Georgia native Willie Spence is one step closer to becoming the next American Idol.
The 21-year-old survived another night of live voting and snagged a spot in the Top 5 after delivering a soul-stirring cover of Coldplay’s hit song “Yellow” on Sunday. The performance brought judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie out of their seats.
Richie likened it to “a religious experience” and lauded Spence for making the Britpop song all his own.
“When an artist who wrote the song, who performs the song says to you ‘you’re owning that song yourself,’ you’re taking his song and turning it into Willie’s song,” he said.
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin served as a mentor to the Top 7 contestants last week. During a pre-taped portion of the show, Spence explained why he chose to sing “Yellow.”
“I have some insecurities, and the song really touched me,” he told Martin.
“I have some, too,” Martin responded, “especially after hearing you sing.”
Martin also tweaked the arrangement and stripped back some parts of the song in order to let Willie’s voice shine.
Spence, who grew up singing in his grandfather’s church, rocketed to internet fame when a video of him singing “Diamonds” by Rihanna went viral in 2017. It was that very song the earned him a golden ticket to Hollywood during “American Idol” auditions.
Spence’s star has continued to rise on the singing competition and now he’s a Top 5 finalist. This season’s winner will be crowned at the live finale May 23.
“You were back in that connected place,” Perry said after Spence’s performance Sunday. “It’s between heaven and earth, and you touch it every once in a while – when you sing it’s amazing. But that spot you get to, I love it. You let go and let God.”
Bryan was equally in awe and told Spence: “I will always cherish this time getting to watch you sing.”
The night couldn’t end without a special dedication song for Mother’s Day.
Spence serenaded his mom with a soulful rendition of Joe Cocker’s “You are so Beautiful,” bringing her to tears.
“American Idol” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. Eastern. The live finale is set to air May 23.