Christian Guardino of Patchogue performed Radiohead's "Creep" on Monday's "American...

Christian Guardino of Patchogue performed Radiohead's "Creep" on Monday's "American Idol." Credit: ABC/Eric McCandless

Patchogue's Christian Guardino is riding high after having made the top 14 of the current season of ABC's "American Idol."

Speaking by phone Thursday from Los Angeles during a break in rehearsals for Sunday's live episode in the 20th season, the visually impaired 22-year-old marvels that "America putting me in the top 10 of the top 14" — with the remaining four singers chosen by the judges rather than viewer votes — "was something I could barely accept" as really happening.

After the field narrows to 11 on Sunday, those left standing will participate in Monday's live "Judge's Song Contest," performing pieces chosen by the panel: Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie.

This past Sunday, Guardino moved the trio to tears and received accolades with his performance of John Lennon's "Imagine." "Katy was crying," he recalls excitedly, "and I was, like, 'No way, dude!' Because honest, when I sing, that's the reaction I feel in my heart — I feel like I'm crying out to everyone. To see Katy react that way and to have Luke tell me it was a perfect performance, I don't even know what to do with that. I never think anything I ever do is even close to perfect. That really drove it home for me. Hearing the judges say they really loved the performance was a relief and made me really happy."

After making the cut on Monday's show, Guardino performed Radiohead's "Creep," a starkly self-reproachful song told from the point of view of a man who feels unworthy of a woman he admires: "I'm a creep / I'm a weirdo," the lyrics state. "What the hell am I doing here? / I don't belong here."

"I think a lot of people," Guardino says reflectively, "can connect with the lyrics."

Advancing this far has quelled any doubts instilled in him because of his rare retinal disease, Leber congenital amaurosis, which has made him legally blind. "People thought I couldn't do this because of my visual impairment," he says of being on his own for weeks in Hawaii and Los Angeles while competing on "Idol," "but I thrive under pressure." Noting the success of such blind music stars as Ray Charles, José Feliciano and Stevie Wonder, Guardino professes astonishment at naysayers. "It makes me feel like: 'Watch this.' I get to prove them wrong."

Indeed, he says, his Long Island patois coming to the fore, "I don't need no guide dog, no cane, no nothin'. Despite the fact I have to deal with it, I'm still here and doing all of this."

His hometown, Guardino quickly adds, "has shown so much support for me, and it means everything. I'm keeping in touch with my people back home, and they're having viewing parties Sunday nights at PeraBell," the Riverhead restaurant owned by his uncle, David Chiarella, and, along with Chiarella's Blue Point place Bodhi's Beach Shack, where Guardino been working since graduating from Patchogue-Medford High School in 2018.

"I don't plan on going back to the restaurants," he says happily. "Everybody in my family, everybody who knows me, knows music is what I'm going to be doing the rest of my life."

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