Christian Guardino's rendition of the John Lennon classic "Imagine" brought "American Idol" judge Katy Perry to tears Sunday night. Evidently it had a similar effect on most of the American viewing audience, who voted the 22-year-old Patchogue contestant into the top 14 on Monday's results show.
Guardino, who works at his uncle's restaurants, was the second person to land a spot as a finalist. He celebrated by performing "Creep" by Radiohead. "I really, really relate to that song. I feel every word of that song," he told host Ryan Seacrest, putting special emphasis on the lyric "I don’t belong here."
"Hell, yeah. I belong here," Guardino then said.
On Sunday, Guardino's performance of "Imagine" had all three judges — Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan — on their feet, but it was a tearful Perry who had the most emotional reaction. "You were put on this planet to do something super powerful, and you are doing it right now, and in this room. God bless you, Christian," she said.
Guardino, who is visually impaired, has been a hit with the judges ever since his Nashville audition earlier this year, when he sang Donny Hathaway's "A Song for You" and got a hug from Richie. "We found him," Richie exclaimed.
During the Hollywood Week shows at Los Angeles' Orpheum Theatre, Guardino continued to impress with his take on Billie Eilish's "My Future" and his solid duet with fellow contestant Nicolina Bozzo on Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli's "The Prayer.”
Guardino previously competed on season 12 of "America's Got Talent" in 2017. He received the Golden Buzzer from Howie Mandel taking him to the live shows, but was eliminated in the semifinals.
In addition to Guardino, nine other contestants from the top 20 were chosen by viewers for finalist slots. Four other contenders were chosen by the judges to make up the 14 hopefuls who will vie for the "Idol" crown starting with Sunday's show at 8 p.m. on ABC/7. The winner will be announced on May 22.