'There was Jesus' singer makes 'American Idol' top 7

McKenna Breinholt performs 'There Was Jesus' during her 'American Idol' audition, that aired on February 18, 2024.
McKenna Breinholt performs "There Was Jesus" during her "American Idol" audition, that aired on February 18, 2024. | Screenshot: YouTube/American Idol

A professed Christian who's also a contestant on the reality TV singing competition “American Idol” has made it into the top seven.

McKenna Breinholt, a contestant on season 22 of “American Idol,” took to Facebook Tuesday to announce that judge Katy Perry had saved her during the episode that aired the previous night. “I’m so beyond grateful,” she said. “Everybody did so amazing last night, so it is an honor to still be here.”

The term “save” refers to when a contestant is eliminated from the competition because they receive the fewest votes of support from viewers who determine the fate of each of the competitors, but a judge elects to keep them in the competition. The description of Monday’s episode of “American Idol,” as compiled by the Internet Movie Database, stated, “America votes live for their top 6, with the judges making one save for the top 7.” Breinholt’s post identifies her as the one who got saved.  

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Breinholt sang “There Was Jesus” by Zach Williams and Dolly Parton during her audition, which aired on Feb. 18. While the judges were impressed by her performance and unanimously voted to give her a “Golden Ticket” to advance to the next round of the competition, the audition also included a surprise reunion with Breinholt’s birth family. 

A Jan. 30 post on Breinholt’s personal Facebook page elaborates on the backstory of how she connected with her birth family. “I found my birth family last summer (all in God’s timing),” she wrote.

Breinholt shared a video created by her birth grandmother, written from the perspective of the singer’s aunts and uncles, explaining why Brienholt was given up for adoption.

“When our sister, Amy, was 25, she placed her baby up for adoption. It was a high-risk pregnancy,” the video explained. “We were scared it would break her body and her heart, but Amy knew what she was doing. She knew the right family from the moment she saw them. They named her McKenna. It was an immediate divine connection. Amy said it all felt bigger than any of them and any of us. It was a closed adoption. Locked up tight.” 

The video backstory added: “In 2020, our sister, Katie, miraculously found McKenna online one night. First, we saw her hands, and we knew. Her eyes and we knew. Her face. Then came her voice … hauntingly familiar. There was no doubt.”

Breinholt’s birth family did not want to reach out to her at first, and despite the fact that a private investigator told them McKenna was not Amy’s daughter, they “knew they were wrong.” Last summer, on McKenna’s grandmother’s birthday, the young singer reached out to them, with the video noting that “she had found us.”

“We immediately fell in love with her family of five. They are so good to us. It was an instant divine connection again,” the video added, detailing how “we met them in person in Nashville this November.”

The meeting they were referring to was the “American Idol” audition in Nashville. During the video package that accompanied Breinholt’s audition, the singer recalled how, “When I turned 21, I sat my parents down and asked them to tell me any information they had on my birth mom.” She learned that her mother, Amy Ross Lopez, was a musician who had died. She was part of a band named Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl.

Breinholt, who discussed her resemblance to her mother in the video, told the judges that she expected to meet her birth family in person in three weeks. She didn't realize they were already in the building. After she concluded her performance of “There Was Jesus,” the judges invited Breinholt to bring her family in. As the audition was going on, Breinholt’s adopted family told host Ryan Seacrest that they had brought her birth family to the audition to surprise her. 

As Breinholt opened the doors to let her family into the audition room, she broke down in tears as she embraced her birth family. The reunion caught Breinholt and the judges by surprise. Judge Katy Perry asked Breinholt if she knew any of Lopez’s songs and she answered in the affirmative. Brienholt performed a song called “Tumbleweed,” which prompted her biological grandmother to remark, “It’s like a ghost,” as she reflected on the resemblance between her late daughter and her granddaughter. 

In her Facebook post published after getting “saved” on Monday’s edition of “American Idol,” Breinholt remarked, “I know that Amy was on that stage with me last night.” Breinholt and the rest of the top seven will face off on the next episode of “American Idol” is slated to air on Sunday, where two additional contestants will be eliminated. 

Breinholt isn't the only Christian to experience success on “American Idol” in recent years. Last year, outspoken Christian singer Megan Danielle finished in second place. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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