Willie Spence won over “American Idol” fans with a magical performance on Disney night, snagging a spot in the Top 7.
The south Georgia native delivered a soulful rendition of “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King” movie on Sunday that earned a standing ovation from judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie.
Perry gushed over the performance and dubbed Spence “a bona fide idol.”
“You just climbed all of those mountains in that one song with all of those notes,” she said. “I love what you did; the arrangement was sparkly and magnificent. It was real spiritual and I just love you … and I’m excited to see you sing again and again.”
Spence, 21, has become a top contender on the singing competition and continues to wow fans with a powerful voice that has some predicting he could be the next “American Idol.” He survived Sunday’s elimination and was voted by fans to advance to the next round.
A winner is set to be crowned later this month at the live finale May 23. If he wins, Spence would be the first Black male winner since Ruben Studdard took home the crown in 2003.
On Sunday, judge Luke Bryan said Spence’s performance made him feel alive.
“Wow. Willie, you just have the magic buddy,” he said. “When you hit those big notes, it’s the best stuff in the world.”
Richie said he asked himself, “Why am I crying on the Lion King?”
“You could sing the phone book and literally make it yours,” he told Spence. “You’re a true stylist as an artist.”
Spence, who grew up in Douglas, Georgia, said he has big plans for the future and thanked “Idol” fans for bringing him this far in the competition.
“If I ever win, and if I don’t win I still want to continue with my music and my career,” he told WXGA in a recent interview. “I want to continue recording hopefully go on tour one day and be able to sell my music,” stated Spence. “Like I said at my audition, hopefully, be able to win a Grammy one day.”
Spence is set to grace the “American Idol” stage again next Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern time.