'American Idol' Has No Shortage of Talent as It Nears Final 24

It also has an abundance of sob stories.

Feb. 18, 2011— -- "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."

Joyner agrees.

"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.

'American Idol' Tear-Jerkers

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:"

San Francisco contestant James Durbin never got to know his dad, a bass player, before he died of a drug overdose. To make matters worse, Durbin was diagnosed with Tourette's and Asperger's syndromes and was picked on as a child. Today, he's the father of a baby, but can barely afford diapers since he's unemployed. Durbin has made it through to the next round.

Stefano Langone, another San Francisco contestant, was so severely injured during a car accident that EMTs initially thought he was dead. He performed "Heard It through the Grapevine" for his audition, and judge Steven Tyler declared, "You survived the accident for a reason, and I'm going to tell you why -- you're going to Hollywood!" And so far he has survived Hollywood week.

Julie Zorrilla was forced to adjust to a new country, after her parents came to the United States from their native Colombia to avoid local terrorists. Zorrilla is still in the competition.

New Orleans contestant Paris Tassin became pregnant at 18, and her daughter was diagnosed in utero with hydrocephalus. Tassin went through with the pregnancy, and today her daughter Keira has hearing problems but is otherwise healthy.

"I did that for my daughter," Paris said after her audition brought judge Jennifer Lopez to tears. "I want to teach her, 'Go for your dreams. Do everything you want to do in life.'"

Tassin didn't make it past the group round.

Ellen Anne Reed, a Carly Simon-lookalike, lost her home in a fire a week before her audition. She was voted to go to Hollywood despite a "no" from Tyler. It's not clear is she's still in.

Teenager Travis Orlando took "Idol" cameras through his rough Bronx neighborhood, plagued by crime and murder, and described living in a shelter for a couple of years when his family fell on hard times.

Sadly, Orlando's "Idol" journey came to an end after a lackluster performance during Hollywood week.

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