The lights finally went off on Thursday in the audition room at American Idol.
After the final night of auditions for the current – and last – season of the the singing competition show, judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr were seen sitting alone as the lights were gradually turned off.
‘Well y’all, this is it,’ Harry said, the nostalgia clear in his voice.
See American Idol news as Jennifer Lopez reminisces as final auditions conclude
Final audition: Harry Connick Jr reflected on the impact of American Idol on Thursday as the judges took part in the last round of auditions in the show’s final season
‘Crazy,’ added Keith, clearly hit by the reality that the show was creeping to an end after 15 seasons.
The judges however have all insisted the talent they have sent through to the next round in Hollywood ranks as some of the best they have ever seen.
As the lights went out Keith told his fellow judges: ‘But what a way to end.’
Fan favourite: Jennifer Lopez insisted the talent could make the final season the show’s best yet
In the dark: Harry was in the dark as they turned out the lights on the audition room
‘I’m going to miss this show,’ he said later, having admitted finding the final audition ‘surreal.’
‘I’m going to miss being on it, I’m going to miss it being on. It’s just been such a part of the landscape really for 15 years,’ Keith said.
J-Lo, who admitted being ‘sad’ before the final audition, later said that she will most miss the sensation of having an audition where they look at each other and say: ‘I think we just discovered somebody really special.’
Final season: Harry, Jennifer and Keith Urban are the judges for the final season of American Idol
Country star: Keith said that he’s going to miss American Idol
‘I love that I got to be part of this legacy of American Idol,’ she said. ‘It’s about dreams, it’s about America, it’s about everything that America is about.’
Despite only recently becoming a judge, Harry pointed out that he has been linked to the show from the very beginning – with a flashback showing him in the audience during the very first season’s final when Kelly Clarkson won.
‘Now that I’ve been a judge for three years it has left an undeniably wonderful mark on my heart,’ he said.
Wonderful mark: Harry said the show had left a wonderful mark on his heart
The final batch of hopefuls that got sent through included some they marked as potential winners for the farewell season, as well as some with incredible back-stories including a former teen drug addict and a 17-year-old hopeful just out of remission from stage three cancer.
It also saw one of the show’s most amazing comeback stories – with Brian Dale Brown getting through on his eleventh try on the show.
‘I have auditioned 10 times, and I have never gotten past the first round ever,’ the 27-year-old cellphone salesman from Bakersfield, California, admitted. ‘But here I am, season 15. You’re never going to see anyone quite like me.’
He’s back: Brian Dale Brown gets ticket to Hollywood on his eleventh try on the show
After showing off his fun side with impressions of both Scooby Doo and Keith Urban – inspiring Harry to do his own impression of Scooby rocking out like Keith – he then showed a side of his voice that the judges presumably never noticed before as he took on The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody.
‘That was great – it’s powerful!’ Keith told him after standing to applaud.
Jen had seemed unsure, admitting it was ‘all over the place’ and ‘left me confused,’ but went along with a yes after agreeing with Harry that he should drop the theatrics.
Kind of confused: J-Lo was not so sure about Brian but went along and sent him to Hollywood
‘You’re a really smart guy and you have a good voice,’ he told him, saying his performance was ‘over-the-top.’
‘I don’t think you need to do all of that,’ he stressed, with them leaving Brian pumping the air and doing more Scooby impressions after finally getting through.
By far the bravest performer, however, was 17-year-old Melany Huber whose hair was still just stubble after her chemo from fighting Stage 3 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Cancer survivor: Melany Huber by far was the bravest performer on the show
‘After the first couple of chemo she was sick – really, really sick,’ her dad Jon Huber admitted. ‘She couldn’t walk, her feet hurt. And it was tearing us up.’
Proudly saying she is ‘finally cancer free,’ Melany insisted: ‘It has given me a whole new perspective on things.
‘If it’s something I wanna do, I’m gonna go for it – and that’s why I’m here today.’
Teen talent: The teenage singer said surviving cancer gave her a ‘whole new perspective’
‘I liked everything that I’m seeing in front of me right now, from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet,’ Harry told her, calling her performance of Talking To The Moon by Bruno Mars ‘really appealing and captivating.’
She was left in tears of joy as the other judges also sent her through to Hollywood, with J-Lo impressed by how her voice emotes ‘so naturally’ and Keith admiring ‘the good storytelling quality’ of her voice and ‘easy presence.’
