Julia Gagnon performs Bryan Adams’ “Here I Am” on Sunday’s episode of “American Idol.” Gagnon, of Cumberland, advanced to the “Idol” top 8. Courtesy of Disney/Eric McCandless

Cumberland singer Julia Gagnon will remain a contestant on “American Idol” after advancing to the show’s top 8 on Sunday night.

The University of Southern Maine student and the other nine singers hoping to be crowned the winner of the well-known contest this year belted out songs released from the year of their birth, including “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls (1998), “All the Small Things” by blink-182 (1999) and “Here Without You” by Three Doors Down (2003). The audience seemed wowed, whooping, cheering and sometimes offering enthusiastic standing ovations after each song. The judges – pop singer Katy Perry, R&B legend Lionel Richie and country star Luke Bryan – seemed similarly impressed, offering significant praise.

Gagnon was the ninth contestant of the night. When it was her turn to take the stage, she walked out wearing black pants and a sparkly silver top and began singing “Here I Am” by Bryan Adams (2002).

As her final note faded into the background, the live audience erupted in thunderous cheers. The judges praised her vocals and performance.

“That was fantastic,” Richie said.

Perry said that for a moment, she thought Gagnon was Kelly Clarkson, while Bryan noted how her performances have improved since she started on the show.


Gagnon appeared shocked and immediately hugged a fellow contestant when she heard that she would be continuing on to the top 8.

The remaining contestants will perform again on Monday night, when one will be eliminated to create a top 7.

Gagnon was coached for Sunday’s performance by country music legend Shania Twain.

Julia Gagnon, left, and country music legend Shania Twain appear in a promotional image for “American Idol.” Photo courtesy of Disney/Eric McCandless

In clips of Gagnon’s training aired on the show, she said that she chose the Adams song because of the way she relates to the story it tells.

“The lyrics really connected me to what it meant to me to be adopted,” she said.

Gagnon said she first heard the song, originally written for the animated movie “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” when she was 4 years old.


“Here I am, this is me/ I come into this world so wild and free,” she sang. “Here I am, so young and strong/ Right here in the place where I belong.”

Gagnon, who graduated from North Yarmouth Academy and is a senior at the University of Southern Maine on a pre-law track, told the Press Herald before the start of her “Idol” journey that she had been reluctant to share her gift for singing because she didn’t want to stand out among her classmates.

The Guatemala native says she’d been bullied and harassed for her looks and background, and that made her want to be quiet and blend in. But after a talent show during middle school, her chorus teacher, Nora Krainis, encouraged her to sing publicly and worked with her parents, Meg and Jim Gagnon, to create opportunities for her to sing more.

She decided to try out for “American Idol ” in part, to share a special moment and journey with her birth mother in Guatemala, Sara Ramos, who is seriously ill and fighting an infection, Gagnon told the Press Herald in March.

She was the last person to audition for season 22 in November. The 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 of “Hollywood week.” She then competed against 150 others in the show’s Hollywood Week competition and made it to the top 24.

People can vote from the start of each week’s episodes, Sunday and Monday, until the last commercial break. Online voting information can be found at idolvote.abc.com, and text votes can be placed by texting the number of the contestant you like, which is given out during the show, to 21523. For more information on how and when to vote, go to idolvote.abc.com/#faq

This week, almost 21 million people voted during the live show.

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