“I never thought that I would be here in a million years. I love American Idol, it showcases people’s talents that maybe they’d be afraid to show themselves,” Finelli, who was diagnosed with autism, admitted ahead of his audition. Finelli has never performed in front of an audience and only usually sings in his bedroom, basement and shower.
His performance was so stunning that it earned a standing ovation from all three of the Idol judges (Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan) and even brought Perry to tears.
Not only was Perry crying, but Finelli also cried “happy tears” after seeing the superstar judges standing and clapping for his breathtaking audition.
“You know what that was for us? Those were happy claps,” Richie said. “You told us about your struggle and now you walk out here with no other experience to American Idol and you have three judges giving you a standing ovation. I want you to know right now, we are so proud of you. Sam, you were born enough… and what we consider your handicap is your gift. You understand me? You are enough.”
“Katy, you want to just take charge here because I’m just about to break down and start crying,” Richie continued.
“Sam, I think you picked the perfect song, because there’s always been a rainbow hanging over your head,” Perry added. “You’re 28 and the moment is now, and all that you have to do is let go of all that fear and that negativity and always sing from your heart. That’s all you have to do and that’s exactly what you did just then and we felt that.”
“I love an experience and that felt like an experience, thank you for being here,” Bryan gushed.
The Idol judges then requested that Finelli bring his mother in the room while they make their decision if the contestant will go to Hollywood.
“So, Sam has come in this door and has blown us away because he gave us the pure Sam and that’s all that matters,” Richie told the 28-year-old’s mother, who was standing beside him.”
After three unanimous ‘yes’ votes by the Idol judges, Finelli earned a golden ticket to Hollywood, which Richie says he will “take by storm.”
“You ready to be the next Kelly Clarkson?” Perry asked, to which Finelli replied “I’m going to sure as hell try,” before he grabbed his golden ticket.
American Idol airs every Sunday at 8/7c on ABC.