Sunday night kicked off the infamous Hollywood Week on ABC’s American Idol, the part of the competition that makes but mostly breaks the contestants as judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan brutally cut down the pool. Bobby Bones was back as a mentor.
During the episode, contestants gave solo performances in groups of 10 and were then told whether they would be advancing to the group round. The second hour of the installment tackled the group round. Not all performances were given airtime.
Laci Kaye Booth was the first singer up, singing Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman,” but with her own country twists put on it. She showcased creativity and had a warm, low voice that clearly impressed the judges, because Perry knocked over her chair she was so into it.
Alejandro Aranda put his own twists on “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, making it sound like his own song. He had a singer-songwriter vibe with an airy, delicate voice that sounded especially good in his falsetto. Richie said he could listen to him all day. Aranda and Booth both advanced.
Courtney Penry, who returned to Idol this season after previously auditioning when she was 17 years old in 2011, was overwhelmed at the start of her Hollywood Week performance to the point that Perry needed to give her a tissue and a hug. She gave an incoherent performance and even forgot some of her lyrics. Penry did not advance.
Madison Vandenburg, whom the judges previously compared to Kelly Clarkson during the auditions, was up next. She fittingly sang Clarkson’s “Already Gone” and had a powerful, clear tone. She ended with an impressive run, and Perry ran out of the room because she was so blown away.
Margie Mays sang “Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith, and she had nerves, but she still delivered a powerful vocal. Tyler Mitchell was in her line and gave a solid old-school country performance. Also in the line was Logan Johnson, singing the smooth and soulful ballad “Sensible Heart.” Mays, Vandenburg, Mitchell and Johnson all advanced.
Several contestants were sick for Hollywood Week, including Eddie Island, whose voice was definitely a bit under the weather for his performance of “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie, but he managed to impress enough to advance to the group round.
Shawn Robinson sang “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, and Colby Swift sang “Every Teardrop Falls.” Both singers advanced, and Swift walked away with a fresh pair of cowboy boots gifted to him by Bryan.
Ashton Gill sang “I Can’t Make You Love Me” for her Hollywood Week performance, followed by her friend Laine Hardy, who previously competed on Idol last season. He sang “She Talks to Angels” and proved more confident than he was last season. Hardy advanced, but Gill was eliminated.
Jade Flores sang “Unchained Melody,” showcasing an impressive country voice and capacity for storytelling. Myra Tran next sang “Chandelier” by Sia, and she oversang parts, but still proved to have a lot of technical skills. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon gave an emotional performance of “Beautiful” by Carole King. Flores, Tran and Harmon advanced.
Contestants Walker Burroughs and Nate Walker also both advanced after their soulful performances at the piano.
Nick Townsend performed “Life of the Party” by Shawn Mendes, and he had solid stage presence and vocals. He was followed by Lauren Engle, who sang “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood, and she had some pitch problems. Townsend advanced, but Engle was cut.
Wade Cota and Dimitrius Graham also advanced. While their performances were not aired, Peach Martine, Landon Knowlton and Jorgie were eliminated. Meanwhile, Juan Pablo, Evelyn Cormier, Clay Page, Shayy and Ashley Hess advanced.
Then it was time for the group round. First up was group called Diversity, made up of Tran, Flores, Mariah and Pablo, who stirred some tension in the group and also went missing ahead of their performance. They sang “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson, and everyone advanced except for Flores.
Also eliminated during the group round were Ethan Payne, Chloe Chanel and Zebulon Spencer.
Booth, Hardy, Swift and Katie Belle made up the Diamond Dixies, a group that sang “Grenade” by Bruno Mars. Everyone moved forward except for country singer Swift.
The group Victorious Secret sang “California Dreaming.” It included Kasin Lester, Wade Cota and Grayson Little. Cota didn’t know the song, so he really struggled to remember the words and even wrote them on his arm. Everyone from the group moved forward except for Little.
The group Unexpected Vibe closed out the night, including Shayy, who struggled to learn the words. Her group rallied around her and were supportive, going so far as to wear glasses that blurred their vision like Shayy’s. It yielded a cohesive and emotional performance of “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys. Shayy, along with her group members Assata Renay and Dimitrius Graham, advanced, but William Oliver Jr. was eliminated.
Hollywood Week ended on a cliffhanger, as the group Ain’t Going Home lost their member Nate Walker due to an unexpected illness. Their fate will be revealed Monday night.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.