then begin the live shows and voting rounds April 14.