American Idol 2023 premiere: Willie Spence tribute and other performances that brought the judges to tears

NEW YORK — One of the saddest moments of all time on American Idol came at the end of the season 21 premiere.

Kya Monee returned to the Idol stage for a second audition. Kya appeared on “American Idol” in 2021 and sang a memorable duet with that season’s runner-up Willie Spence.

They remained close friends when he died in a car accident last October.

“I want to thank you so much for putting me together with him. He was supposed to be here today for my audition. It’s very hard not to have that support anymore,” Kya told the judges, fighting back tears. “I know he wanted me to be here.”

They even chose their audition song together – “I’m Here” from The Color Purple.

The audition brought tears to Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan.

Another emotional moment came from Iam Tongi, who lost his father just a few months ago. His father taught him music and always wanted me to try it for Idol.

I dedicated his performance to his father Rodney.

A small-town boy from Mississippi turned heads with his rendition of “Simple Man.” Colin Stough said his mother signed him up for the Idol audition.

“That’s what ‘American Idol’ is about,” Bryan said after his performance.

“You have the magic in you 100 percent,” Perry added.

And the first platinum ticket of the season went to 17-year-old Tyson Venegas, who covered “New York State Of Mind.”

After the performance, his mother said one of Tyson’s first concerts was with Lionel Richie.

“He was inspired by you (Lionel) and that’s where he learned how to sing from the bottom of his heart,” she said.

Richie said the judges were inspired by him this time.

“That performance was spot on,” said Richie.

The platinum ticket means Tyson can skip the first round during Hollywood Week.

You can now catch more American Idol premieres on Hulu.

See who gets a ticket to Hollywood next Sunday at 8/7c on ABC and Stream on Hulu.

Complete list of previous American Idol winners

2002 – Kelly Clarkson

2003 – Ruben Studard

2004 – Fantasia Barino

2005 – Carrie Underwood

2006 – Taylor Hicks

2007 – Jordin Sparks

2008 – David Koch

2009 – Kris Allen

2010 – Lee DeWyze

2011 – Scotty McCreery

2012 – Phillip Phillips

2013 – Candice Glover

2014 – Caleb Johnson

2015 – Nick Fradiani

2016 – Trent Harmon

2018 – Maddie Poppe

2019 – Laine Hardy

2020 – Sam only

2021 – Chayce Beckham

2022 – Noah Thompson

Copyright © 2023 All rights reserved. American Idol 2023 premiere: Willie Spence tribute and other performances that brought the judges to tears

Alley Einstein

Alley Einstein is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Alley Einstein joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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