When given the task to choose from three songs that the Idol judges handpicked for him, including John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Mayer’s “Bigger Than My Body” or “Heartbreak Warfare,” Thompson chose “Heartbreak Warfare.”
“When I saw the list of songs, I was scared, because I only knew one of the songs on the list,” Thompson admitted.
Ahead of his performance, while chatting with Idol’s associate musical director, Justin Avery, and Idol’s vocal coach, India Carney, Thompson confessed that he initially thought he would sing the John Denver classic, but after thinking it over he didn’t feel like the song would showcase his vocals. That’s when he decided to challenge himself.
“When I went into vocal coaching, in a way, I was leaning more towards the John Denver song, because it’s easier and I know it, but I feel like it’s not best vocally,” Thompson said.
“I love John Mayer, I love his music, and I love his style,” the former construction worker shared of Mayer. “I never heard the song ‘Heartbreak Warfare,’ but I already kind of feel it. I’m concern with how people are going to feel about me singing a John Mayer song. Concerned I won’t learn the song in time, but if it’s what you want, you got to put the work in.”
While he admitted the process was “nerve-wracking” Thompson said he thought everything would ultimately work out in the long run.
“That’s how I’m rolling with it,” Thompson declared.
Joined by a full band and with his newfound confidence on full display, Thompson delivered an impressive cover of John Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare.”
Following his performance, host Ryan Seacrest challenged him to guess which Idol judge picked the song for him to perform.
“I picked Katy [Perry], but honestly, I don’t know,” Thompson said, before Perry blushed and things got awkward (she previously dated Mayer and didn’t pick the song for him).
It was then revealed that Luke Bryan picked the song for Thompson.
The performance, which truly highlighted his vocal abilities, then earned praise from Idol judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.
“Well first of all, nothing is more challenging than trying to learn a song really, really quickly,” Bryan said of his song choice for Thompson. “I mean, I’ve had like new singles that I’ve performed on awards show that are new singles to me. I haven’t had a lot of time on stage with them, but the main thing is to sort of take a song and crash course it. It was done really well, but what I’m most happy with, other than it was my song [choice], was the fact that you challenged yourself and that was a big move.”
“Do you know how happy I was when he said I’m doing the John Denver song and I said I got this, because I picked ‘Bigger Than My Body,’ and then all of a sudden you started singing the other song. I don’t like this game,” Lionel Richie said. “In all honestly, you controlled it, what I’m loving about you is how you’re growing and you are really stepping in that space of your career. I’m so proud of ya.”
“Who’s going to pay for my extra hour of therapy?” Perry joked, referencing the fact that Thompson said Perry picked the Mayer song as she would never as she previously dated the superstar.
“Honestly, you sounded great!” she went on to say. “It’s a great song, he’s a great artist. You’re a great artist and I think that fact that you keep on challenging yourself to grow like in the moment is brilliant. You were surprising us, you couldn’t do John Denver, because that was a little bit obvious and good for you man.”
With a record-breaking 19 million votes cast for the Top 10, Thompson ultimately advanced to the next round.
American Idol airs every Sunday and Monday at 8/7c on ABC.