It’s not everyday that one of the amateur contestants on American Idol can bring a judge to tears.
But Shayy, a 17-year-old from Virginia who debuted on this week’s episode, is no ordinary contestant.
The teenager is adjusting to her new life after a brain tumor left her legally blind just a year ago.
“A year ago I started complaining to my mother about not being able to see the white board,” she revealed in her audition.
“I was like, ‘Oh man I’m going to get glasses now.’ I went to [the doctor’s office] and she had done a bunch of tests on my eyes. She came back and was like, ‘You need to go to the ER now.'”
A scan of Shayy’s brain revealed brain tumor, and the bad news that she would soon lose her eyesight.
“Once I got back into school that was the bad part,” she described.
“The kids were so cruel. They would call me names. They would kick my cane. They pushed me. I asked my mom at one point, ‘Why did that happen to me?'”
But Shayy found a beautiful way to channel her emotions: music. Her cover of Andra Day’s song “Rise Up” instantly connected with the judges.
While all three reacted emotionally to Shayy’s powerful voice, Lionel Richie was the one to wipe tears from his eyes.
“You have wrecked me,” he told her. “You’re a lesson to us all. It’s the power of the spirit and you’re a reminder of just how blessed we are.”
It’s no surprise that Shayy moved on to the next round after wowing the judges.
Luke Bryan had his own heart-to-heart moment with contestant Nick Townsend, who shared that he had lost his brothers to suicide and performed an emotional cover of “Let It Go.”
“I haven’t brought this up on this show because I haven’t had to, but as somebody, I’ve lost both of my siblings,” Bryan said. “I just applaud you for keeping a positive attitude and continuing to fight and just try to be a light for your parents too.”
Bryan also stepped on the other side of the judge’s table to share a song with Ethan, a former Make-A-Wish kid living with cystic fibrosis. Ethan had used his wish to perform on stage at one of Bryan’s concerts years earlier, and the singer recognized him right away.
The pair shared an impromptu duet to “I Do,” one of Bryan’s songs, and it was so good Ethan said it felt like they had rehearsed together.
But the highlight of the night was a singer who made Richie feel like he was “in the presence of greatness.”
The multi-talented Alejandro Aranda wowed the judges with an original song as he accompanied himself on guitar. When Richie asked him to sing another, Aranda showed off his piano skills.
“I’ve just never seen anything like that,” Richie declared. And neither have we!
This is shaping up to be one of the best seasons of Idol ever!