American Idol's Latest Twist: Viewers Choose the Final Top 30 Singer
02/14/2014 AT 07:40 AM EST
In a surprise twist, the judges couldn't decide which singer would round out the Top 15 Boys and, for the first time, are leaving it up to America to choose.
And it all came down to the odd couple: country singer Ben Briley, 24, who sang "Stars" for his final solo performance, and silky voiced Neco Starr, 22, who sang "Halo" by Beyoncé despite battling a cold.
"We decided we're going to let America decide the 15th spot," said Jennifer Lopez. "First time we've ever done it like this."
The judges were able to complete the Top 15 Girls, and they include:
Marrialle Sellars, 17, who entered Idol for her late father and continued to rock a Miley Cyrus vibe and sound, singing "Wrecking Ball."
Chances are good that people won't mispronounce Jena ("like 'Gina' not 'Jenna' ") Ascuitto's name any longer, after the 17-year-old played keyboards, performed an original song with subtle power and shared a sweet moment with Harry Connick Jr., who nicknamed her "The Sleeper."
"That's a movie that comes out and nobody expects it, and it explodes," he told her, with Ascuitto deadpanning, "I thought it was because I took a nap today."
Although Majesty Rose York, 21, forgot some of the words during her solo performance, her voice impressed Jennifer Lopez, who told her, "We have high hopes for you."
Two of the competition's stronger, unique voices were given the green light at the same time: Briana Oakley, 17, who sang "My Kind of Love," and Brandi Neelly, 18, who sang "Tell Me That You Love Me," walked in holding hands and walked out as members of the Top 15.
Emotional Kenzie Hall, 16, started crying as soon as she took a seat in front of the judges, saying she wanted "to make my mom proud," and the sweet-voiced singer and occasional rapper did just that.
Rounding out the Top 15 Girls was Austin Wolfe, 17, who edged out powerful singer Sandie Lee, 23, by singing "Radioactive" in her final solo performance just as she had done in her initial audition.
The remaining Top 15 Boys include:
C.J. Harris and Casey Thrasher, the 22-year-old "'Bama Boys" who held a "sing-off" for their lives in front of the judges and each other on Wednesday night. Both made it into the top 15.
"I'm so tired of y'all's tricks, man," said Thrasher when it was announced.
Rocker Caleb Johnson, 22, was cut just before making Season 11's Top 30, but he broke through this year with a blistering version of "Radioactive," despite Connick and Keith Urban saying his hard rock appearance made him resemble a "costumed character" from "Rock of Ages".
Unexpected country crooner Ethan Harris, 20, who looks and sounds more like an alternative singer, sang "Amazed" and amazed the judges, with Connick saying "interesting cat" Harris "could be a star."
Briston Maroney, 15, who played guitar and sang "Let Her Go," was played by Connick, who told an emotional story of how he desperately wanted to head to New York to sing after his mother died when he was 13 but knew he wasn't ready.
He then told Maroney he was ready, which prompted the baby-faced singer to respond, "You are a wicked man."
Among the most heartbreaking eliminations of the night was 21-year-old Savion Wright, who had performed an original song in memory of his recently deceased brother.
So, will it be Neco Starr or Ben Briley?
Find out who rounds out the Top 30 when Idol returns on Tuesday, with performances by the ladies, followed by the guys on Wednesday and a results show on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.