American Idol” put any doubters to bed this week, as high ratings had their say in proving that there certainly is an audience of millions, to the tens of millions, ready and totally giddy to watch the 2018 comeback of the competition. Lionel Richie verified to Jimmy Kimmel that even his own kids were squealing with delight as they rooted on favorites and ridiculed their dad. It was the second night of “American Idol” 2018 auditions on March 12. The hopefuls spanned cross-country from New York to LA, with New Orleans in between. Spice, soul, silliness, and pure sincerity filled the evening and moved the panel to tears.

Many worthy contenders captured those coveted gleaming golden tickets, and here are five memorable examples of the talent and tender moments worth seeing again:

Coming on strong

Triple threat: Mara Justine already set a high bar for the contestants to follow, singing the tail off of “Love on the Brain,” with tinges of the soul and suffering of love far beyond her years. Katy Perry already dubbed her “Top 10,” and she wouldn't be the last to earn that compliment. The triplet of talent that came next was truly remarkable. Andrew Weaver held his own without strictly imitating Ed Sheeran on “Thinking Out Loud.” Katy Perry told Griffin Tucker, 15, from Dallas, Texas that he was 7000 years old from his soul in a 15-year-old body.

He poured out his aged and lovely “Lady Madonna” rendition on piano. The performance prompted Luke Bryan to say that he might have won “American Idol” already, and Lionel Richie related, “I'm afraid of you,” in the best possible connotation. Christina Jones was the last of the three, and she told the judges that she sees color when she sings.

Only one color applied once she finished, wearing braces, rubber bands, and all—gold.

Going higher: William Casanova works in women's shoes as his regular job and his heartfelt version of Leon Russell's “A Song for You” by Donny Hathaway had Katy Perry so moved that she wriggled right out of her shoes, giving a toe touch and a golden ticket.

Venezuelan entertainer, Michelle Sussett, insisted that the judges get out of their seats and dance and Katy Perry took a tumble in her tight dress. The effort to get her up took Luke Bryan’s strong-arms and Lionel Richie protecting the rear. Michelle got a golden ticket despite the necessary rescue, with spirit superseding singing voice.

When it came to Brandon Diaz, his route to the high ground was his voice, and he used his falsetto to wonderful advantage on Allen Stone’s “Unaware” which is becoming the selection of choice for 2018 “American Idol” auditions. Dedicating his journey in the competition to his dad, who emigrated from Cuba, Brandon made the song his own. Katy called him “the best male singer we've heard,” alone.

Luke Bryan raved over his “bada** falsetto.” Lionel Richie nearly needed to exit the room to compose himself.

Katy’s love connection: Luke and Lionel seem to be working in concert to spark Katy’s love life, and sparks did fly when Trevor Holmes walked into the room. Luke Bryan called him a “dreamboat” and Katy repeated that description, and couldn't look him in the eyes as “Endless Love” was played in the background. Compounding the issue was the fact that Trevor admitted to a crush on Katy since he was a kid, and even his girlfriend was supportive of his dream to sing for the judge. Still, when she and his family entered the room to celebrate his golden ticket, Katy ducked into the darkness, not wanting to intrude.

Luke and Lionel teased Katy about love being “so close.” The season isn't over yet.

Back to life

A transforming journey: Last night wasn't the first time that Thaddeus Johnson walked into an “American Idol” audition, or stood in the famous oval to perform. Seven years ago, in Season 10, the resonant singer with the broad smile was eliminated in Hollywood Week, and the pain of that rejection drove him into a depression that presented itself in gaining pounds. His weight got up to as much as 390 pounds before he decided to make a change, and find his true worth. The singer has shed 162 pounds now, and when he sang “Don’t You Worry Child,” every tear, every drop of sweat, and every decision to believe in a better life was echoing through every note.

Thaddeus’ golden ticket already is worth more than millions.

Re-entering life: David Francisco was staking his claim on starting a whole new life with his audition, too. The night had been filled with so many heartfelt moments with parents, loving grandma's, and girlfriends, but Francisco's story was one of life or death, and finding unconditional love. Francisco was hit by a car in 2016 while riding his bike and became paralyzed from the waist down. The 25-year-old Tennessee native willed himself from sadness through song and went through his months of therapy and rehab with spirit to live a full life. A slight foot movement served as inspiration. A huge part of that life is his fiancée, Christie, who calls herself and David “super blessed.” Of all songs, David chose Stevie Wonder’s “Isn't She Lovely,” with Christie handing off his guitar as he settled into a seat.

Joy radiated from the loving performance, and love radiated from Christie's face looking on. Katy Perry had tears pouring, saying “I'm just losing it,” and all the judges had hugs along with the golden ticket. More than a great voice, this young man is a first ambassador. As a disabled writer and lifelong lover of music as a life force, I have never witnessed a contestant on crutches or in a wheelchair on any competition. I can ride shotgun on David's journey through my screen, cheering as he goes.