The judges on American Idol have gotten used to fighting back tears from watching heart-wrenching performances.
But it was emotion of a different kind on Thursday night that brought on the waterworks as a mom serving overseas surprised a heartbroken teenager at her audition.
Tristan McIntosh, 15, of Nashville, Tennessee, had spoken at length at how devastated she was that her mother Major Amy McIntosh was serving in the Middle East and unable to see her.
Teen talent: Tristan McIntosh brought the judges to tears on Thursday’s edition of American Idol
‘It’s just a really weird feeling that she’s not here for something of this magnitude, something as big as this,’ Tristan said. ‘I just want to make my mom proud, I owe it to her.
‘When I walk in the room I feel like my mom’s gonna be there in spirit.’
Tristan’s stunning version of Why Baby Why by Mickey Guyton left Jennifer Lopez in tears and comparing her to Alicia Keys.
Tears flowing: Jennifer Lopez got the ‘goosies’ and tears flowing during Tristan’s performance
Harry Connick Jr then read Tristan an email message from her mom.
‘You’ve always called me your big hero – but today you’re my big hero because you are doing something that you’ve dreamed about since you were 10 years old,’ her mom wrote, leaving the teen in tears.
Telling her that ‘my sister’s in the military and I get what it’s like to miss somebody,’ Harry finally told the contestant: ‘Well Tristan, she wouldn’t miss it.’
Reading aloud: Harry Connick Jr read a letter to Tristan out loud
At that Major McIntosh calmly walked out in a pink blouse, hugging her daughter who was too overwhelmed with tears to talk.
Outside, even the rest of her family seemed shocked to see her, including Tristan’s dad Freddie McIntosh who asked: ‘How did she get here?’
J-Lo’s eyes were still watery, with a crew member running tissues over to them.
Together again: The teenage singer was speechless upon seeing her military mom again
‘Do you think I would miss this for the world?’ Major McIntosh asked her daughter. ‘Do you really think i would miss this?’
‘There’s no way I was going to miss this iconic moment in her life,’ she added later.
But the teenager’s performance had already brought tears for J Lo, who told her: ‘I see in you something very, very special.
Special moment: Jennifer was clearly moved by the touching reunion
‘I’m a really good friend of Alicia Keys, not only do you remind me of her because of how you look bit also because of your heart. Just beautiful and special.
‘I think you made your mom so proud today.’
Keith Urban also was touched by the moment and wiped away a tear.
Heart strings: Keith Urban also was moved by Tristan’s performance and wiped away a tear
‘You’ve got so many thing that are all coming together as an artist, and at 15 – you have so much talent, Tristan,’ Keith told the teen talent.
‘She might win,’ J-Lo predicted to her fellow judgeslater. ‘I said it first.’
Jennifer had another magical moment in auditions – this time getting to hold a singer’s baby daughter, pulling cute faces at her throughout her mom’s performance.
Magical moment: Jennifer held a singer’s baby while she auditioned
Single mom La’Porsha Renae, 22, from McComb, Mississippi, brought her seven-month daughter with her to the audition, calling her ‘my driving force to even come out her and try.’
She then handed her daughter to Lopez, who managed to keep her happy throughout the performance and even giggling at her mom.
La’Porsha performed an amazing gospel version of Radiohead’s Creep, and Harry called her ‘an assassin with runs,’ and insisting: ‘You destroyed it.’
Nailed it: La’Porsha Renae got a ticket to Hollywood after her version of Radiohead’s Creep
‘She’s going to give some people a run for their money – some vocal runs for their money,” Keith said after she left the room.
La’Porsha earlier revealed that she had ‘endured a lot of physical abuse’ in life, adding: ‘The abuse got so bad that I had to actually take my daughter and move into a shelter for our safety.’
‘If I couldn’t sing about it, I don’t think I would have survived it. If I couldn’t find that song to describe what I was feeling at that moment, I wrote one.
