American Idol notched another week of auditions on Sunday's episode (March 5), and an especially emotional audition from contestant Elijah McCormick left the judges stunned. McCormick made his way to Idol after surviving a horrific car accident that occurred on the day of his high school graduation.
The singer's car caught on fire during the crash, and he was airlifted to the hospital. McCormick flatlined a total of nine times following the accident, and he underwent 10 surgeries. He was in the hospital for a total of 79 days, and afterwards, he had to learn how to talk and walk again.
Now four years later, McCormick is trying his luck at becoming the next American Idol, and he auditioned with an emotional cover of Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road." The audition not only showcased his intense passion about music, but his dynamic voice was also on display throughout the song, and he made the tune his own by adding complex riffs. McCormick's voice was practically flawless throughout the performance and the emotion of the moment brought the judges -- especially Lionel Richie -- to tears. Richie's tears began towards the beginning of the performance and continued until the end.
At the end of the song, Luke Bryan immediately stood up to enthusiastically congratulate McCormick on the audition. Richie and Katy Perry then joined on the audition floor to hug him. Back at their seats, the judges compared McCormick to a very special person within the American Idol family.
"The last person that I saw approach singing like you was Willie Spence," Bryan said.
Spence competed on American Idol in 2021 and earned second place in the competition behind Chayce Beckham. He passed away in a car accident near Chattanooga, Tenn. in October 2022 at the age of 23.
Richie saw the comparison to Spence as well, and he says that is the reason the performance struck such an emotional chord.
"That's what got me," Richie said. "You hit one of those notes and I thought of Willie, and from then on I couldn't recover. I was trying to look very dignified and then you just beat me up some more."
"Let me just tell you this," Richie continued. "God brought you back nine times for you to do something amazing. I'm so glad you're here with us and that was just one of those moments in my life I will never forget."
As the audition continued, McCormick revealed that his mom initially signed him up to audition for Idol before his crash.
"So, you're just here fulfilling your destiny," Perry said. "This was always meant to be!"
The judges then asked the singer to bring in his mom, and Richie again shared his praises about McCormick, calling him a "golden child." The singer then pointed out the irony of that phrase, as the nurses and doctors nicknamed him "golden child" while he was in the hospital.
The judges then shared their emphatic "yes" votes to send McCormick to Hollywood.
"The golden child deserves a golden ticket," Perry said.
American Idol airs on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC.
READ MORE: 'American Idol' Preston Duffee Earns Luke Bryan Comparison With Emotional Song Written for His Late Mother
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