Bring out the tissues, folks — this one is going to hit you hard. There were many outstanding performances during the season 17 premiere of American Idol on Sunday night, including 19-year-old Vietnamese singer Myra Tran, but one particular songstress turned things to the emotional during her audition. A 19-year-old musician who goes by the name Kai the Singer brought judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan to tears with her emotional backstory and powerful voice.
"I grew up kinda rough, but I wouldn't consider it rough," Kai revealed in her audition. A pretaped package showed Kai explaining her family's financial struggles. "My whole childhood, we were in and out of shelters and hotels, we were even homeless once and living in the car," she said. "It still is tough financially. There's eight people in the house right now, and only two of my brothers have beds, and it's like a bunk bed." But despite her family's troubles, Kai asserted she's still thankful for her life, her home, and her family.
The young singer began her audition by singing Ed Sheeran's hit "Thinking Out Loud" while playing along on her acoustic guitar. Sensing that she was nervous and feeling like she wasn't giving the audition her best, Richie called for her to stop and asked if she had another song to play. When Kai confirmed she could play another song on the piano, the judges gave her another shot to wow them. Which she absolutely did with a beautifully, soulful rendition of "My Girl" by The Temptations.
"When you got on the piano, it truly started stirring many, many emotions in me," Bryan said, audibly getting choked up. "Quite frankly, I don't know how kids like you, I don't know how you pony up and make it here."
Perry was particularly touched, especially when Kai revealed that it was with the aid of her church that she made her way to American Idol."I don't want to compare our situations, but I was raised in the church, too," the newly engaged singer said as her eyes welled up with tears. "I relate to what you're saying, and I think it's so beautiful, and I think it doesn't really matter where you come from. I know it's so hard, this struggle, and you're an inspiration to so many people by getting here today."
Kai came away from her audition with a golden ticket to Hollywood and a special place in the hearts of her new fans, ready to see her soar as the season continues. Watch her audition above and put those tissues to proper use!