‘The fact that I was able to be here and sing today just incredible,’ Melany said later. ‘And I am so, so happy.’
Kacye Haynes also had an amazing comeback story, but his was from having fallen into drug addiction as a teenager.
Comeback singer: Kacye Haynes overcame drug addiction as a teenager
The 23-year-old rocker from Talladega, Alabama, admitted he once assumed he ’was never going to get out of that darkness’ of his addiction, saying: ‘The drug starts controlling your life. You start to lose everything. You become a person you never desired to be.’
However, he suggested the ‘power of music’ played a key part in him getting clean, also insisting: ‘There are certain people born with music in their soul – I feel like I’m one of those people.’
He spoke proudly about being sober for almost a year, and insisted: ‘I feel like American Idol is my greatest opportunity to be reborn after the things I’ve gone through. This is my chance to really live the life I’ve always dreamed of.’
Tough call: Harry made the decision to send Kacye to Hollywood
J-Lo was quick to give a yes after his performance of Brother by Needtobreathe, telling Kacye: ‘I like everything that’s going on. There’s something special there.’
But Keith gave a no, saying his performance was ‘lacking power,’ adding: ‘It didn’t come to get me, it didn’t pull me in. For me as a solo performer it wasn’t enough.’
That gave the deciding vote to Harry – who gave a yes after comparing him to Bono and Jon Bon Jovi.
Mixed reviews: Keith and Jennifer didn’t always agree on which singers to advance
‘I love your voice, man,’ he told him.
Jessica Cabral, meanwhile, had one of the most painful responses to getting sent through – accidentally biting into her boyfriend’s face during her celebrations, joking: ‘That must be the first Golden Ticket injury.’
The 21-year-old from Worcester, Massachusetts, spoke about how tough it was for her family who moved to the US from Brazil just months before she had been born, moving around the States because of no job opportunity.
Nailed it: Jessica Cabral impressed the judges and got a ticket to Hollywood
‘I hope that this is my opportunity to have the American Dream – and have it on American Idol!’ she said before going into the audition room.
She soon got her wish, with Harry telling her: ‘That’s one of best voices I’ve heard. Tremendous talent, with a capital “T”. You are a strong singer – I’m going to be shocked if you don’t make it very far.’
He even told her: ‘You’re absolutely beautiful, but when you started to sing you became more beautiful.’
Golden ticket: J-Lo extended a golden ticket to Hollywoood
As Jessica fought back tears at knowing she was through, Harry then joked: ‘It’s a no from me.’
After she left the room carrying her ticket to Hollywood, he told the judges: ‘That girl can sing her behind off.’
Harry was also clearly a fan of TV extra Usen Isong, 23, from Queens, New York, telling him: ‘You are trouble, man. When you walk out on stage, the person behind you is gonna say, “Oh crap.”’
Queens crooner: Usen Isong from Queens, New York took on Not The Only One by Sam Smith and earned a trip to Los Angeles
Usen, whose parents are from Nigeria, insisted he loved his job as an extra, but added: ‘I think it’s time for me to move on from the background to the forefront.’
He proved he had the personality to do it, cracking up the judges by coming into the audition room with a flamboyant dance, claiming he learnt his moves from J-Lo – then blowing them away with his voice on Sam Smith’s Not The Only One.
J-Lo, however, warned that despite winning over everyone with his ‘bubbly personality’ he also needs to show that he is serious. ‘
Getting serious: J-Lor urged the singer to stay serious in the competition
And with a voice like that, it IS serious,’ she told him, teasing him by repeatedly pulling away his ticket to Hollywood after they all voted him through.
Jennifer was once again the subject of much admiration from many of the performers, with the very last singer to get to audition calling her ‘the Queen bee’ of women.
‘The most exciting part of this day is probably getting to sing in front of J-Lo,’ fellow Puerto Rican Manny Torres admitted. ‘Especially because she’s Puerto Rican … oh my goodness.’
Services offered: Manny Torres was looking forward to singing for Jennifer
He even offered his services to be her back-up dancer or singer, laughing as he added: ’Whatever she needs, you know.’
Once in the audition room, he was quick to tell the superstar: ‘Jennifer, you look beautiful.’
‘Thank you, sweetie, I put a lot of time into it,’ she laughed, then joking before she even heard a note: ‘Really, you’re a Puerto Rican? It’s a yes from me.’
