As early as last night (January 27), American Idol's final season began to cut hopefuls from its feared Hollywood Week installment, but as Tori Kelly proved in 2010, that's not necessarily a death sentence.

Now a 23-year-old Grammy-contender, Kelly was just 17 when she tried out for the show's ninth season. With the exception of Simon Cowell, who called the young singer's voice "annoying," the judges swooned over Kelly's first performance of "Gravity" by John Mayer, and the high school student proceeded to sail through the contest's first few legs.

To make a final impression on the judges (Kara DioGuardi, Ellen Degeneres and Randy Jackson rounded out Season 9's group of four) before they decided on their final 24 semifinalists, Kelly performed Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" in the style of a funky jazz-club staple. And that was the beginning of the end.

Not only was Kelly cut, but she was the final contestant eliminated before the live shows began, conceding the last spot to 16-year-old Haeley Vaughn, who was voted off of the show two weeks later.

"This has just been an awesome experience," Kelly said tearily as she bowed out. "It's just like, really overwhelming."

Last year, Kelly joined Idol host Ryan Seacrest on his radio show and told him the years-earlier disappointment amounted to a "blessing in disguise."

"I was bummed when I got cut, of course," she said. "But then it was kind of awesome because, I think, by getting cut from the show, something stirred up in me to want to write."

"If that didn't happen, then I would be a completely different person," she added.

Think Tori deserved to get the Idol boot six years ago? Watch the clip above, and tell us if you think she got screwed.

Look back at 10 defining American Idol Season 1 moments: