The 17-year-old Alabama native was excited about the opportunity to meet American Idol alum Gabby Barrett, who returned to the show to offer the Top 14 contestants advice.
“When I found out that Gabby was our mentor, I got so excited,” Gressett shared. “I was a little starstruck meeting her. For my breakout song I chose ‘Whataya Want From Me’ by Adam Lambert.”
“I think this is a really risky, but cool direction that he’s deciding to go,” Barrett admitted, before telling Gressett, “you move really well on the stage. You got that Led Zeppelin vibe.”
“Tristan can be a very loud, big singer,” Barrett then shared. “I just want to make sure those big notes make sense.”
“I want to show a different side of who I am, and her opinion will definitely help,” Gressett said ahead of his performance.
“I’m excited to see the song,” Barrett told Gressett before he added in, “I hope Adam sees it.”
Gressett then demanded the live audience’s attention with his show-stopping cover of Adam Lambert’s “Whataya Want From Me.” His performance truly highlighted his expertise as an entertainer and singer and earned praise from the Idol judges and even a surprise from Lambert.
Watch his electrifying performance below.
Idol judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan were thoroughly impressed by his stunning rendition of the chart-topping Lambert hit.
“Never fails… Bring it in, bring it home, listen, what I’m loving now is you’re adding a little element that we haven’t been talking about a lot. It’s called acting,” Richie said. “And what you have on stage now is stage presence, that brings in the acting and what I love is that you followed that camera and then you looked away. Ah, it got me right away. It was fabulous. I loved that performance.”
“Yes my friend, you always bring the drama but especially tonight and you know you were doing something interesting and new and weird and you’re pulling a new card that we’ve never seen and you just keep evolving and you just have like the coolest, weirdest, awesomeness vibe. I’m so into it,” Perry gushed.
“I love it cause when you saw that shirt, you were like ‘that’s my shirt right there,’ but you know you came to play today. You came to be serious, I mean, obviously I think you had a little hiccup with the lyrics or something, but you battled your way through the whole performance and you ended at the highest place you could end, great job!”
“I’m been dying to show you this all day,” host Ryan Seacrest told the contestant before showing him a clip that Lambert sent in for him as a surprise.
Following his performance and praise from the Idol judges, Idol producers shocked Gressett with a surprise from Adam Lambert, which brought him to tears.
“Hey Tristen, it’s Adam Lambert here, and I heard that you were singing ‘Whatya Want From Me’ this weekend and I want you to break a leg, sing from the heart and know that you are a star!” Lambert said in the clip that brought Gressett to tears. “Enjoy yourself!”
Tristen Gressett’s performance ultimately secured him a place in the Top 11. American Idol returns on Monday, April 25 at 8/7c on ABC.