“American Idol” has kicked off Hollywood Week, and the notorious pressure-cooker phase of the competition is already bringing some jaw-dropping moments.
During her initial audition, Sara Beth, a 25-year-old mother from California, confessed she didn’t know if singing professionally was her “dream.” Though she earned a golden ticket, the young mom seemed to still have doubts about Hollywood.
“I don’t even really know what show business is,” she said on Sunday’s episode. “I don’t feel like I fit the mold, so I’m trying to figure this all out.”
Despite her conflicted feelings, Sara Beth wowed the judges, finding texture and gravelly tones on an acoustic cover of “Roxanne” by The Police.
Then she did something even more shocking: She said she was quitting the competition, right there onstage.
“This opportunity is really rad, but this is actually going to be my last performance because my heart’s at home, so I’m going to get home to my babies,” she said. “They really need me.”
The contestant then walked offstage, leaving the judges gobsmacked.
“What just happened? She’s gonna leave?” Richie asked. “That was a mistake,” quipped Bryan.
Perry was determined to get to the bottom of it.
“No, we’re gonna figure this out,” she said. “The thing I see in her is her fighting spirit.”
Katy Perry has heart-to-heart with Sara Beth
The judges called Sara Beth back to the stage.
“I know life is scary,” Perry told her. “I also know that it’s easier to walk away than to be rejected. But then, I also know that you lose out on your fullest potential. And I know that you love your family … I know that as a mother, but remember: Self-love is just as big as motherly love. Don’t leave the competition.”
Sara Beth said “thank you” and walked offstage again, where a production member told her it was up to the contestant to decide whether to stay or go. She still seemed torn, saying, “I feel like I’m not gonna win the show anyway, so I might as well just go home.”
In the end, she decided to stay.
“You’ve opened a door you never thought you would open, and you got a yes, and you may get another yes in the future,” Perry told her. “Do not give up.”
Haven Madison, 16, brings room to tears with original song about suicide
Another standout performance came from Tennessee high school student Haven Madison, a 16-year-old songwriting savant who impressed the judges in her initial audition with her original song “Fifteen.”
Madison returned for Hollywood Week with another original song, this time one she wrote for her brother while he was struggling with suicidal thoughts.
“It was pretty scary trying to go to school each day and not knowing if he was going to be home, and my parents taking shifts at night staying up to make sure he was OK,” she said. “(This song) was kind of my last hope of convincing him to stick around. And now he’s OK.”
Madison performed the heartbreaking song, titled “Still Need You,” while accompanying herself on the piano. Her vulnerable lyrics, combined with her delicate vocal delivery, brought several contestants in the audience to tears.
She earned a standing ovation from the audience, including the judges.
“I sat at the piano as a broken teenager, not knowing what the heck was going to happen to my family and my life, and to sing it on the stage in front of three idols, it was just really surreal,” she said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline which provides confidential 24/7 support by dialing 9-8-8.
Fire finds her confidence, Lucy Love shuts down competition
Fire, a 22-year-old stripper and single mother from Oklahoma, opened up about struggling with insecurity. Though she got a no from the judges during her first audition, Perry invited her to audition for them again, where she earned a golden ticket.
“I always expect the worst,” said the contestant. “I feel like the world is against me a lot of times.”
Unlike her audition, at Hollywood Week, Fire said she has only “one shot” to prove herself.
Fire took her shot – and hit a bullseye. Singing Lauren Daigle’s “You Say,” the contestant hit her stride, earning a “whoop” from Perry when she got to the chorus.
“I felt so confident,” Fire said afterward. “This opportunity could just change my life for the best, and I would love to provide the best life that I can for my daughter.”
Fire made it through to the next round, as did fellow young mother Lucy Love, who gave a moving performance of “Make You Feel My Love.” The 28-year-old mother from Arkansas said she used her feelings of grieving the end of her marriage to propel her performance.
“That was what we call spectacular,” Perry told the other contestants after Love sang. “I’m sorry, the show is over. She worked that camera, y’all.”
Hollywood Week brings more standouts, psychological warfare
Other standouts to make it through the first round of Hollywood Week were 20-year-old server Megan Danielle, who was overcome with emotion singing a song dedicated to her late grandfather; 21-year-old daycare worker Kya Monee’ who slayed “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from the musical “Dreamgirls”; Iam Tongi, who dug deep for a raw performance of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt; and rugged country crooner Colin Stough, who may just sweep the competition as other country singers have on past seasons.
And, in typical Hollywood Week fashion, the judges also made sure to freak out the contestants before delivering good news.
At one point, Perry told a group of stressed singers, “You probably aren’t gonna like what we’re about to tell you… because we think you’re going to love what we’re going to tell you. You’re going through to the next round.”
After all, what’s reality TV without some light psychological warfare?