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March 31, 2023

Pennsylvania, New Jersey singers head to Hollywood to compete on 'American Idol'

Kevin John, Dylan Zangwill and Wé Ani are among dozens of performers appearing on Season 21 of the popular reality show

TV American Idol
American Idol Contestants Eric McCandless/ABC

Season 21 of 'American Idol' features several contestants from Pennsylvania and New Jersey heading to Hollywood to compete in the popular singing show. Paterson native Wé Ani is pictured above.

There is no shortage of local talent performing on Season 21 of ABC's hit singing competition "American Idol," as three artists from the region prepare for their time in the spotlight. 

Levittown native and Temple University alum Kevin John, Exton native Dylan Zangwill and Paterson native Wé Ani each received golden tickets to Hollywood Week earlier this season. The two-episode special will air on Sunday, April 2 and Monday, April 3 at 8 p.m. on ABC. 

John, a Bucks County native and country-pop singer now living in Nashville, found out that the ABC show was holding virtual auditions through a conveniently-placed ad on his computer. He'd previously auditioned as a teenager, but was quickly cut after just a few lines of a song, 6ABC reported. After auditioning at home in his pajamas, he was brought out to perform in front of judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. 

John sang a cover of "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley, receiving praise from the judges before getting his golden ticket. Richie gave him a standing ovation and Perry told him that he deserves an Oscar, according to a post celebrating the triumph on the singer's Instagram

"I am getting ready for my first day of 'American Idol' Hollywood Week, which is wild and nuts," John shared on TikTok Thursday afternoon. "It feels too surreal. It feels like my whole life has led up to this moment. I just feel so positive about it, I feel so optimistic about it. A lot of people in my life have always said, 'Don't get your hopes up, don't get your hopes up, stay realistic.' To me, that makes me feel sad, if people don't let their hopes get up because either it's going to go the way you wanted it to or it's not." 

John's most recent single, "Heart's Home," was released in September. In it, John waxes poetic about his childhood in Levittown and the "haunted house" that he grew up in. 

Zangwill, a 16-year-old musician from Chester County, is no stranger to singing competitions. At 14, he auditioned for rival singing competition show "America's Got Talent," playing the keyboard and belting out Queen's "Somebody to Love." He advanced in the competition, but was later eliminated. 

Two years later, Zangwill performed the original song "Bittersweet Melody" for "Idol" judges during an off-screen audition, receiving three "yes" votes and earning his golden ticket to Hollywood Week. He celebrated his achievement on Instagram earlier this week, sharing photos of himself performing and posing in front of an "American Idol" sign outside of his New Orleans audition. 

"They all stood up at the end of my audition," Zangwill told 6ABC. "Luke Bryan called me a total 'freakazoid,' and Lionel Richie wished he was doing what I am doing at my age. It was all just a really great moment." 

Zangwill will be playing a handful of live shows in the region over the next few weeks, including at The Soundbank in Phoenixville, Montgomery County on April 8. He will perform two shows at Stolen Sun Craft Brewing and Roasting Co. in Exton, which his family owns, on April 22 and April 29. 

Ani, a New Jersey native now living in New York City, previously auditioned for NBC's rival competition show, "The Voice," in 2016 with a cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." Performing as Wé McDonald, she received a four-chair turn from the judges, though the singer chose to work with Alicia Keys. 

Earlier this month, Ani's "American Idol" audition went viral after the 23-year-old performer revealed a deep, soulful baritone beneath her otherwise chipper, girlish speaking voice. Performing Demi Lovato's "Anyone," Ani received a standing ovation from the judges, who appeared shocked during the a cappella performance. 

Richie described Ani's voice as "ridiculous," while Bryan compared it to Frenchy, the pink-haired character in the 1978 musical "Grease" portrayed by Didi Conn. Ani's voice has "continuously awed" audiences, and the singer takes much of her inspiration from Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, according to her website

Ani released two songs this week. On Monday, the Paterson singer released heartbreak anthem "Disgusted" with Song House. Her latest single, "To The Moon," came out on Friday. 

Hollywood Week on "American Idol" kicks off at 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 2, when former "Idol" contestants will appear as mentors to help artists build confidence, establish stage presence and work on songwriting. On Monday night's episode, contestants will work in pairs to perform duets. The episodes will be available to stream on Hulu after they air on ABC.