North Carolina native Dontrell Briggs sang a “soul” stirring rendition of a gospel song on “American Idol” that brought judge Lionel Richie to tears in an episode that aired on Sunday.
Briggs’ audition of the Tasha Cobbs song “For Your Glory” was a tribute to his godmother, who died months before the taping.
“She played a very big part in my life — not a day that I could not call her and she wouldn’t be right there for me,” Briggs said in a video that aired before his performance.
His godmother had a terminal lung disease, but it never stopped her and she “always kept going.” Briggs said he expressed to her his dream of making it to “American Idol.”
“If I get that golden ticket, she is going to be rejoicing with the angels,” he told the judges.
ABC aired Briggs’ entire performance. His powerful rendition floored Richie, a singer and songwriter who co-led the funk band the Commodores.
“Some people can come in and just sing, and then some people come in and just let God come through them,” Richie said.
Fellow judges Luke Bryan and Katy Perry were not as convinced, although Bryan did say he should listen to gospel music more because of how moved he was. Perry, a pastor’s daughter who is a secular pop star, did not vote for Briggs, claiming he had too much “vibrato.”
Briggs told them he is “100%” a gospel singer, but he did ask if he could sing another song. He then wowed Bryan by singing “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton.
“I just got chills all over on that one,” Bryan said and then voted “yes” to send him to Hollywood.
According to local news outlet WPDE, Briggs grew up singing in church in Maxton, North Carolina.
“I just count this as an honor and privilege to be able to come from a small town,” Briggs told them.
Season 20 of the singing competition has featured several inspiring performances. Contestant Tyler Allen is a young minister who also left the reality show’s judges in tears.
During the season premiere, Allen dedicated his audition to his 1-year-old nephew, Noah. Both Noah and his mother, Allen’s sister, were killed in a horrific car accident last April.
According to his Instagram bio, Allen is a “preacher, singer, writer, actor and mentor.”
In another episode, former Miss America Betty Maxwell received a unanimous “yes” from the judges after performing a rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel.”
Choosing the faith-filled song is a reflection of Maxwell’s beliefs. Following the airing of her audition, the Miss America winner took to social media to give glory to God.
“For the past 5 or 6 years I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome…I feel that I don’t deserve the blessings and success in my life,” Maxwell wrote on Instagram the day after her audition aired. “I feel like I’m unworthy of the praise and the talents God gave me. I don’t know why…maybe part of it is just the pressure to always have something bigger and better on the horizon.”