She’s funny: Jennifer joked that she was going to vote for Manny because he was Puerto Rican also
She was even more enthused after his acoustic take on This Love by Maroon 5, telling him:
‘Digging you! You sound great. Lots to love there. You got us.’
After he left, she told the other judges: ‘I like Manny – he gets a star in my book.’
Chynna Sherrod, 16, was also a J-Lo fan, calling her ’pretty’ and telling her after she handed her her ticket to Hollywood ‘I can’t even believe you touched that!’
She’s awesome! Chynna Sherrod impressed with her rendition of One Last Time by Ariana Grande
After accompanying herself on guitar to perform Ariana Grande’s One Last Time, her own idol J-Lo had told her: ‘You’re awesome.’
While Jennifer is used to contestants hitting on her, she seemed a little taken aback when one tried to get her dad in on the action.
After Bianca Espinal, 22, tearfully hugged the judges for voting her through to Hollywood, she then made sure her dad Carlos, who played guitar for her, got his own hug with the sexy superstar.
Father and daughter: Bianca Espinal forgot the words but was reminded by her father who was playing guitar for her
‘Hug her – you love her!’ Bianca told her dad, who excitedly stripped off his guitar and ran up for a long hug with Jennifer, who said afterwards: ‘Dad’s hot!’
Bianca had been so nervous she had to get her dad to remind her of how her song went, getting him to start it over.
‘I’m so nervous I’m actually blanking out,’ she admitted.
Big hug: The singer encouraged her father to give J-Lo a hug
Hot in here: Jennifer noted that Bianca’s father was hot
But another contestant, Justin Sullivan, had eyes on another Idol star – season one winner Kelly Clarkson, admitting he was ‘obsessed’ with her, adding: ‘I love her.’
He even showed the judges how he has T-shirts with ‘Mr Clarkson’ printed on them, saying: ‘She’s really my biggest musical inspiration. Kelly Clarkson is the greatest artist of our generation.
‘I want that ticket so bad because if there’s a chance I could meet Kelly Clarkson down the line I will absolutely take it.’
Huge fan: Justin Sullivan belted out a Kelly Clarkson song but failed to get a ticket to Hollywood
However, Justin will need a new approach to get to meet his dream girl, with his take on Kelly’s Stronger failing to impress the judges – even though Harry brought over a giant photo of Kelly to stand next to him for inspiration.
Bianca wasn’t the only hopeful to get through with the help of relatives backing them up.
Caroline Byrne brought her brother Brendan to play guitar, calling him ‘kind of like a security blanket for me’ as they almost always write and perform together.
Family affair: Caroline Byrne sang with her brother Brendan on guitar
And Rachel Karryn, 20, of Columbus, Ohio, brought her granddad Steve on guitar, saying of them playing music together: ‘It’s our thing. Whenever I have an issue, that’s our way to communicate it.’
Cody Ostrenga, meanwhile, stunned the judges by showing off his belly-dancing, telling J-Lo: ‘You actually taught me when I would watch your videos.’
‘I think you’re thinking of Shakira, not me,’ she replied after seeing the moves of the contestant who is also a world champion mounted shooting horse rider.
Grandfather assistance: Rachel Karryn brought her grandfather Steve to play guitar
The 23-year-old executive assistant from El Paso, Texas, then had everyone clearly entertained with his dancing to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary – but his vocals getting chuckles for the wrong reasons.
‘Everything was good … except the singing,’ Keith told him. ‘But you’re incredibly entertaining.’
Harry also told him he had the ‘singular most unusual collection of talent I’ve seen in my life,’ but also admitted singing was the least strong of all the talents he had shown them.
Multiple talents: Cody Ostrenga showed some of his multiple talents but his singing wasn’t strong enough
Not all of those rejected took it so well, however.
Gina Naomi Baez had gone all out to impress the judges – bringing her cute dog Tinkerbell wearing a matching bright blue outfits with yellow stars.
Bu she was left begging for a second chance after the judges passed on her, with Harry saying her performance ‘wasn’t deeply interesting’ and Keith adding: ‘I don’t see a real artist.’
Tough break: Gina Naomi Baez and her cute dog Tinkerbell were sent home despite her pleading for another song to sing
‘This is my dream, this is what I’ve been working for,’ she pleaded. ’Please can I sing another song? Please I have so many other songs, I’ve been working so hard.
