After looking for talent in Denver, Atlanta, Little Rock, San Francisco and Philadelphia, and listening to thousands of performances, Thursday night's episode closed on a bittersweet note as the lights in the audition hall turned off for the last time, and judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban reflected on the exciting start to the show's final season.
"Well, y'all, this is it," Connick Jr. said, forlorn.
"It's crazy," Urban added. "But what a way to end. I'm gonna miss this show. I'm gonna miss being on it [and] I'm going to miss it being on… it's just been part of the landscape, really, for 15 years."
"I think what I'll miss is the feeling of a [season 10 winner] Scotty McCreery or a [season 11 winner] Phillip Phillips walking in the room, and we go, 'I think we just discovered someone really special,'" Lopez shared.
"I remember being at the very first finale, when Kelly Clarkson won," Connick Jr. said. "Now that I've been a judge for three years, it has left an undeniably wonderful mark on my heart."
During the final night of auditions, the final slew of Idol hopefuls sung their hearts out for the judges hoping to earn a golden ticket to Hollywood.
The show had its usual highlights, such as the night's first singer, 21-year-old Jessica Cabral, who received glowing praise for her beautiful voice and the control she had over her vocal range, and was awarded the coveted ticket.
Bianca Espinal, a 22-year-old street busker from Harlem, New York, also captured our hearts. She was joined by her father, who accompanied her performance on his guitar. Bianca almost let stage fright ruin her chance, but she battled back from forgetting the lyrics to her song and won over the judges with her heart and charm.
Although there were plenty of unusual contestants in the fix as well, such as Justin Sullivan, a 22-year-old student from New Jersey who was obsessed with Kelly Clarkson. Sullivan even came with a t-shirt that had the words "Mr. Clarkson" across the back. Unfortunately for the young singer, the judges didn't find his voice up to par (and Clarkson already has a husband, Brandon Blackstock).
After dozens of contestants, some who blew the judges away and others who left them at a loss for words, the night closed with Manny Torres.
The 20-year-old musician, and outspoken J.Lo mega-fan, was the life of the party. But it was his raw and wild vocal styling, his bombastic personality and dynamic stage presence that earned him unanimous praise and the final golden ticket of the season.
The first week of competition on American Idol
airs Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, 7 p.m. CT on Fox.