Caleb Kennedy has officially made it into American Idol's Top 12 contestants of Season 19, and the singer took a victory lap on Monday night (April 12), returning to the original song that originally caught the judges' ears.

Back when his audition first aired in March, Kennedy introduced listeners to the first portion of "Nowhere," a bleak and gritty country tune that the 16-year-old had written solo to cope with some difficult times he faced in the wake of his parents' divorce. At the time, judge Katy Perry was shocked to learn that Kennedy hadn't gotten any farther than the first verse, and Luke Bryan was so impressed by the Idol hopeful's songwriting chops that he volunteered to help him finish "Nowhere" on the spot.

Now, several episodes and several rounds of eliminations later, Kennedy returned to the stage victorious as a Top 12 contestant, and he'd clearly been paying attention during his post-performance critiques over the past few weeks.

For one thing, the singer appeared onstage without his trademark ball cap, following recent judge feedback that the mysterious persona he was cultivating by shading his eyes might sometimes tip towards appearing cold onstage.

But even more notably, Kennedy had a big update to share with the judges: He'd taken Perry and Bryan's advice and finished "Nowhere," and he performed it to celebrate making it into the show's Top 12. The finished song didn't disappoint, with Richie commenting that Kennedy was beginning to bring his artistry to the forefront of every performance.

Unfortunately, Bryan wasn't able to hear the finished version of Kennedy's song live, as he was out sick during Monday night's live show due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. Bryan shared the news with fans via Twitter just hours before the show kicked off, adding that he was "doing well and [looking] forward to being back at it soon."

Filling in during Bryan's absence on Monday night was Paula Abdul. The pop superstar was one of three original American Idol judges back when the show first got started in 2002, alongside Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell. Abdul stayed on as judge until the show's ninth season.

American Idol airs on Sunday and Monday nights at 8PM ET on ABC.

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