When Kya Monée paid a moving homage to the late competitor Willie Spence on Sunday’s broadcast.
In October 2022, an automobile accident in Tennessee claimed the life of Spence.
Spence finished second to Chayce Beckham in season 19 of American Idol.
When Kya Monée paid a moving homage to the late competitor Willie Spence on Sunday’s broadcast of American Idol, she immediately and visibly moved the judges.
The tribute audition for the late Georgia singer, who finished second in the singing competition series’ 2021 season, moved Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan to tears. In October 2022, an automobile accident in Tennessee claimed the life of Spence. He was 23.
Spence finished second to Chayce Beckham in season 19 of American Idol. As the late performer performed “Diamonds” by Rihanna for his audition, the judges were immediately blown away.
“Losing Willie was just really, very painful for me,” Monée, a close friend of Spence’s with whom she had sang a duet of Rihanna and Mikky Ekko’s “Stay” during Hollywood Week in 2021, said to the group on Sunday.
Willie always said to me, “No matter what, you’ll always be a singer,” she continued. “But three days before he passed, Willie was telling me, “You have to go back. You have to chase your dream. I’m going to go with you to American Idol. He made me want to do it, and I’d really love to make it further. But most of all, I want to make Willie proud.”
Monée then outlined how she and Spence jointly chose Monée’s 2023 audition song. She announced, “I’m singing ‘I’m Here’ from The Color Purple.
Monée was given a standing ovation by the choked-up judges after her audition, during which she had to halt a few times to contain her emotions.
Richie got up to hug Monée, saying, “What you’ve given us was everything we’ve been trying to tell all of these youngsters.” In the wonderful name of our beloved brother Willie, I say, “The performance was so emotionally charged, so sincere, and so divinely guided.”
Bryan concurred, stating that at the time, “In my life, I’ve lost a few folks. You simply sing as though Willie is still present when you start to sing.”
Perry then echoed the strong praise for the audition that her fellow judges had expressed.
It was at another level, she claimed. “Everyone was feeling this loss, and it was so closely related to the suffering. Yet you are authentic, just like he was, so we also feel a connection to you.”
In response to the judges’ remarks, they sent Monée through to the next round with a trip to Hollywood.
American Idol runner-up Willie Spence dies at 23 in car accident
Willie Spence was killed when his Jeep 'left the roadway' and slammed...