"I know this is a big stage and there's lots of people here but you are here for a reason, so go for it and good luck," America's Got Talent judge Mel B told a visibly nervous Courtney Hadwin just before her performance. But even shaky nerves couldn't suppress the shy 13-year-old's striking stage presence.
Hadwin shocked the judges (and the audience) with her surprisingly powerful take on Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle" on Tuesday night. Channeling her inner Janis Joplin, the young singer delivered a memorable performance that left a huge impression on the judges, especially Simon Cowell.
"Bloody hell, Courtney! You were this shy little thing when you first came out. And then you sing and you're like a lion," Cowell told her. "I mean, genuinely incredible."
Howie Mandel seemed equally impressed with her audition. "Oh my gosh! You are not from this era. You're from a whole different era," he said. Comparing Hadwin to a young Joplin, Mandel recalled the story of how legendary music producer Clive Davis discovered Joplin and immediately signed her to his label.
"I can't sign you to a record deal. The only thing I can do for you young lady is give you," Mandel explained before hitting the Golden Buzzer.
With Hadwin headed straight through to the live shows, she's one step closer to that million-dollar prize.
America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC.