The very last “Hollywood Week” finally came to a close on American Idol tonight with the top 51 artists performing in front of a large live audience as well as judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. The morning after the performances, the contestants had to wait to be called into a room for their final judgment. By the end of the episode, season 15 of Idol had its top 24.
Stephany Negrete was the first contestant to take the long walk to the judges for her final judgment. The night before, she sang “Girl On Fire,” and she commanded the audience with ease and without ever losing command over her vocals. After a long spiel about how they’re looking for someone who brings something special to the table, Lopez revealed her fate: “There is no way that we wouldn’t want you in our top 24.” Negrete became the very first member of the final season’s top 24.
Shelbie Z met with the judges next. For her performance, she sang Heart’s “Barracuda.” As she has become known to do, she put a ton of power behind her vocals. Urban informed her that she will be joining Negrete in the top 24.
Next, 16-year-old Michelle Marie, who has been a lifelong Idol fan, entered the final judgment room. She sang Carrie Underwood’s “Little Toy Guns” and proved that she can own a stage. Urban pointed out that she looked very comfortable up there. “It’s not just about one performance,” Lopez said, pointing out that they have to consider the full package at this stage of the competition. They sent Marie home, but she handled the elimination very well. “I got some very great experiences out of this, and I couldn’t be anymore happy or proud,” she said through tears.
Colette Lush let Connick down during the solo round because of her lack of confidence. For her performance, she sang “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor, and Connick still felt like she had lost the special quality they saw in her original audition. They had to let her go.
Jessica Cabral, who also was a favorite of the judges early on, just couldn’t sustain it once she got to Hollywood, and even though the judges acknowledged that she’s a great singer, they cut her. Jessica Clark, Ameet Kanon and Terrian were also eliminated.
Mackenzie Bourg, who impressed the judges with his original song in last night’s solo round, sang “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.” It was a great arrangement that really showed off his sense of artistry. His tone was beautiful, too. The judges unsurprisingly welcomed him into the top 24.
After overcoming the setback of being diagnosed with mono during Hollywood Week, Trent Harmon still managed to bring energy to his performance of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” “What a strange journey this has been for you,” Urban said. He also pointed out that it has almost been an advantage for the judges to see how he was able to deal with such unfortunate circumstances. Harmon made it to the top 24, and he was joined by Jenna Renae, James VIII, Kory Wheeler and Adam Lasher.
After a slew of rapid judgments, it was Jeneve Rose Mitchell’s turn. She sang “Ring Of Fire” and really brought her own sound to it. Connick listed all of her strengths in her judgment: She’s unique, passionate and incredibly smart. Mitchell advanced to the top 24, so she won’t be returning to her off-the-grid home on Saddle Mountain any time soon.
CJ Johnson, who has remained pretty consistent during his Idol journey so far, was up next. The judges think he has the something special that they’re looking for, and he advanced. He was followed by Amelia Eisenhauer, who also made it into the top 24.
Lee Jean sang Ed Sheeran’s “Make It Rain,” and he had a little difficulty on stage, shushing the audience at one point. Still, his vocals were great and he shows so much potential to be a really captivating artist. The judges gave him another chance to get a little more with performing, advancing him to the top 24.
Next up was Avalon Young, who struck the judges as a unique talent early on. Like Jean, Young shows so much potential to be a really strong contender in the competition. She’ll have more opportunities to grow, as she made it to the top 24.
After a few swift eliminations, including Mary Williams and Zach Person, Dylan Rapattoni was up. Rapattoni always makes song choices that are unexpected and yet end up working really well. His performance this time was no exception. He sang “It’s Gonna Be Me” by ‘N Sync, and it was a great performance that landed him a spot in the top 24. He was joined by Manny Torres, who has impressed the judges with both his vocals and his performance abilities.
Laurel Wright, Isaac Cole and Anatalia Villaranda were among the next group of contestants who did not advance.
Hoping for better news, Thomas Stringfellow walked into the final judgment room yet. He sang “Story Of My Life” by One Direction. Connick told Stringfellow that there are better singers in the competition, but he also noted that there are occasionally contestants who seem to have something special enough that it carries them through to the top 24. Stringfellow was one of those rare cases, and he’ll have another chance to show America that he has what it takes.
Sonika Vaid followed. She gave a powerful and beautiful performance of “I Surrender” by Celine Dion. In her final judgment, Lopez told Vaid that while her vocals have been very impressive, the judges had a hard time making a decision about her because they feel like there might be something missing. She’ll have a shot to figure out what that is and improve, because she made it to the top 24.
Malie Delgado, who started losing her voice during Hollywood Week, got things back on track with her performance of “Little White Church.” Still, the judges felt that she doesn’t quite have what it takes to go to the next round of the competition, and she was sent home.
Olivia Rox, who was also struggling with her health going into this round, fought to stay in the competition, churning out a performance that brought Urban to his feet. Connick said she got swallowed up by the band a bit, but the judges agreed to give her another chance in the top 24.
She was followed by Emily Brooke, who competed last season but didn’t make it past Hollywood Week. This time, she made it into the top 24. The judges think she’s way more ready for the competition this time around.
Brooke was followed by another slew of eliminations, including Jordyn Simone, Kayla Mickelson and Mionne Destiny.
Gianna Isabella, the daughter of singer Brenda K. Starr, was up next. Idol’s music director Rickey Minor had to tell Starr to back down a little bit when she was being too controlling in Isabella’s rehearsal. But by the time of her performance, Isabella was standing on her own, and she made it to the top 24.
Jenn Blosil sang “The Hanging Tree” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1, and it was an interesting song choice that had great pay off. Blosil and her unique tone made it to the top 24. She was followed by a round of cuts that included Christian Eason, Ariel Sprague and Kelsie Watts.
Tristan McIntosh turned things around with her captivating performance. It was her best to date, but Urban again pointed out that the judges have to consider each contestant’s entire journey so far. In the case of McIntosh, the judges want to see more, so they put her through to the top 24.
It was then down to the final four, with only two spots remaining. The first pair to walk into their final judgment together were Kacye Hynes and Jordan Sasser, who both delivered excellent performances. “I see that you guys have a lot in common,” Connick said, listing all the strengths that they share. But there was only room for one. The judges chose Sasser, and Hynes was eliminated.
Lindita and La’Porsha Renae then had to fight for the final spot in the top 24. Both are incredible singers with compelling backstories. Renae sang “House Of The Rising Sun,” and showcased the full range of her talents. Lindita and Renae went into their final judgment together. Both women brought a lot to the table, but the judges advanced Renae, sending Lindita home.
Next Wednesday, 12 of the top 24 artists will perform in the first of the live showcase performances. Who were you sad to see eliminated after tonight’s round of brutal cuts?
This article originally appeared in THR.com.