Nanaimo teen wows American Idol judges, moves on to next stage of competition

American Idol judges showered Nanaimo teenager Lauren Spencer-Smith with praise on Sunday night, sending her through to the next phase of the reality TV singing competition.

Spencer-Smith, whose audition was taped last year but aired Sunday night on the hit ABC show, was given a golden ticket to American Idol’s Hollywood Week, which begins March 16. The 16 year-old Dover Bay Secondary School student sang a version of What About Us by P!nk that left American Idol judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan speechless.

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“I can’t talk,” Bryan said. “Lionel, what you got?”

“You are wise and gifted well beyond your age,” Richie added. “I had to close my eyes for a minute to go: ‘Who are we listening to?’ If you continue going down that road, you could make something happen on this show.”

Spencer-Smith sang for the judges at a regional audition in Sunriver, Oregon, in November. She did not reveal the result when speaking with the Times Colonist last week — American Idol has participants sign confidentiality agreements, which forbids them from revealing any details — but it was clear something was afoot with regards to her career. When asked if she would be attending the Juno Awards ceremony in Saskatoon on March 15, nominee Spencer-Smith said that she “wasn’t sure.” Her independent album Unplugged Vol. 1, is in the running for adult contemporary album of the year against the likes of Bryan Adams at the Junos.

“I feel like I’m a very little girl with a huge dream, and American Idol will help me achieve that dream in so many different ways,” Spencer-Smith said on the Sunday broadcast, following her audition.

Her career started last March with a video that went viral on Facebook. The cellphone video of her singing Lady Gaga’s Always Remember Us This Way eventually amassed more than 20 million views, and led to an appearance on comedian Steve Harvey’s daytime talk show in May. 

She also sang the Lady Gaga song during her American Idol audition, though it did not make it to air. Her version of What About Us did make the cut, however, and judges were suitably impressed. “You sing circles around me,” Bryan said.

“You have such a God-given gift, you may be 16 but that voice is 1,000 years old,” Perry said.

The gravity of the situation hit home for Spencer-Smith following her audition. “Did I just sing for those three, amazing famous people? Their mentoring and their wisdom is going to help shape the artist I want to be, and help me become something I’ve been dreaming of my whole life,” she said.

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