In Monday's episode, seven of the 14 finalists were marked "safe" by a nationwide vote, leaving the remaining singers to fight for three spots awarded by the judges' panel.
With Richie using his vote to save Uche, Perry for Alyssa Raghu and Bryan on Dimitrius Graham, it was difficult for everyone to say goodbye to Riley Thompson, Eddie Island, Ashley Hess and Evelyn Cormier.
After the show, Perry told PEOPLE of the choice, "It's tough because we're so invested. 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 added of the night's performances from the now-eliminated artists. "You see these kids and it inspires me to sit at home at my piano."
"I think one of the most important things is that we feel like the talent is really, really next-level stuff," Bryan told ABC News Radio prior to the March premiere. "And we feel like we have people that walk out, that they're not just walking out and they're just singing, they truly have stories to tell."
"They're true artists," he continued. "And they're so good, they just, even help legitimize our show so much more when we have extremely talented kids on the show."
Richie added, "If you thought last year had talent, Oh. My. God! They came out of the woodwork! I think the kids actually saw the first [season] and realized, okay, we not only give great advice, but on top of that, we're having a lot of fun ... and we're not so scary!"
American Idol airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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