Courtney Hadwin, the shy 13-year-old aspiring singer, won the hearts of American’s Got Talent judges on Tuesday during her surprising audition.
In an interview before the British teen took the stage, Hadwin’s father explained that his daughter struggled to make friends and talk to people due to social anxiety but communicated best through music and singing, reported Entertainment Tonight.
Hadwin giggled nervously and told the judges that she was “a little bit nervous” as they tried to break the ice with several questions about school as she awkwardly stood on stage.
Once she cued the music, all bets were off. Hadwin, who had previously competed and made it to the final rounds of The Voice Kids UK, took the stage by storm with her performance, belting out Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” and completely transforming into a confident performer that surprised the judges with her powerful voice and stage presence reminiscent of Janis Joplin.
In complete shock and without words, judge Simon Cowell praised her talent.
“Bloody hell, Courtney. You’re like this shy little thing when you first came out. And then you sing, and you’re like a lion,” Cowell said. “I mean, genuinely, incredible.”
“Wow!” repeated judge Heidi Klum.
Completely captivating the audience and leaving the judges speechless, she earned Howie Mandel’s coveted Golden Buzzer, which puts her directly on the fast-track to the live rounds of the competition.
A Janis Joplin fan, Mandel also celebrated and compared the young singer to Janis Joplin back when Clive Davis spotted her during the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and signed her to her first music label that definitively launched her career.
“You are not from this era. You’re from a whole different era,” Mandel continued.
“I’m not Clive Davis, I’m Howie Mandel. The only thing I can do for you, young lady, is give you a Golden Buzzer” as he leaned in to hit the buzzer.
Hadwin’s father, who was watching his daughter from backstage, ran to hug her as golden confetti poured down. The young singer cried with joy and excitement.
In complete disbelief, Hadwin tweeted her excitement, saying, “I didn’t know what to expect when I auditioned for @AGT but the golden buzzer was more than I ever could have dreamed of. Thank you so much @howiemandel I am so happy and can’t thank you enough xx.”
As Today reported, the video of Hadwin’s performance went viral and surpassed a million views on YouTube by Wednesday morning.
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC.