Judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie open up about the emotional roller coaster of being an American Idol judge

By Christina Dugan
April 16, 2019 12:01 PM

The American Idol emotional roller coaster is in full force for not only the contestants, but for judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie.

During Monday’s first live episode, seven contestants were moved from the Top 14 to the Top 10 — leaving three contestants eligible for a save from the judges.

After a number of emotional performances, the three judges ultimately decided to move Uche, Alyssa Raghu and Dimitrius Graham to the Top Ten, leaving Riley Thompson, Eddie Island, Ashley Hess and Evelyn Cormier to say their goodbyes.

“It’s tough because we’re so invested,” Perry, 34, told PEOPLE after the show. “It’s so difficult to play chess with people’s dreams. I do wish we could have American Idols, the show, but I think that America did a fantastic job at voting for this first live show.”

“We asked them to fight and then they go out there to fight,” Bryan, 42, added. “You see these kids and it inspires me to sit at home at my piano.”

The American Idol Top Ten
| Credit: ABC/Disney

There hasn’t been a shortage of tears since day one.

During Sunday’s episode, Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon performed a rendition of Elton John‘s 1975 hit “We All Fall in Love Sometimes” and Perry was immediately taken a back.

“Me and my family are in a better place and things are looking up,” Harmon said in an update on his relationship after revealing two weeks ago that “my parents still have not been able to accept me being gay.”

After his emotional performance, Perry was seen wiping the tears from her eyes before giving Harmon some words of encouragement.

“I’m a mess a little bit. I’m just so proud,” she said.

“I’m just so glad because you’re such a gift. You’re a light to the world. Your story is everything, and your talent, it just supersedes all, and just, I mean, I’m so proud of you,” the 13-time Grammy nominee added.

Ahead of last season’s premiere, Perry told PEOPLE the judging styles moving forward were going to be much different than what has been done in the past.

“It’s very constructive criticism,” she said. “Personally, I’m a straight shooter. I’m very cut and dry sometimes. You know it seems a little not soft — I do try and watch myself because I do know how it feels to be in their shoes. I was in their shoes 10 years ago. I remind myself and I’m reminded and I’m inspired by all of their stories. I know it wasn’t an overnight success for me; it’s not going to be for them. They still have a long way to go. We’re really real with them.”

Credit: ABC/Disney

And since the premiere, the judges have stuck with that method.

“This is the American Idol after Simon Cowell had a kid because there’s no way in the world you would be able to go tell your daughter or son, you know what you suck,” Richie said after Monday night’s episode.