‘J-Lo, you are my inspiration, you do it all,’ Gina pleaded.
‘I’m sorry sweetie,’ Jennifer told her, having called her ‘just not right for American Idol.’
So sorry: Jennifer felt bad breakign the bad news to those who didn’t make it to Hollywood
As she fled, clearly close to tears, clips were shown of other hopefuls breaking down after their dreams were ended, with J-Lo insisting: ‘I have a big heart and I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.’
‘My job on American Idol is purely as a judge, and that goes against my nature a little bit,’ Harry added.
But there was one teen sent through to Hollywood who he definitely wanted to reject – left clearly stunned when Jennifer and Keith outvoted him to send Lillian Glanton through.
Controversial decision: Lillian Glanton made it to Hollywood much to the surprise of Keith
After the 15-year-old who lives on a poultry farm in Athens, Alabama, sang her own song, Country Boyfriend, with a Stars and Stripes shawl over her shoulders, he seemed convinced she was heading home.
‘You look like the type of person that would be really fun to hang out with, you seem lovely, but your voice isn’t quite on the level of what I’m looking for,’ Harry told her.
But Keith praised her for having a ‘legit’ voice, and J-Lo also sent her through despite admitting she was shocked she could not even sing a song she wrote herself in tune.
Selfite time: Keith took a selfie for Lillian after she made it to Hollywood
‘Were you guys kidding?’ Harry asked them after Lillian left the room. ‘It makes me question my sanity.’
Colette Lush, meanwhile, made a big impression with her natural red hair especially when she told them that scientists soon think redheads will be extinct.
‘Redheads aren’t going to be extinct in 2030 because everyone’s gonna run out and try to find ‘em a redhead if they sing like that,’ Harry told her of her performance of Who’s Loving You by Jackson 5.
Going extinct: Colette Lush told the judges that redheads would extinct by 2030
‘I think you just gave hope to all redheads around the world. It was terrific – really terrific.’
‘I feel like Carrie Underwood walked in – I’m serious,’ J-Lo told the 19-year-old nanny. ‘You really have potential to do well in this competition.’
Keith praised her ’timeless quality,’ and said after Colette had left: ‘Big old star next to her.’
High praise: J-Lo said Colette reminded her of Carrie Underwood while Keith praised her ‘timeless quality’
Jaci Butler, 19, also made an impression with her hair – but this time it was green, matching the look of the rest of her punk rock band who all live with her at her parents’ home in Rowlett, Texas.
She surprised them with her soulful vocals on It’ll Rain by Bruno Mars, with Harry telling her: ‘Clearly you can sing. You’re very talented, for sure.’
They were also impressed with Stephany Negrete’s dressed-up look, with Keith telling the 21-year-old from San Diego: ‘I like you as a sum. I like you, I like your vibe, I like your energy and you’ve got a good voice.’
Punk rock: Jaci Butler made an impression with her green hair
‘There’s a lot to like about you,’ Harry agreed, with all three judges voting for her to go through.
Self-styled tomboy Avalon Young, 21, showed off her tattoo with lyrics from Roxy Music’s Avalon, telling the judges she was named after the song.
She then got the nod from all three judges after her singer-songwriter take on Beyonce’s XO, with Harry telling her: ‘You have a very different voice, man. This is a great day for us.’
Good vibe: Stephany Negrete was praised by J-Lo for her voice and her vibe
She’s a force: Avalon Young got a yes vote from all three judges
All three judges voted through guitar player Zach Person, 18, from Houston, Texas, after his take on Next Door Neighbor Blues by Gary Clark Jr.
J-Lo called him ‘super unique,’ adding: ‘There’s nobody in the world who sounds like you.’
‘He’s from another time,’ Jen said as he calmly collected his ticket and walked out.
Cool customer: Zach Person sang a blues tune and calmly collected his ticket to Hollywood
Harry had a surprise of his own when the crew threw him a surprise birthday party.
They brought him a finger monkey that left J-Lo running off scared.
‘Oh my God, this is the coolest day of my life!’ Harry said, clearly thrilled, instantly FaceTiming his daughter Charlotte to show off the pet that ran over his body as he blew out the candles on his cake.
Finger monkey: J-Lo scampered away when Harry was given a finger monkey for his birthday
On the shoulder: Harry started a video chat with his daughter to show off the finger monkey
Birthday wish: The singer wished that the last season of the show would be its finest