Lionel Richie Says 'Idol' Builds 'Special Forces' as Contestants with COVID Appear from Hotel Room

Contestants Noah Thompson and Fritz Hager, who made the top five on Sunday, appeared from their perspective hotel rooms after testing positive for COVID-19

Lionel Richie. Photo: Raymond Liu via Getty Images

COVID-19 was no match for contestants Noah Thompson and Fritz Hager.

On Sunday night's episode of American Idol, the top seven contestants performed two songs of their choice in hopes of making the top five. At the beginning of the show, however, host Ryan Seacrest revealed that Thompson and Hager had tested positive for COVID-19, meaning they would turn to an alternative way to deliver their performances.

The first performance by each contestant was a song that has either gone viral on TikTok or one that they themselves have sang on the social media app. For their second performance, as a special Mother's Day tribute, they each got to dedicate a song to their mothers/mother figures.

Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. Raymond Liu via Getty Images

Due to their health conditions, however, Hager's performances were tapings of his rehearsals from days prior, while Thompson performed the songs from his hotel room.

During a group conversation with PEOPLE and Parade, the contestants revealed that their conditions made the show that much more nerve-wrecking.

"I was pretty worried," says Harold, who sang two original songs called "All My Friends" and "Ocean." "They filmed my rehearsals from before I got my positive result back and my throat was already getting kind of weird at that point. There's something about being in that studio with that crowd that really just elevates performances. And I was really, really nervous. Going up against the other contestants who are in the room ... it's so daunting to have my fate sealed for me yesterday, and then just waiting to see how it plays out."

For Thompson, who sang "Painted Blue" and "Landslide," it was a matter of pushing through his pain.

"This morning, I woke up with probably ... I've never had such a sore throat my entire life. It was killing me," he says. "I was just trying to push through it. I honestly can't believe I made it through because it was hurting that bad. I was having such problems with it. I'm just glad it worked out."

Meanwhile, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, who are serve as judges on the show with Katy Perry expressed how proud they are of the contestants — and admit that it's a true testament to their ability to make it in the business.

"Let me explain something. You're looking at two people right here. There's 50,000 people in a concert. Your throats hurting. You have a cold like you've never experienced before. And you go, 'You're on,' " Richie, 42, says in a group interview. "We've done that so many times. I mean, what you saw tonight was one of those moments for them for the rest of their lives. In other words, they're gonna be sick and tired and worn out every time for the rest of their careers. But they have a career."

He adds, "We're not building just singers with this. This is special forces. I mean, if you can survive this, you can make it. I'm telling you, you can drop them out of a plane and say 'Guys, can you do this? [And] go no problem.' This is special forces."

Bryan, 45, adds, "They have to show up and get done."

After each performance, the top five remaining and going into the next round are Thompson, Harold, Leah Marlene, Nicolina and Huntergirl — meaning Jay and Christian Guardino were sent home.

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