“American Idol” has officially kicked off the pressure cooker that is Hollywood Week. Which participants cracked and which rose to the next round?
One contestant who felt the tension on Monday night’s episode was Kelsie Dolin. The 18-year-old from Boone County, West Virginia, blew the judges away in her audition that sang Kelly Clarkson and Adele songs.
Dolin was open about the program about her lack of performance experience. Aside from her “Idol” audition, the only time she sang in front of a crowd was at church, where she froze with nerves.
Dolin said music was her outlet through difficult times, even after the recent death of her grandmother, who was like a mother to her.
“I’m not really confident in myself because when I was growing up, I thought I’ve always felt like I’m on the back burner,” she said. “Or like, on Thanksgiving, when you have turkey or mac and cheese, I think other people are the most important things, and I’ll be the mashed potatoes. Nobody really pays attention to them.”
Luckily for Dolin, “Idol” brought back beloved singers from previous seasons to give contestants some much-needed tips and pep talk before they entered the stage. These returning mentors were Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard, Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, Season 7 winner David Cook, Season 9 winner Lee DeWyze, Season 10 runner-up Lauren Alaina, Season 10 third place finalist Hailey Reinhart and last season’s winner, Chayce Beckham.
“I know it’s intimidating. I know it’s so overwhelming,” Alaina told Dolin. “However, this program was created for Kelsies. You are what ‘American Idol’ is about. This is your moment. You can decide who you are and what you are going to be.”
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Dolin held the microphone with a trembling hand and sang “Things a Man Oughta Know” by Lainey Wilson to thunderous applause.
“She’s never even had a microphone,” Judge Luke Bryan joked after Dolin left the stage. Judge Katy Perry added: “She has never seen a microphone.”
Judge Lionel Richie revealed to a tearful Dolin that she had advanced to the next round.
“I hope I made my grandmother proud,” Dolin said through tears.
Another contestant who struggled with confidence but got the opportunity was Fritz Hager. The 22-year-old security guard from Tyler, Texas, sang a grim, raw version of “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors.
“I have not really processed the whole thing yet,” Hager said through tears after finding out he would progress as well. “I’m just so grateful.”
Sam Finelli, more fan favorites say goodbye
But not every contestant can survive Hollywood Week.
One singer who reached the end of his “Idol” journey was Sam Finelli, who gave an inspiring audition after opening up about his life with autism.
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“I am grateful for this experience,” Finelli said after his elimination. “I learned that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to put yourself out there even if you’re having a hard time doing it. It’s going to be difficult, but I’m not going to give up.
Others who said goodbye were the viral singing babysitter Delaney Renee, the deep-voiced Luke Taylor, the energetic uncle Thomas Patrick Moran and Zaréh, whose mother Nadia Turner finished in the Top 8 on Season 4 of “Idol”.
Katy Perry forged forerunner Nicolina
University student Nicolina beat the judges with her powerful performance of “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles in her audition.
And the 18-year-old from Toronto, Canada, went on to establish her dominance in the competition on Monday’s episode, with a rising rendition of Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted.”
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Before entering the stage, Nicolina opened up about her family’s struggle, saying that music helped her process her feelings during her parents’ divorce.
“Everything went downhill with my family,” she said. “A lot of emotions came with it. By singing, I learned how to use those emotions for good and not let them get me down.”
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The song seemed like a slam dunk, but Perry made her sweat and split the group of contestants Nicolina performed with into two rows.
“Front row, you go through,” Perry says as a shocked Nicolina stands in the back row.
But after a dramatic pause, Perry added, “Behind driving, you go through too.”
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