On Sunday (26 February), standing before judges Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, mattress salesman Trey Louis performed “Stone” by Whiskey Meyers.
After the 21-year-old’s soulful rendition of the 2016 song brought the three judges to their feet, Bryan lauded his “perfect” voice, comparing it to that of Grammy-winning artist Chris Stapleton.
“Why are you doing Idol?” the “Country Girl” singer asked.
“So American Idol, number one, is kinda where people that I enjoy make it,” Louis explained.
“Number two is, as I said before, I’m from Santa Fe, Texas. In May 2018, a gunman walked into my school.”
With his voice trembling, he continued: “I was in art room one. He shot up art room two, before he made his way to art room one.
“Lost a lot of friends. Eight students were killed; two teachers were killed, and it’s just really been negative, man. Santa Fe has had a bad rap here since 2018.”
Breaking down in tears, Perry held her head in her hands.
“Our country has f***ing failed us!” she yelled in between sobs. “This is not ok. You should be singing here because you love music. Not because you had to go through that f***ing bulls***.
“You didn’t have to lose eight friends!” she said. “I hope that you remind people that we have to change because, you know what? I’m scared too!”
Richie added: “We have tolerated this for so long, for too long. It’s become a norm.”
“We’ve gotta change. And I hope you can just lead. Can you do me that favour?” Perry asked the contestant.
“For myself, for my school, for you? You got it. Yes, ma’am, yes, ma’am,” Louis responded.
The three then announced in unison: “You’re going to Hollywood!”
The 2018 Santa Fe shooting was considered the third deadliest high school shooting in the country’s history at the time.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who was 17 at the time, is the accused shooter who killed 10 classmates and teachers and wounded 13 others.
Nearly five years later, Pagourtzis has yet to stand trial as he’s remained mentally incompetent to do so, according to the Galveston District Attorney’s Office.