Believe it or not, it's been more than a decade since Susan Boyle broke the internet with her outstanding Britain's Got Talent audition. Proving you should never judge someone by appearance, Boyle wowed the judges and the world with her soaring voice, and 10 years later, an America's Got Talent competitor has achieved the same. Kodi Lee's America's Got Talent golden buzzer moment will have you reaching for tissues and pressing "replay," so get ready for all of these feels.
Season 14 of America's Got Talent debuted on NBC on May 28, introducing a revamped judging panel and a new host. While mainstays Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel returned to their usual spots as judges, actor Gabrielle Union and Dancing with the Stars alum Julianne Hough filled in positions vacated by Mel B and Heidi Klum. Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Terry Crews also took over as host from Tyra Banks after serving in the same role on spinoff series America's Got Talent: Champions.
While the show was welcoming in the new on the administrative side, auditions featuring Americans' eclectic talents proceeded as usual. But little did audiences know, Episode 1 was bound for the history books when contestant Kodi Lee arrived onstage with his mother Tina.
As Tina explained to the judges, 22-year-old Lee is blind and autistic. When he was younger, his family discovered that he loved music, so Lee began singing. "That's when I was just in tears, because that's when I realized, 'Oh my gosh, he's an entertainer,'" his mother told the America's Got Talent crowd. "Through music and performing, he was able to withstand living in this world, because when you're autistic, it's really hard to do what everyone else does. [Playing music] has actually saved his life."
Lee then sat down to perform a piano rendition of "A Song for You," which was originally recorded by Leon Russell in 1970. Grab the Kleenex before checking out his emotional performance below.
While he hesitated to respond in normal conversation, Lee sailed through singing the song as he accompanied himself on the piano. The judges and audiences only needed to hear his first line of the song to realize that Lee's captivating voice was extraordinary. After sending Hough into tears and Cowell into a rare smile, Lee finished his song to a standing ovation from the judges and the audience. Is it really dusty in here or is it just me?
No surprise, but the judges showered Lee with praise and complimented Tina's relationship with him. It was Union who really triggered universal waterworks when she said, "I'm a new judge this season, and I'm also a new mom this year. It's the toughest job I've ever had and the most rewarding job I've ever had. You just want to give your kids the moon, the stars, and the rainbows, and tonight, I'm gonna give you something special."
She then pressed the golden buzzer, which allows a judge to send one contestant straight to the season's live shows rather than have him or her compete in a round of Judge Cuts. Union elaborated on her choice to award Lee with her golden buzzer in a video released on the show's Twitter page, saying, "I've been saving my golden buzzer for just this moment. I wanted a performer that was gonna change the world."
Lee's audition has since gone viral, even winning over the support of Oprah Winfrey. Fans will reportedly have to wait until August 13 for America's Got Talent's live shows to start and see Lee's return to TV. Until then, I'll be playing his audition on a loop when I want to feel better about the world. Good luck to Lee and his family!
Season 14 of America's Got Talent airs at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesdays on NBC.