In the first round of the competition, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Gabby Barrett and Maddie Poppe each sang their brand new singles. However, the judges were not impressed as they sensed an overall feeling of discomfort from the contestants.
Following Hutchinson's performance of "Johnny Cash Heart," Perry flat out stated, "You have to make me a believer and I didn't feel like a believer. I felt like that was actually your weakest performance I've ever seen." Barrett also faced harsh criticism after performing her new single "Rivers Deep," when the judges told her that she needed to learn how to pick a song that doesn't just work in a studio, but also has the potential to work on stage and in front of a live audience, who may not be familiar with the song. Poppe was the only contestant of the top three to not receive negative feedback from her first performance, as she sang "Going Going Gone." However, it wasn't necessarily the most exciting feedback either. Luke Bryan told Poppe, "So, Maddie, in my opinion, you felt the most comfortable that we've seen out here thus far. Good job on that. I could relax watching you. So, finally, I can relax a little bit and take a breath. But way to come out here and deliver a solid performance." The first round of the competition may have been a rough start for the top three but, luckily, by round two, they got their grooves back.
Following the second round, where each of the top three contestants gave an encore performance of their favorite song from the competition this season, Perry told host Ryan Seacrest, "The first round, I thought, it was a disaster. And the second round, I thought they got their confidence back, and I'm ready to see them, I'm ready to see why they made it the top three in this last round."
Sure enough, by the third round, the top three were totally back in their element. Especially Barrett, who performed Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," and got a very special surprise visit from Steve Perry in the audience. "It was the most amazing version I've ever heard. Swear, it was beautiful. Just beautiful," Steve Perry told an elated Barrett.
However, it was Poppe, the only contestant whom the judges praised in all three rounds, who ultimately won Katy Perry's vote. In fact, following her final performance of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," Perry immediately took to her phone, while simply stating, "I'm voting for you."