Lionel Richie couldn't hold back his emotions as he watched Ronda Felton bring the house down with a performance of Dreamgirls' "One Night Only" on Sunday's American Idol after the 19-year-old opened up about her difficult childhood. The judge initially offered a tissue to the teary-eyed teen as she recalled her early life experiencing homelessness, moving between shelters, cars and couches with devoted single mom Juretha Jones.
It wasn't long before he was the one moved to tears, however, when Felton began to sing a stunning version of the song previously performed by Idol's own Jennifer Hudson. "I was doing really well, until you came in and did something that no one has done tonight, which is touch me to the point of making me cry," Richie told Felton after her song closed.
The "Hello" singer continued, "Every once in a while, life happens and then you figure, ‘How do I get out of this situation?’ And God provides a crack in the wall. … That crack is just enough for you to get through. And my dear, you just found that crack — because that was the moment that will change your life." Upon getting a unanimous "yes" from Richie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry on her way to Hollywood, Felton rushed outside to grab her mom in a moment of pure joy.
Richie's tears flowed once again when Felton's mom began to cry at her daughter's success before offering up the song "Zoom" by the Commodores as a "song of celebration." The former Commodore then began to recite the songs' lyrics to her: "I may be just a foolish dreamer, but I don't care/’Cause I know my happiness is waiting out there somewhere," before the trio broke out in a group singalong.
Receiving a hug from Bryan, who called his fellow judge a "bada—," Richie revealed the sentimental meaning behind the song, which he helped write back in 1977. “I never thought I’d get on this show and start revealing my side," Richie said of his emotional display. "You know, when I wrote that song I was deeply troubled, because I didn’t know where I was going." Hearing how much that song had helped Jones and Felton get through the toughest parts of their lives, he continued, "So, if I touched you in any way, you’ve given me the greatest gift ever. Thank you. Whoa. That got me messed up."