It's hard to believe that “American Idol” 2018 already reached its final auditions on March 25. The screaming, singing throngs of thousands was down to a final few, and judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie all realize that the bar rises higher and higher as the weeks go on. Hollywood Week ensues tonight (March 26), and that's when the real trauma and tears begin. It takes more than talent to become an “American Idol,” and hopefuls will never learn to handle recording industry reps, managers, and talent scouts if they can't deal with the pace and pressure of the week that throws them together with people they've never known, expecting them to perform.

The process always washes some out, while others rise through despair.

Tears and talent were all part of the last night of auditions, but the overriding spirit was one of self-assurance and staking one's identity. Some very original songs shined from some very unique artists, and there was one memorable duet.

Be yourself

Every artist has beloved heroes and influences, but success can never come from becoming those mentors. Gabby Barrett from Pittsburgh was all set to wow the panel with her best Carrie Underwood repertoire, with loving dad in tow. The trouble was that neither “Good Girl” nor “Church Bells” offered any hint of who Gabby was as herself. It turned out that a snippet of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” showed a glimpse of what they were after, and Gabby got her golden ticket.

Katy Perry playfully “punked” dad, telling him he needed to console his daughter before she revealed her shiny envelope.

Caitlin Lucia laid her artistry on the line in her bold choice to turn Katy Perry's “I Kissed a Girl” into her own folky, wonderful rendition. Katy Perry wasted no time in letting Lucia know that she heard a “bigger motor” inside the singer.

The other two judges concurred, and can't wait to hear what comes next. Caitlin was pure gold.

Speaking of lost identities and wannabes, there was a run of Elvis Presley singers who put the judges’ panel through hits and misses. A Presley cousin on the paternal side, Amelia Presley, and Bailey Eubanks were decent enough, but Drake Milligan was a bona-fide Elvis impersonator champion.

The young singer idolized “The King” since his early childhood and honed his craft into winning premiere championships.

None of that fulfilled the singer who wants to be authentic country, and he came to “American Idol” and sang “You Look So Good in Love.” Milligan's take on the George Strait classic gave Katy Perry a lesson in “scooping,” when singers take a word down deep. The nickname of “Hollywood” was a perfect fit for Drake, taking his ticket, and leaving Luke Bryan “fired up.”

Snacks with songs

After a segment depicting Katy Perry's endless appetite for snacks, it was time to get serious with the songs again, and Mylon Shamble sang “Stand by Me” better than Katy Perry or any of the panel had ever heard.

From the first line, she was dancing with her golden ticket.

Lee Vasi grew up singing with her dad and their favorite R&B number is the Commodores’ “Zoom.” Lionel Richie made Lee’s dream come true, singing a duet of the song, side-by-side. When it came to her audition song, “Love Should Have Brought You Home,” the singer went off-track very early, and it nearly cost her an “American Idol” chance, but she made it through.

Tori N. Teasley, Lucy Clearwater, and Jason Eubanks each had no trouble being themselves, either, but when Michael J. Woodard stood in the famous oval, he knew he had not found his identity yet. His voice, however, was all there with “Make It Rain.” Pure innocence poured out, and the panel was ready for more.

Michael took his gold.

Brielle Rathbun took on Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity” for her big moment, supported by her steadfast dad and blood relatives (as well as her family by choice with natural and adopted siblings). She was an easy choice for the judges. She wasn't quite as successful at teaching Luke Bryan a new pelvic thrust, but that may be a blessing.

Carly Moffa declared that “my mom is my person” as she was about to audition. Her performance and movements to her original song captivated the panel and gave her mother more to be proud of, as both daughter and mother shared mom’s journey with multiple sclerosis. Luke Bryan dubbed her “wonderful” and let's hope Hollywood won't diminish her uniqueness.

Ayana “Rose” Lawson let her heart and all the hardships that she's endured show through her performance of Bob Dylan's “I Can't Make You Love Me,” and her artistry was evident. The panel pleaded with her to keep her resilience and return to “American Idol.” May Providence ensure that another opportunity comes to her.

Samuel Swanson is determined to leave farm life and refuses to work for “the county.” Going for big dreams means taking on big songs, and they don't get bigger than Al Green’s “Let's Stay Together.” Luke Bryan heard “velvet and silk” in Samuel’s voice, and Lionel Richie said he made the song seem “effortless.” Samuel won't be feeding the chickens or doing any milking while he's in Hollywood.

Katy Perry requested two Advil after listening to a heavy metal loyalist who will never let the 80s die, and then a young lady named Jurnee walked out and sang Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” and Katy Perry proceeded to call her “a little bird.” She's just 18, but already she has made a stand with her creative and personal identity, as her wife serves in the military.

The final contestant of the night knows much about learning to stand for oneself. Adam Sanders made it all the way to the top 50 when he tried out for “American Idol” during Season 12. Sadly, instead of celebrating his accomplishment, he allowed negative social media to shame him for a time. He transformed himself from the inside out and took on a new identity as Ada Vox, stronger than ever.

Katy Perry had to see the change for herself before the contestant tore into “House of the Rising Sun.” The singer’s range mesmerized Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, with Richie sure that Ada will “turn heads” in Hollywood, in more ways than one.

169 golden singers will sing for their lives tonight.