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April 10, 2023

N.J.'s Wé Ani secures spot in 'American Idol' top 24 with performance of Aretha Franklin's 'Ain't No Way'

Levittown native Kevin John and Exton's Dylan Zangwill have been eliminated from the ABC competition

Music American Idol
American Idol We Ani Eric McCandless/ABC

Paterson native Wé Ani secured her spot in the top 24 on 'American Idol' Sunday night with a performance of Aretha Franklin's 'Ain't No Way.'

The competition is heating up on Season 21 of ABC's hit singing competition show "American Idol," as the judges choose which contestants will head to Hawaii for the next round of performances.

Among them is Wé Ani, the 23-year-old Paterson native whose viral audition shocked audiences and helped foster a fanbase for the soulful vocalist. During the Easter Sunday episode, Ani once again stunned celebrity judges Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry with a performance of Aretha Franklin's 1968 hit "Ain't No Way," which helped the singer secure her place in the top 24.

"We have a class of outstanding singers," Richie told Ani during Sunday's episode. "Cutting it down is the hardest thing. And I've always thought trying to cut good singers is difficult. Trying to cut a great singer, that's impossible. You are a great singer — you're going to be (in) our next top 24." 

Ani, who now lives in New York, shocked the judges earlier this year when she 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 and has continued to be a contestant to look out for as the season progresses. 

During her viral audition, Richie described her voice as "ridiculous," while Bryan compared her to Frenchy, the pink-haired character in the 1978 movie "Grease" portrayed by Didi Conn. The singer takes much of her musical inspiration from Franklin and fellow New Jersey native Whitney Houston, who also performed "Ain't No Way" when she made her national television debut on "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1983. 

Ani made her television debut in 2016, when she auditioned for NBC's "The Voice" with a cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." Performing as We McDonald, the singer received a four-chair turn from the judges and worked with Alicia Keys before being eliminated within the final rounds of the season. 

Ani released her debut EP, "Frantic," on April 5. The five-track project includes some of her recent singles like "Disgusted" and "To The Moon," which were released within days of each other at the end of March. On April 6, Ani released "Won't Take Me Alive," a collaboration with fellow "Idol" contestant PJAE, with whom she performed a duet earlier in the season. 

Kevin John, a Temple University alum and Levittown native now living in Nashville, was eliminated from "American Idol" by the judges after Hollywood Week. The singer confirmed the decision on Instagram, asking newfound fans to stream his music and support his burgeoning career. 

The country-pop singer said that he and his partner will discuss his time on "Idol" at length in an upcoming episode of their podcast, "KJ & BB," which is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. 

Another local contestant, Dylan Zangwill, concluded his time on "American Idol" during Hollywood Week earlier this month. The 16-year-old Exton resident performed "I Put A Spell On You" alongside Aubrie Camp, who was also eliminated by the judges during last week's episode. Zangwill posted the video on Instagram, thanking fans for rooting for him despite never appearing on the telecast. 

On the next episode of "American Idol," which airs Monday, the judges will continue to build the top 24 before the remaining contestants head to Hawaii to continue the competition. All episodes air live on ABC and are available to stream on Hulu the following day. 

Fans can keep up with their favorite "American Idol" contestants and catch viral moments on the show's official Twitter and Instagram for the remainder of Season 21. New episodes air each Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC.