“Apple Valley boy, forklift boy, you are a rockstar,” judge Katy Perry told singer Chayce Beckham, who is one episode away from possibly being crowned the next “American Idol.”
Fans on Sunday voted the 24-year-old, raspy-voiced Beckham into the show’s Top 3, along with Grace Kinstler, 20, and Willie Spence, 21. The trio will battle vocally for the “Idol” title Sunday night, May 23, on ABC.
Meanwhile, fans cut singer Casey Bishop — a 16-year-old high school student from Estero, Florida — from the competition despite strong performances during Sunday’s episode. Judge Luke Bryan once predicted she would be the next “American Idol.”
’23’ a No. 1 hit for Beckham
During Sunday night’s show, Beckham performed three songs, including his self-penned, autobiographical single “23,” which he released Friday. A lyric video on the “American Idol” YouTube channel accompanied the song’s release.
The song highlights Beckhams’s past struggles with alcohol and includes an apologetic message to his mother.
Beckham strums his guitar as he delivers the chorus, “Now I’m 23, and there ain’t nobody who can drink like me. Soon I’ll be 24, and the Lord knows that I can’t drink no more.”
Since this season’s beginning, the Victorville-born Beckham has been open about his personal struggles, including a life-changing event after he drank too much and crashed while driving home. He ended up upside down in his vehicle on the side of a highway and has said he decided to change his life at that point.
Beckham recorded “23” at the SoundFactory in Hollywood with Ross Copperman, a producer who has 29 No. 1 hit songs to his credit.
The song is currently No. 1 among singles on iTunes’ top 10 songs and top 10 country songs. On the latter chart, Beckham even beat out Bryan’s new song, “Waves,” which sits in the No. 2 spot. Bryan performed his song during Sunday’s episode.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone for listening to that tune,” Beckham said during Sunday’s episode.
Spence, Kinstler and Bishop also recorded and released singles. They are “Never Be Alone,” “Love Someone” and “Love Me, Leave Me,” respectively.
Beckham previously displayed his songwriting talents during a Mother’s Day episode of “Idol,” when he sang his song, “Mamma,” which was dedicated to his mother, Windie Petersen.
Beckham wrote “23” during Hollywood week as an ode to his mom, according to “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest.
Beckham also sang the 2010 song “Colder Weather” by American country music group Zac Brown Band, as well as Chris Stapleton’s 2020 hit, “You Should Probably Leave,” which Beckham first performed during Hollywood Week.
Chayce and Finneas
Finneas O’Connell — the brother and songwriting partner of Billie Eilish — mentored the “Idol” contestants before they took to the stage Sunday, with Beckham telling him that songwriting was his “cup of tea.”
“Whenever you’re sitting there and you’re singing something that you wrote for — you know — one of the biggest music producers, it’s a little nerve-racking,” Beckham said of the 23-year-old O’Connell, who won six Grammy Awards last year for his work on Eilish’s debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”
The producer said Beckham has a “really great tone, very earnest,” adding that the High Desert native is someone you can believe when he sings. O’Connell called “23” a beautiful song.
‘I think as a songwriter, you’re influenced by everything you write. That’s really cool,” O’Connell told Beckham.
He also suggested that Beckham not allow the voices of his backup band to “pile” onto his vocal talent.
Beckham said he may not play the guitar, something O’Connell called a “cool change up,” which would allow him to “focus on the lyrics, focus on the camera.”
That said, Beckham played the guitar throughout Sunday’s episode, save a duet with Bishop, a cover of O’Connell’s “Break My Heart Again,” which he released under the name FINNEAS.
Apple Valley ‘rock star’
“You were born on American Idol,” Perry told Beckham after he sang the Zac Brown tune.
She said she noticed that Beckham went against his own advice by playing his guitar, an instrument she said “looked good,” calling it his “ammunition” on stage.
“You live on this stage now. You live here,” Perry said.
Bryan told Beckham that he needed to realize that he’s in the Top 4 because “You’re real and everything that you give us feels real.”
“Being genuine and authentic is so … people love that and that’s why you made it to this point,” Bryan said.
Judge Lionel Richie told Beckham he noticed that the the young singer-songwriter had spent most of the competition thinking, “Really? Really? They like me?”
“The answer is they like you, and the point is you earned that,” Richie said. “You earned that right because they fell in love, not only with your voice but with who you are. That’s a genuine quality of being a star.”
After singing “23” and “You Should Probably Leave,” Bryan asked the judges how they could create another way to say, “Great job.”
Richie noted that Beckham has undergone a “complete transformation” on the show.
“You have stepped into your light to the point where I now know exactly who you are. I know your sound, I know your demeanor,” Richie said. “Everything is lining up for — what’s it called? — No. 1 show business.”
Perry, meanwhile, summed up their praise, telling Beckham he is now a rock star.
Caleb Kennedy’s controversial departure
“Idol” contestant Caleb Kenney, who advanced to the Top 5 during last week’s show, was scheduled to sing Sunday, but the 16-year-old singer bowed out of the competition after a Snapchat video resurfaced online. In it, Kennedy sits next to someone wearing what looks like a Ku Klux Klan hood, the Associated Press reported.
Kennedy apologized for the video on Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday, saying “it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way.”
Kennedy’s mother, Anita Guy, told the Herald-Journal that the video was filmed when Kennedy was 12 and had been taken out of context. She said Kennedy had been imitating characters from a horror film, “The Strangers: Prey at Night.”
“It had nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan, but I know that’s how it looks,” Guy said. “Caleb doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. He loves everyone and has friends of all races.”
The season finale of “Idol” is scheduled for 5 p.m. PST Sunday, May 23 on ABC.
Visit the “American Idol” YouTube channel to watch full performances.
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.