"The world is changing, and we think you could be an American Idol," Jennifer Lopez told M.K. Nobilette

By Wade Rouse
February 13, 2014 07:00 AM

After thousands of auditions, hundreds of golden tickets and weeks of performances, there was a first on Wednesday’s American Idol: An openly gay contestant made the Top 30.

M.K. Nobilette, 20, broke that barrier, saying, “I’m very obviously gay, and there are always gonna be people in America who will definitely hate me, but I think that in the last two years there have been a lot of things that have really changed that.”

“The world is changing,” said Jennifer Lopez, “and we think you could be an American Idol.”

Other girls to make the Top 15 girls include:

Emily Piriz, 17, who delivered a breakout solo performance with “Stars.”

Jillian Jensen, 21, who performed an original song in order to show the judges who she was as an artist.

Bria Anai, 16, who nearly knocked down the Dolby Theatre with her memorable performance of “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.”

Nurse Kristen O’Connor, 24, whose soft, lyrical performance of “Unconditionally” was sweet medicine to the judges’ ears.

Malaya Watson, the bespectacled, braces-wearing teen whose first name means “freedom,” was the first tuba player to make the Top 15, moving on despite a rough start to her performance but ultimately nailing “I Believe”.

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In a twist, the judges called in both Jessica Meuse and Jesse Roach, and then made the two sing a cappella to determine who would move on.

Pink-haired Meuse, who survived the mama drama of last week’s group round, emerged victorious.

And Andrina Brogden, 19, and Leah Guerrero, 21, were also called in together, with Brodgen’s fiery performance of “Burn” in the solo round coming out on top.

The Top 15 boys include:

“Pretty guy” Spencer Lloyd, 19, who seems to set Lopez’s heart a flutter every time he performs, demonstrated enough star power to make it through, despite singing an original song that Harry Connick Jr. described as “a public service announcement.”

George Lovett, 24, sang a fitting Idol theme song, moving on with “I Won’t Give Up,” while Maurice Townsend, 26, earned the term “badass” from Connick after delivering a soaring, unique version of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus.

Perpetually rosy-cheeked Sam Woolf, 17, played guitar and performed an original song, “I Try,” and his reaction to learning he would be in the Top 15 left Lopez teary-eyed.

Country singer Dexter Roberts, 22, a farm worker who Keith Urban prodded with, “You can’t be all hat, no cattle,” before letting him know he was the real deal.

Effervescent Emmanuel Zidor, 24, sang “I’m Goin’ Down,” hitting a high note that likely shattered glass and earning a walk-off in heels with Lopez in a future show.

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It was certainly a Sweet 16 for baby-faced Jordan Brisbane, who got the best birthday gift of his life, moving on after singing a powerhouse version of “Halo.”

Malcolm Allen’s soulful version of “I’m Goin’ Down” won over the judges, despite Connick’s worry about his marketability, while the unconventional and original Alex Preston, 20, had feared his unconventional and original style wouldn’t get him to the Top 15.

And in Idol‘s typical Hollywood Week cliffhanger, 22-year-old friends, fathers and Alabama country singers Casey Thrasher and C.J. Harris sang for their lives in front of the judges, with the victor – and the remaining Top 30 – to be revealed Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.