All of the Golden Tickets have been handed out on American Idol. With the auditions in the rearview mirror, the trio of judges will now set up in Hollywood to begin the narrowing down the process as hundreds of hopefuls look to continue their journey. Through the first five episodes, America has seen quite the cast of talent come through the doors, which should set up for an entertaining Hollywood Week.
Heading into the season, Luke Bryan called it one of his "favorite" seasons to date due to the overwhelming talent not just vocally, but lyrically.
"The best part of the new season is we're seeing more songwriters come out with better songs," Bryan said, via ABC Audio. "Songwriters and people that think that they don't fit the American Idol criteria, they're coming out."
With such high praise, viewers will surely be anticipating a tightly-contested Hollywood Week. The show will take a different approach this season, incorporating a Genre Challenge and a duets round, which replaces the group stage. After the first two rounds, contestants will get back to the usual format with the solo round, which will be their first chance to perform in front of the judges with a band behind them.
Ahead of Monday's first episode for Hollywood Week, here are a handful of notable contestants, ones who received the highest praise and others who captured the audience with a memorable audition.
Episode 1 Contestants
The premiere episode packed a major punch with talent, setting the stage for what is expected to be a competitive season. Among the notable contestants was Louis Knight, who performed an original song that he wrote following his friend's suicide. After his performance, Bryan turned to his judges and said that, "I think he might be the biggest star we have on American Idol."
Along with Knight, Arthur Gunn and Doug Kiker entered the picture with some tremendous backstories. Gunn originally lived in Nepal before moving to Kansas. His rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" was a knockout for the judges. Lionel Ritchie said "I don't even think we need to vote" after his performance. Meanwhile, Kiker won over the judges and the Internet as the singing garbage man. His journey brought tears to Katy Perry.
The debut also saw Francisco Martin and Just Sam shine. Both have unique voices and will be expected to do big things in Hollywood Week.
Episode 2 Contestants
The follow-up episode to the Season 18 premiere continued to infuse talent into the show. The show saw the return of Margie Mays, who previously competed in the previous season. This time around, she was joined by her boyfriend, Johnny West. The pair both collected Golden Tickets as Mays impressed Bryan vocally, telling her that she "didn't hit a single bad note." West was told by Richie that he has everything he needs to "make you an American Idol."
Like Mays, Hannah Prestridge didn't go at it alone as she was joined by her husband. While he didn't earn a Golden Ticket, Prestridge did and captured both the judges and the viewers with her story of overcoming addiction thanks to the support of her spouse.
Kay Genyse had one of the more unique audition processes after she was asked to perform on the street in front of a crowd of strangers. She didn't win over the judges in the first try but opened up a bit when Perry asked her to go outside and sing.
Perhaps the most memorable performance of the episode was Kyle Tanguay, who became the first male cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles and was joined on set by his teammates. His performance of "Mercy" by Shawn Mendes won over the judges despite not having a musical background.
Episode 3 Contestants
Perhaps the lightest in terms of "wow" moments, the third episode did re-introduced American Idol fans to Genevieve Linkowski. She previously was on the show in 2018 and received a Golden Ticket then but just wasn't quite ready for the next step. She made a return and stunned the judges with her growth, but also shared a heartbreaking story about her sister's passing.
Kimmy Gabriela received high praise from Perry, who called her "Top 10 material." She has a strong musical background with her father having been in the business and vocally impressed the judges with her rendition of OneRepublic's "Let's Hurt Tonight.
Another contestant with ties to the music industry is Lauren Mascitti, who brought along her boyfriend and Nashville songwriter Shawn Kemp, who Bryan instantly called out. She was compared by Bryan to a contestant on last season, Laci Kaye Booth, who finished fourth on Season 17.
The story of the night, perhaps, belonged to Dillon James. The 26-year-old can sing clearly, but struck a chord with the judges after sharing how he is a recovering addict who lived on the streets before reuniting with his family.
Episode 4 Contestants
The trend of couples performing and moving on together continued in the second-to-last audition episode. Alejandro "Space Cowboy" Garrido and Kat Luna proved to be a perfect match in performing the hit Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga duet, "Shallow." They were so in-sync that Perry told them she believes in love again after seeing them together. They also urged Garrido to drop the nickname and continue forward with his name as they see both having a strong chance in Hollywood Week.
Sophia Wackerman is going to be a big threat in the competition with both of her parents having careers in the industry. Her late mother was a backup singer for Belinda Carlisle while her father is a drummer for James Taylor.
Then there are contestants like Zack Dobbins, who only came to follow through on a promise he made and came on set with a guitar not properly tuned (Bryan came up to assist him). Despite his limited experience and coming from a small town in West Virgina, he earned a trip to Hollywood and saw the judges refer to him as a "diamond in the rough."
Marna Michele is living her life to the fullest despite being born with anthrogrposis, which leaves her in a wheelchair due to her muscles being too weak for her to walk or lift her arms over her head. She performed "Million Reasons" by Lady Gaga and earned a "yes" from the judges.
Episode 5 Contestants
The most recent episode that aired on Sunday saw a few firsts in American Idol history and some incredible performances.
Grace Leer has an interesting story, previously appearing on the defunct-show, American Juniors, which also had Ryan Seacrest as the host. She delivered a powerful performance, even singing two songs per the judges' request, and knocked them both out of the park with her country voice.
A unique voice was heard when Franklin Boone came on set and showed that he's more than a music teacher. Bryan even compared him to Alejandra Arranda, who finished second in 2019. All three judges say he has a strong chance of going all the way.
Alaina Jester came on with a story that no one saw coming. Her mother essentially locked her in her room after disapproving of her dating a non-religious person, before being saved by her father. Having gone through such a traumatic experience, she came on stage with her emotional support dog. She showcased her strong voice and proved she will be a strong competitor moving forward.
In terms of the memorable performances, both Megan Knight and Gilberto Rivera had some unique experiences. Knight earned her Golden Ticket in a non-traditional way: by singing on a boat. She was caught off guard when the judges pulled her aside to go sing on a yacht, and she wound up winning them over singing "When You're Mind's Made Up" by Glen Hansard.0comments
Meanwhile, Rivera actually took a seat in a vacant judge's seat, singing one of Lionel Richie's songs with the music legend, stunning them with his voice despite his wardrobe. The judges advised him to shave his chest -- he later was seen doing so -- and come to Hollywood with a new look. If he does, as he promised, he will be a strong contestant this season.
Photo Credit: ABC/Eric Liebowitz