Golden ticket: La’Porsha waived her ticket after impressing the judges
‘I’m so happy now because I got out, I survived. I thank God every day that I was.’
La’Porsha was not the only hopeful to bring along her ‘baby’ – with Maddie McAllister, 15, bringing along a chicken she called her ‘State Fair baby.’
‘My chicken’s have the biggest breasts in Arkansas,’ she said proudly, getting a confused look from Jen while Keith joked: ‘Check please.’
Chicken fan: Maddie McAllister brought a live chicken to the audition
Keith then confidently took hold of the chicken – while Harry grabbed an alarmed-looking Jennifer’s hand and, holding it next to the chicken’s leg, asked: ‘Who’s got the fly-er nails?’
But Maddie didn’t get through, with Harry cutting her off as she sang Cowboy Casanova by Carrie Underwood and telling her: ‘To me it’s the kind of voice that’s going to take a couple more years to come into its own.’
J-Lo also called her ‘adorable,’ but said: ‘There’s the beginnings of a really pretty voice there.’
Holding on: Keith tenderly held the chicken
While most contestants just want a shot at becoming the next American Idol, Daniel Farmer clearly had another target in mind – Jennifer Lopez.
‘I can’t wait to see the celebrity judges and seduce J-Lo,’ the smooth-talking 24-year-old from Memphis, Tennessee, admitted. ‘I love her. She’s sexy.’
He continued that he ‘can just envision it right now,’ saying he imagined he would come on under the audition lights ‘and just grind.’
Smooth talker: Daniel Farmer did not hide his affection for judge Jennifer
‘I’m just going to look into her eye,’ he said, with a wink. ‘And I am just going to sing to her. I have charisma. I have personality. And the voice.’
He continued inside the audition room, pointing to Jen and asking: ‘Why are you so fine? She’s so fine y’all. Let’s go J-Lo.’
He added: ‘I understand we have three judges but I just want to tell you I love you.’
Cracking up: The judges laughed as Daniel tried to charm J-Lo
‘I love you too,’ Jennifer replied with a smile, as Daniel winked at her and sang ‘Girl it’s only you,’ the opening line of D’Angelo’s How Does It Feel.
He kept up the flirting during the performance, grinding just for her and saying: ‘You ready? C’mon baby!’
Jen clapped admiringly at the end, telling him: ‘You’re funny and you’re sexy – all the confidence is there – that’s very attractive, it’s a very attractive quality. I’m being serious!’
It worked: Jennifer told Daniel that he was ‘funny’ and ‘sexy’
He ran outside after getting a yes from all three judges – still clearly more excited at making his impression on Jennifer.
‘She loved me!’ he yelled once outside. ‘J-Lo, you loved me!’
‘He’s a cutie,’ the superstar said once he’d left.
Good times: Keith in particular enjoyed several laughing fits including some his own jokes
Jennifer also called the next contestant, Billie Joe Armstrong lookalike Dalton Rapattoni, a ‘cutie’ – and this time Harry agreed, saying after Dalton left the room: ‘That guy was pretty!’
They were all amazed at how the 19-year-old from Dallas, where he is a vocal coach at a music center called the School Of Rock, turned The Phantom Of The Opera into an emo-style acoustic alternative tune.
‘You took this famous Andrew Lloyd Webber song and sang it like you wanted to sing it,’ Harry said. ‘I dug it, man!’
Owned it: Dalton Rapattoni turned The Phantom Of The Opera into his own song
Jennifer also praised him for ‘making something really unique and beautiful and special,’ while Keith said: ‘I’m looking for someone who’s got an artistic contribution to make. And that’s what you gave me right now.’
After all three gave a yes, Harry admitted: ‘That’s actually one of my favorite auditions ever.’
Kyrsti Jewel, meanwhile, got to bring her parents Julio and Josie Chavez into her audition, having convinced Ryan they were ‘the biggest American Idol fans ever’ – and the judges seemed more interested in her dad’s enthusiastic support as they were by her take on Mama Knows Best by Jessie J.
