The latest episode of American Idol featured an incredibly emotional audition by 15-year-old Kaylin Hedges, and it ended in a huge surprise for the whole family. When introducing herself to judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, Kaylin explained that her father, Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Hedges, is currently stationed overseas in the Army. She dedicated her audition song -- "I'm Already There" by Lonestar -- to her dad.
"It's just a song that sort of explains everything that has happened with us being so far away. I just relate to it a lot," she prefaced the performance.
Kaylin then launched into the song accompanied by acoustic guitar, showing off her powerful voice with unique vibrato and high vocal range. The contestant also infused plenty of emotion into the performance, seemingly singing straight to her dad. As she sang, her mother listened from outside the doors.
The judges were impressed by Kaylin's performance, with Perry even standing up to laud the singer. Richie and Perry expressed surprise that Kaylin could have such a powerful voice at 15. Bryan shared that he was initially nervous that Kaylin wouldn't be able to hit the high notes of the song, but when she did, he was impressed by her ability to navigate between her chest voice and head voice.
Then came surprise number one, which included Perry showing Kaylin a video message from her dad. Kaylin was ecstatic that her dad sent her a message for her big audition day, and he ended the video with lyrics from the song.
"I have nothing but pride and admiration for you," he told his daughter. "I know I've missed lots of holidays and birthdays and major life events for you, but I just want you to know that no matter where I am, I'm already there, so take a look around."
The camera then showed Kaylin's dad entering the set while she faced the judges.
"You know what you oughta do?" Richie told Kaylin. "You should take a look around."
Kaylin then looked to find her dad standing behind her, and a sweet reunion ensued. Although the judges knew about surprise, Kaylin's mother didn't, and the 15-year-old then invited her to the set where the three of them embraced in a sweet hug.
As if reuniting with her dad wasn't good enough, the judges then bestowed Kaylin with the coveted Platinum ticket to the Hollywood. The ticket, which only goes to one contestant per audition city, will allow her to skip the first round of the Hollywood competition, effectively giving her a rest day and a leg up on the other contestants.
"You're 15 years old singing like Streisand," Richie told Kaylin at the end of the audition.
Kaylin's dad, clearly emotional, also commented on the moment.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Sgt. Hedges. "I mean, it's amazing to see."
The road to the next American Idol continues every Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
READ MORE: 'American Idol': Luke Bryan Compares Contestant Trey Louis to Chris Stapleton
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