"American Idol" is nearing the selection of the final 24 contestants after half the Hollywood aspirants were sent home through the dreaded elimination rooms.
Belters Haley Reinhart, Ashton Jones, Thia Megia, Kendra Chantelle and Clint Jun Gamboa sailed easily through. More surprising were frenetic contestant Ashley Sullivan and low-voice country singer Scott McCreery, who both forgot their lyrics but still squeaked in.
Several contestants showed off their instrumental skills: Julie Zorrilla and Robbie Rosen on keyboard and Brett Loewenstern and Caleb Hawley on guitar made it to the next round.
There were some show-stopping moments, as well, as when Casey Abrams brought out his stand-up bass to perform "Georgia on My Mind," earning a standing ovation from the audience. Later, Jacob Lusk brought the judges to their feet when he channeled his inner diva to perform "God Bless the Child."
Carson Higgins and Chris Medina gave dueling performances of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative." Like audience favorite Jacee Badeaux, 15, neither wowed, but all three made it through. Medina is probably known as much for his back story as he is for his singing.
Season 10, which has no shortage of talent, also seems to have an abundance of sob stories; from the contestant who was left for dead after a car accident, to the contestant with Tourette's and Asperger's syndromes, to Medina, who has stood by his brain-damaged fiancee.
If producers aren't careful, the show could turn into the battle for the biggest tear-jerkers.
"It's like Maury Povich or something," Ju'Not Joyner, a season-eight contestant, told ABCNews.com. "It makes for good TV."
"Idol" may have started as a talent competition but it has become so much more. Some would say the show highlights contestants' personal tragedies at the expense of their talent.
After Medina of Oak Forest, Ill., sang an emotional rendition of the Script's "Breakeven" during his Milwaukee audition, he brought his wheelchair-bound fiancee, Juliana Ramos, who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a car accident in 2009, into the audition room to meet the judges.
Some fans watched and complained online about the so-called "Gokey" effect.
They were referring to season eight's Danny Gokey, whose wife died of congenital heart disease four weeks before his audition.
"I feel terrible for what happened to him and his fiancee, but is it fair to everyone else?" one person wrote on USA Today's "Idol" message board. "Maybe there is nothing fair about this show and I am being crazy, but the show should not be doing this."
"Do I think the talent alone could make a good show? Yes," Joyner said.
"I think it wouldn't be so sickening if it were across the board, if everyone got the same exposure, the same coverage," he said. "I think it's really unfair when you don't spread the love around to everyone."
Joyner believes he got a little less love because he wasn't willing to go public with his own back story of a gravely ill family member and growing up in foster homes.
But he doesn't fault the contestants who choose to share their stories. "It's the producers," he said. "Their job is to make a compelling television show."
Here are some of the contestants whose back stories have been highlighted on this season of "Idol:"