'American Idol' hopeful Dontrell Briggs holds a woven tapestry blanket dedicated to the memory of his late godmother.
Screengrab via YouTube/ American Idol

'American Idol': Dontrell Briggs Stuns Judges With Second-Chance Rendition of 'Tennessee Whiskey'


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Dontrell Briggs, a 26-year-old gospel singer from North Carolina, made the most of a mulligan during his American Idol audition. After a performance of Tasha Cobbs' "For Your Glory" left all three judges regretfully saying no to Briggs' Hollywood dreams, he swiftly changed their minds with a brief, a capella rendition of country standard "Tennessee Whiskey."

Briggs dedicated his audition to his late godmother Betty Morrison, who died on April 25, 2021 from the chronic disease sarcoidosis. He brought along a woven tapestry blanket bearing the likeness of Morrison, a proud supporter of her godson's singing competition goals. A video package about Briggs' tight-knit family in Maxton, N.C. followed, as did Ryan Seacrest's interactions outside the audition room with the singer's aunt, Vernell.

A feel-good story for American Idol season 20 almost didn't make it past the audition stage. Judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie seemed conflicted while they explained why Briggs' over-reliance on his low vibrato cost him a golden ticket.

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"If I could shape and mold you, where you don't give us so much of that kind of staggered vibrato... You really lean on that a lot, but you don't have to as much. I just don't want that to become redundant to the listener," Bryan told Briggs. "I am utterly torn."

After Bryan agreed to allow Briggs a second shot, the contestant changed all three American Idol judges' minds in a matter of seconds. It took just one verse of "Tennessee Whiskey," a song written no later than 1981 by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove and made famous in the 21st century by Chris Stapleton, for Richie to shout "hallelujah" and for his fellow judges to agree that Briggs is Hollywood bound.

Briggs will be joined in Los Angeles by such standout American Idol contestants as Cadence Baker, Ryleigh Madison, Mark Osborne, Dakota Hayden, TikTok star Abigail Brooks and Sam Finelli (whose performance of Kacey Musgraves' "Rainbow" floored judges).

ABC airs American Idol each Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m. EST.

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