See the Singer Who 'American Idol' Judge Lionel Richie Says 'Gave It All'

Michael Rice

Sunday night’s episode of American Idol closes with an unforgettable artist who is an import from a small, costal town in England. Michael Rice is a 26-year-old street performer from Hartlepol, England, who flew over the pond to pursue his dream.

He chose to audition with his version of Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You” because the song means so much to him. Michael's father had a drug problem, so Michael was raised by a single mom, who struggled to provide for them.

“It just reminds me of my dad, so I hope I do him proud,” he told judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.

“I didn't really have a relationship with my dad as a little kid,” Michael says in his video package. “It was hard performing on the stage and looking for my dad. It was when I was around 17, me and my dad rekindled. He said to me he was very proud of me and he's very proud of me singing and then suddenly he passed away from a heart attack due to the drugs, so that's the last memory I have of him, and it's all stuck in my head.”

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Michael got a standing ovation from the judges after his performance and Lionel brought them all over to give him a big, group hug.

“You gave it all to us,” Lionel told Michael. “That was the most emotional, most giving… and when you hit ‘Because of You,’ I couldn’t hold anything back.”

As Michael is trying to process just how much the judges appreciated his singing, “it’s crazy” he says, as they returned to their desk.

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“It’s crazy, but it’s your dream, and by the way you did well in your dream,” Lionel says.

“You acted like somebody who flew from a long way away to come here and prove to the world what you have. You sang your absolute a-- off,” Luke added.

Michael Rice<p>Disney/Eric McCandless</p>
Michael Rice

Disney/Eric McCandless

Then Katy spoke: “We have a lot of people that come in here and tell us a lot of things that are really horrible and tragic, but rarely do they then follow it up with telling their story through a song that someone else wrote like they wrote it themselves. I watched you die. I heard you cry.”

Michael interrupted her to explain, “I hope to inspire other kids the same as me to go for it.”

It was back to Katy then, who added, “That big old voice and that beautiful personality.”

Then Lionel called for a vote. It was a yes from all three judges and Lionel said, “Your dream is continuing on. You’re going to Hollywood.”

When Michael got the news, he called his mother, who he says is like his best friend as they practically grew up together as she had him when she was only 17.

American Idol airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, next day on Hulu.

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