Julia Gagnon, of Cumberland, performs during the top 14 round of “American Idol” on Sunday. Gagnon advanced into the show’s top 12 on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Disney/Eric McCandless

Cumberland singer Julia Gagnon advanced Sunday to become a top 12 contestant on “American Idol.”

She and the other top 14 contestants performed songs by Rock & Rock Hall of Fame inductees, and two more contestants were eliminated.

Gagnon was the second contestant of the night to sing.

Before she took the stage, footage was shown of Gagnon working with guest mentor Gene Simmons from the rock band Kiss.

When Simmons asked how she chose her song, Gagnon answered through tears: “When I was growing up, I didn’t see many people who looked like me, kind of glammed up and singing about love, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever have something like that.”


Simmons couldn’t believe his ears when Gagnon sang a few lines.

“I’m stunned. You should be on stage at Madison Square Garden with that kind of emotion and that kind of vocal range – you’re a star,” Simmons said.

Gagnon wore pearls and a strapless, floor-length red gown Sunday as she sang the 1993 Whitney Houston song “Run to You” from the soundtrack of the film “The Bodyguard.”

The live audience erupted in cheers after her performance, and judges Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry lavished Gagnon with praise.

“Talk about the butterfly leaving the cocoon,” Bryan said. “Your transformation and growth from Day One till present day is just so inspiring to watch.”

Richie said Gagnon’s performance was “absolutely beautiful” and noted her stage command.


“I felt like that gave you the ammunition you needed. and you know confidence is a mental decision, and you decided tonight to switch it on,” Perry said about Gagnon’s enthralling rendition of Houston’s song.

On Monday, the remaining group will perform Billboard No. 1 hits and get narrowed down further to the top 10.

Episodes air weekly at 8 p.m. Sundays and Mondays on ABC. For information on how and when to vote, go to AmericanIdol.com/vote.

Last week, Gagnon was one of 10 contestants chosen by public vote to continue competing this week. They were joined by four contestants chosen by judges Perry, Richie and Bryan in the top 14.

Gagnon, a 21-year-old student at the University of Southern Maine, told the Press Herald that she kept quiet about her talent as a child growing up in Cumberland.

She was the last person to audition for season 22 in November, when judges awarded her one of only three platinum tickets for the singers with the strongest performances, which meant she got a pass through the first round.

She since has performed Adele’s “Rumour Has It,” which had the judges urging the public to vote for her; “I Believe” by Fantasia, a previous “American Idol” winner; and “Need A Favor” by Jelly Roll, a mentor this season.

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