American Idol Introduces ‘Arena’ Format for Hollywood Week: Who Survived the ‘Biggest Cuts’ Ever?

The judges had their work cut out for them on Sunday’s American Idol, which kicked off Hollywood Week with the introduction of the “Idol Arena,” and ended with the biggest round of cuts in the franchise’s 22-season history.

Also referred to as the “gladiator’s pit” by Lionel Richie, the Idol Arena was essentially an enormous stage where each singer would perform at random, surrounded on all sides by their competitive peers. 143 singers have made it to Hollywood this season, but only 56 would remain at the end of the two-hour broadcast. For the mathematically challenged, that meant 87 hopefuls would have to be cut.

Let’s start with the good news: Some of the familiar names sticking around include Triston Harper, who burrowed his way even deeper into our hearts by performing “Wrapped Up in Jesus,” a song he co-wrote with a sweet old lady from his church; Ajii, who delivered Lynyrd Skynyrds’ “Simple Man” like a sermon; and cotton candy-haired Ziggy, who almost missed his chance to wow the judges (again) due to a visa snafu.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also give a special shout-out to bubbly mortician Kennedy Reid, who had jaws dropping with her incredible rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” (Very appropriate for Easter, by the way.) We loved her from the moment she appeared on camera for her audition, and the growth she displayed from then to now is simply wild. She’s a powerhouse, and we’re hoping the best for her in the next round.

Other fortunate singers we’ll be seeing again include QuintaviousJustice MurphyHailey MiaScarlett LeeKBlocks, Mackenzie SolJennifer JeffriesWill MoseleyKaibrienne “KB” RichinsNayaMcKenna Faith BreinholtJack BlockerEmmy Russell and Blake Proehl.

Of course, it wasn’t good news for everybody. (Remember that whole “87 cuts” part? Well, buckle up!) Among the recognizable names eliminated on Sunday were Noah PetersConall GormanKyraMeggie IyerBethany TeagueKimi and CJ Rislove.

One axed contestant we weren’t sorry to see go was Madai Chakell, who famously sang “I Kissed a Girl” in her audition (and Katy Perry didn’t like it). She returned this week with the worst attitude of the bunch, restarting her performance multiple times before totally throwing her pianist under the bus and demanding to sing a cappella. Producers bent over backwards to accommodate her, which only made her rudeness more irritating. Even when they gave her a second chance, it felt like she was barely trying. And where did that British accent suddenly come from? “Maybe we’ll do American Humble at some point,” Luke Bryan said, adding that she’s “probably not winning the audience with that one.” Uh, definitely not.

It was an especially difficult night for those who entered the competition as twosomes — like Mia Matthews, who will have to continue without the support of sister Lacy Matthews, who didn’t make the cut. And Kayko, who only auditioned because he was accompanying Abby Blake, will also be entering the next round without his friend by his side.

Fortunately, not every pair was separated by Idol’s cruel hand of fate. Brother-sister duo Max and Layla Dasher both made it through to the next round, though their good news did come after a brief fake-out. (Come on, it’s still Idol. What did you expect?)

After Sunday’s episode, 56 singers remain in the competition. And after Monday’s episode (ABC, 8/7), the official Top 24 will be revealed! Which singers are you rooting for, and who were you disappointed to see get eliminated this week? Drop a comment with your picks, as well as your thoughts on the “Idol Arena,” below. 

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