Family support: Kyrsti Jewel performed with her parents watching in the wings
Julio finally fell to his knees when they announced she was through to Hollywood, giving Ryan an excited hug, too.
‘We waited 15 years, we’re floating right now,’ her dad said. ‘This is the greatest moment of our whole lives other than when she was born.’
‘That son of a gun is crazy emotional,’ Harry said afterwards of the dad.
Final season: Harry remarked that Kyrsti’s father was ‘crazy emotional’
Olivia Rox, 16, also insisted she was a life-long fan of the show – especially of previous winner Kelly Clarkson – and once inside the audition room told the judges: ‘You guys look real!’
Harry cut her off during her slow piano version of Bruno Mars’s When I Was Your Man, telling her: ‘You’re an extraordinarily talented kid.’
‘You’re voice is really unique, extraordinary,’ Keith told Olivia, whose mom sang in an alternative rock band and her dad is a saxophonist. ‘Very talented.’
On the piano: Olivia Rox performed on the piano
Hollywood bound: The judges were impresed and sent Olivia to Hollywood
As she left with her invite to Hollywood, she praised J-Lo for the sparkles in her hair, with the superstar telling her: ‘I don’t even know where the came from.’
‘Came from my dressing room, that’s where,’ Harry joked, turning to her and adding: ‘Always stealing my damn sparkles.’
Perhaps the biggest surprise for the judges also ended up being one of their clear favorites.
When acoustic guitar-toting Trent Harmon, 24, came in and told them about his family’s restaurant on a farm in Amory, Mississippi, they automatically assumed he would sing country.
Surprise performance: Trent Harmon surprised the judges with his soulful version of Allen Stone’s Unaware
But they could not hide their shock when he started singing an astonishingly soulful version of Allen Stone’s Unaware, with J-Lo saying as he sang: ‘C’mon! What the … I can’t even!’
The judges were so impressed and shocked that they just laughed when he finished – with Trent seeming genuinely confused as to whether they liked him.
‘Was it OK? I mean. I’m not fishing for a compliment,’ he asked, with Jennifer telling him: ‘You don’t have to fish for them, I’m going to give them. I was so blown away.’
‘Bar none, my favorite audition since we’ve started,’ Harry told him. ‘You’re just a natural talent and the competition needs you as much as you need this competition.’
Big compliment: Harry told Trent that his audition was his favorite so far
Once Trent had left the room, Harry turned to his fellow judges and said: ‘OK, we can all exhale now. We have a competition.’
However, he was so blown away by another audition he simply got up and walked away in amazement, while tears rolled down Keith’s cheeks.
Melanie Tierce, 21, had only sung a few lines of Andra Day’s Rise Up when Harry said: ‘I’m done. It’s a yes from me.’
He then walked away from the judges’ table, pausing to grab Melanie’s hand and tell her again: ‘It’s a yes from me.’
At the end, Keith wiped away a tear as he gushed ‘oh my God!’ and stood and clapped.
‘Unbelievably good. Your voice is so good,’ he told her.
Rising up: Melanie Tierce blew away the judges immediately
‘That was unbelievably stunning,’ Harry said from the sidelines. ‘That is one of the best auditions I’ve heard in three years as a judge. People will pay money to buy a ticket to sit in an audition and watch that.’
‘I got a ticket for you,’ Jen finally said, holding her pass to Hollywood.
Even before hearing her sing, Harry had been impressed, telling her: ‘You’re eyes are crazy! So beautiful. Your eyes are nuts.’
Keith then told the ultimate dad joke when she said she got them from her mother, asking: ‘Well how does she see?’
Eyes have it: Harry complimented the singer on her eyes
While Harry walked away from Melanie, he was so impressed with Brandyn Burnette, who sang his own song, Lost, that he walked up and gently hugged him while he played piano.
Harry had actually started outside the room, pretending to switch with Ryan, but then crept up behind the singer as he played alone at the piano, finally spooking him and giving him a gentle hug from behind.
