Katharine McPhee's return to American Idol to sing alongside season frontrunner Willie Spence during Sunday's episode of the ABC singing competition was a powerful one, as the duo gave fans goosebumps with their rendition powerful of Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion's 1999 song "The Prayer." Spence caught the judges' attention from the start, vowing to win a Grammy in the next five years during his initial audition, but the Top 24 contestant solidified that as a plausible next step during both his solo performance of "Wind Beneath My Wings" and his duet with the 2006 season runner-up.
McPhee dedicated her performance of "The Prayer" to her late father, who died in July 2018, while Spence revealed he was dedicating it to his grandfather, who had passed away recently. Their performance brought the house down, and the judges had only glowing reviews for Spence in the aftermath.
"You can do no wrong in my eyes," Luke Bryan said after the two earned a standing ovation from the judging panel. "Part of being a star is making people fall in love with you and, man, I am in love with you, and I am in love with the way you go about being on stage, and the way you go about singing and the place it comes from. It's amazing."
Lionel Richie added that he would now be calling Spence "Willie Pavarotti" because of the way he made the iconic song his own and explained, "In our business, you don't want to be a singer, you want to be a stylist. You have your own lane, and it's just mesmerizing to watch you." Katy Perry added that the duet was "goosebumps central" due to how beautiful it was, telling Spence it "really showcased your voice, and different levels... that you have within you." She added that song choice is such an important part of winning Idol, "and it's about those amazing classic songs that other powerhouses sing, and that show that you are also a powerhouse."
Backstage, McPhee expressed just how impressed she was with Spence's ability to transform the classic song into something stunning and new. "He made 'The Prayer,' something that Andrea Bocelli sings, sound like something that Willie would sing," she gushed. In Monday's episode, the other 12 singers of the Top 24 will perform their two numbers before eight people are sent home, moving 18 performers to the next round. American Idol airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.