Holloway arrived in the Top 40 as an underdog. She made it through her audition by convincing 2'Live Bre, a judge on the panel, that she would work hard in the next round. Other judges, Brandon Stewart and Ashthon Jones, had split on their decision. Stewart believed she had potential to grow on the show, and Jones felt she needed more work. When Bre voted her through, she was full of emotion, and promised to deliver.
When the Top 40 contestants united for the first time at Butler Park Resort, Holloway was determined to make a big splash. Her brand went through a total makeover, now fully embodying the genre she wants to sell in.
Her Top 40 performance was strong, according to vocal coach, Vanessa Birchfield on last week's episode. Jones had mentioned she needed vocal coaching during her audition months earlier, so Holloway made sure she could spend some time with Birchfield, who told her she "loved what [she] did yesterday." The audience was treated to a flashback of Holloway's performance, that showed how confidently she presented herself in comparison to her audition prior. But then Birchfield told her she was "playing it a little bit safe" leading into her Top 30 performance.
That's when Holloway found herself in tears after a shaky performance of her original song, "Rise" for the judges.
"The thing about this song that I didn't like," Stewart admitted "right on the note that you were coming in [during] the moment that really should have been, ya know, the title of the song, to really pull us in, it was flat unfortunately."
Jones opened up, who has been pretty tough on her during her journey, and said, "I think you're well on your way to finding who you are." This is when Holloway broke down, as she blotted tears from forming under her eyes.
"You're on your way..." Jones continued, after witnessing the growth Holloway has already had on the show, "we just got to get you there."
Bre chimed in telling her, "This energy that you once didn't have, or that you lost and you feel like you're tapping back into it, you have to love it. Enjoy it. Live in the moment." She smiles at him, with a face full of tears now.
"Everything else is going to come," Bre continued. "Girl don't make me cry now," Jones jokes, holding back tears of her own.
Holloway responded to the judging panel with words of her own, and made all of our hearts melt. "I know this is something special, you challenged me, I've been working my butt off. All I wanted was that validation to say man, 'the work is really paying off and keep at it.' So this is awesome, and these are so happy tears."
The gratitude Holloway held toward the judges gave the fans a reminder on how respected the panel really is. It brought a new perspective to last week's episode after riding on an explosive back half of the season. We've seen artists walk out of eliminations, combat the judge's critiques and speak out against the wildcard decisions. Though it does make for good TV, we can't forget the judges discovered two incredible voices in first season winner, Emmy Bodner and second season winner, Dakota Hayden; not to mention, Hayden is returning to American Idol this year, after placing 25th last season.
Is Holloway your favorite contestant? Don't forget to vote every week in the comments of the Shine episodes on Sunday nights.