Hollie Cavanagh, the British-born 18-year-old singer from Texas, had an inkling her American Idol journey would be ending Thursday night. “I kind of woke up today with a gut feeling,” Cavanagh told EW backstage about an hour after being eliminated. “I was staying positive throughout the day and still staying hopeful, of course, but when my name wasn’t called, I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, really?'”

It was her undistinguished performance of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on Wednesday that drew criticism from the judges and baseball cap collector Jimmy Iovine, and may have been Cavanagh’s undoing. But the contestant didn’t regret choosing the song. “The lyrics are so powerful and it’s such a beautiful song,” said Cavanagh. “Maybe it wasn’t right for a competition, but if I think about something I wish I had written, I’d choose that one.” And she already knows exactly the kind of album she’d like to release: “A pop album with some soul” that would be inspired by the music of Christina Aguilera. “But not so much her recent [albums],” said Cavanagh. “Can I say that?” Yes, yes you can.

To hear more from Hollie, including how she got herself out of a mid-season rut and why she picked Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” for her exit performance, check out EW’s video exit Q&A below.

But first, a few observations from my seat in the audience:

1. The most amusing moment of the night was the audience’s reaction to being told that we all won tickets to the Idol summer tour. A few individuals immediately leaped to their feet and started screaming, but it took the rest of the audience a couple of seconds before realizing, “Oh, wait, we should be screaming too!” Then, like a contagious yawn, everyone rose and did their best Oprah-audience impression. We didn’t receive the actual tickets; instead, after the show, we were given vouchers instructing us to send a numerical code to an e-mail address. I’m already looking forward to the inevitable reply message: “Ticketmaster has added a $14 surcharge to your free ticket.”

2. I don’t know how he sounded on TV, but Phillip struggled through that “California Dreamin'” group number. His voice was flat and off-key, and nightmarish memories of “Time of the Season” danced in my head. Phillip seems like a swell guy and has had his share of standout moments, but I’ll say this right now: Joshua and Jessica deserve to go the finale, no questions asked. Probability of that happening: approximately the same as J.Lo singing a live song on Idol. (Yes, J.Lo’s performance of “Dance Again,” in which she and a sextet of male dancers emerged from a Stargate portal, was actually taped last week.)

3. Speaking of J.Lo, on multiple occasions, as assistant brought out the judge’s 4-year-old twins, Max and Emme. J.Lo held the two kids while showering them with kisses. The first time this happened, the audience responded with an “Awwwww” that’s more commonly reserved for adorably terrified kittens.

4. Several audience members make their own signs — in the row in front of me, a woman created an impressive “I Heart J.Lo” poster with glowing lights. But other signs have a less organic origin story. For instance, during one early commercial break, an Idol stagehand handed a “Ryan Rules” sign to a woman in the audience. And like Moses upon receiving the 10 commandments, this woman waved her Fox-endorsed sign so that all could benefit from its message.

5. As Hollie and Phillip stood quietly together during the final commercial break, Joshua was the first to walk over and give Hollie a hug. Jessica followed suit and hugged Phillip. Then, in a visual demonstration of a SAT mathematics question, the Top 4 hugged each other until every combination of hugging had been fulfilled. Answer: There were six hugs. Next question.

Check out our video interview with Hollie below:

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