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Elliott Yamin (season 5)
''It was just emotional,'' is how Elliott Yamin described Hollywood Week. Worried about his beloved mom, who was in the hospital, Elliott broke down after he advanced despite some botched lyrics in a solo. The soulful singer also had to share the stage with Terrell ''I don't do groups'' Brittenum during the group round. After the evil twin tried to throw Elliott under the bus in front of the judges, Elliott had the last laugh. Randy Jackson declared Elliott, ''The best one of all y'all.''
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Syesha Mercado (season 7)
Syesha Mercado's began having vocal problems in Hollwood on day one. By day 3, she could only croak out a sentence or two. She wound up on complete vocal rest, only able to communicate with the cameras using adorable signs. It looked like Syesha was down for the count. But ever the fighter (as her third place finish, despite constant appearances in the bottom three, would later prove) Syesha came back in the last round, her voice still weak, with an incredible version of Aretha Franklin's ''Chain of Fools.''
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Brooke White (season 7)
Many Idol fans remember Brooke White stopping her performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber's ''You Must Love Me'' in order to start over again after losing her place. But you may not recall that Brooke also stopped and started Carole King's ''Beautiful,'' a tidbit we didn't learn until Brooke was heading up the elevator in Pasadena to learn whether she made the top 24 or not. Despite Brooke's penchant for brain farts, her raspy throwback sound carried her into the top 24 and beyond.
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Josiah Leming (season 7)
Josiah's drama-filled life included living out of his car as he crisscrossed the country trying to get his music career off the ground. Landing a spot in Hollywood did not make this talented singer-songwriter's life any calmer. After impressing the room with a unique twist on Mika's ''Grace Kelly,'' Josiah's Hollywood experience fell apart when he broke down in tears after a disastrous rehearsal with the band. He took the stage, dismissed the musicians, and proceeded to sing an a capella version of ''Stand by Me'' that was a hot mess. Simon told him he lost some of his charm and was overconfident. Still, the judges advanced a tearful Josiah to the next round but he did not make it to the top 24.
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Scotty McCreery (season 10)
Before Scotty McCreery went on to win American Idol, he struggled in Hollywood, botching lyrics (hilariously singing ''nuts of wonder'' during ''I Hope You Dance'') and winding up smack dab in the middle of Hollywood group drama. When Scotty and his deep country twang finally found a home with Clint Jun Gamboa's group, the young country singer would later regret standing by as 15-year-old Jaycee Badeaux was coldly booted out of the group in the middle of the night. A remorseful Scotty apologized to Jaycee from the stage, and cried after his group advanced to the next round. It seemed that Scotty was crumbling under the pressure, but instead, he got his act together so thoroughly that he won that season's crown. Who would've thunk it?
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Mike Lynche (season 9)
Here's a challenge. Try to stay focused on competing in Hollywood as your wife goes into labor and proceeds to deliver a baby. Mike Lynche's pregnant wife's water broke just as he arrived in Hollywood. He went on to sing a retro-soulful version of John Mayer's ''Waiting for the World to Change,'' with her blessing to chase his dream. Big Mike talked her through labor via cell phone as an Idol camera crew captured the drama on the other end. Despite the distraction, Mike advanced to the top 24.
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Tatiana Del Toro (season 8)
Despite her caterwauling, and a personality that drove everyone around her crazy in Hollywood, Tatiana kept advancing. Maybe that was the point. Season 8 was the year the show experimented with allowing ''joke'' contestants to advance deep into the competition. But while Norman Gentle's silly shtick was amusing, Tatiana's just got on your last nerve. By the time she was screaming ''This means everything to me, I've been through hell and back to be here,'' we were all saying, ''Please go away now, Tatiana.'' No such luck, Tatiana and her drama made it all the way to the top 36 that year.
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Sundance Head (season 6)
Even Simon Cowell admitted that Sundance, the son of chart topping 1960s performer, Roy Head, was weak in Hollywood after initially coming on strong in his audition. Nasally off-pitch singing and forgetting his lyrics did not deter the judges from putting him through to the top 24. But maybe the bad performances finally caught up with him—Sundance was cut before he made the top 12.
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Baylie Brown (season 6)
Baylie Brown shone brightly in her audition, but once she hit Hollywood, she ran into trouble in the form of best friends Antonella Barba and Amanda Coluccio. It was the Jersey girls versus the Texan as personalities clashed. When the group hit the stage, Baylie forgot her lyrics and was cut, while the mean girls moved on. Only 16 at the time, Baylie came back to Idol five years later to try her luck again.
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Sanjaya Malakar (season 6)
Sanjaya was devastated when his big sister, Shyamali, was cut in the rooms while he moved on to the top 40. They cried together afterward. Sanjaya talked about how bittersweet it was to move on without his sister, who was a great source of support. He managed to move on to the top 24 and eventually the finals.
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Heejun Han (season 11)
Mild-mannered Heejun Han was vexed when latecomer Richie Law seemed to believe that someone had actually died and left him boss, in charge of teaching the boys box steps and four types of harmony. Heejun looked on as ''Cowboy,'' as Heejun dubbed Law due to his ever-present hat, drove the group crazy. And like the Jim Halpert of American Idol, he kept dropping little bon mots to the camera such as ''Now I have a very very bad perspective toward cowboys. Even Dallas Cowboys. Freaking cowboys.'' Let's hope Heejun isn't scared for life.
EW contributor MJ Santilli is the owner and founder of MJ's Big Blog.