‘I literally for a split second thought that was my mom,’ Brandyn said, with Keith joking that she must have ‘really hairy arms.’
Impressive performance: Brandyn Burnette sang his own song Lost
Heartfelt hug: Harry stepped aside and let Ryan Seacrest judge but gave the singe a hug
Harry insisted he would never have ‘jacked’ him had he not thought he was so good, and Ryan’s one shot at judging was also full of praise.
‘I felt the emotion, I thought you sang beautifully, the tone was great,’ the host said. ‘I really liked it – that was an easy one to judge for me.’
‘I think you are the only guy who had four “yes”es this season,’ Keith told him.
Four judges: Ryan delivered his postiive critique to Brandyn
A lot of contestants stand out for their looks – but none more so than beauty queen Malie Delgado, 20, who was actually Miss Alaska, 2014.
After already admitting she thinks Ryan Seacrest is ‘really cute,’ she then called J-Lo ‘so beautiful’ and Harry ‘a heartthrob in my house.’
After singing Chariot by Gretchen Wilson – with a rap in the middle – Jen told her: ‘Really really great voice – super strong.’
Rap skills: Malie Delgado showed off her rapping skills during her audition
Harry warned there were so many ‘ridiculously talented, smart women’ to go through she better be ready for ‘a dog fight.’
In fact there were so many girls getting through, the show skipped over some of their auditions, with only quick glimpses of Jessica Clark, 23, who sang a soul version of The Beatles’ Come Together, Ameet Kanon, 18, who was told ‘beautiful, baby!’ after her performance of Mercy by by Duffy as well as Kayla Mickelsen, also 18.
‘Let’s just call it Girl Idol,’ Keith joked, with Harry adding: ‘American Bridal.’
Hot ticket; Jennifer held out a ticket to Hollywod for a singer
‘It’s time a girl won,’ J-Lo insisted. ‘F*** the guys!’
One of the young contestants – praised by Harry as being a Paul McCartney look-a-like – almost certainly shouldn’t have been there.
After they admired Cameron Richard’s deep Louisiana accent, the 15-year-old revealed that he had a cleft palate when he was born.
‘My doctor never thought I would be able to speak, much less sing,’ Cameron said. ‘It’s a miracle – it’s awesome.’
Cleft palate: Cameron Richards overcame a cleft palate to compete on the show
‘They did an amazing job on you, man. I would never even have known that,’ Harry told him after hearing him speaking – with the judges then even more blown away by his performance.
‘I really loved your voice,’ J-Lo told him after his acoustic performance of Ed Sheeran’s Give Me Love. ‘And I loved your passion. Felt really good to me.’
‘You look like a young Paul McCartney when you sing,’ Harry added. ‘You really do.
Loved it: J-Lo loved Cameron’s passion
‘More important than that you have a wonderful gift. I really, really enjoyed that very much.’
One contestant, meanwhile, was undoubtedly really sorry to get through to Hollywood – waitress Brooke Sample, 28, from Tucson, Arizona, who repeatedly apologized for everything.
She was seen repeatedly flubbing her lines for a pre-recorded segment – saying ‘sorry’ each time – and when she came into the audition room apologized for her surname, being a waitress, and even her stunning performance of Cold Day In July by the Dixie Chicks.
Stunning performance: Brooke Sample delivered a stunning performance and the apologized for it
‘I think you owe yourself a little confidence,’ Harry told her, sounding slightly stern with her. ‘You have a fine last name, you should be proud that you’re a waitress, and I think you did a really great job.’
J-Lo, however, admitted she ‘kind of loves’ her ‘self-deprecating quality,’ and added: ‘You’re voice is very, very beautiful. I think America might love you as much as I do. I think you’re awesome.’
Brooke was then seen talking about her excitement outside – once again saying: ‘I’m so sorry, can we re-do that?’
Not sorry: The singer kept apologizing but J-Lo said she found her ‘self-deprecating quality’ kind of loveable