American Idol finalist HunterGirl performed her debut single, “Red Bird,” for the first time ever during the Season 20 American Idol finale on Sunday evening (May 22).
Donning a metallic red dress, HunterGirl performed her emotional single and brought Idol judges Katy Perry and Luke Bryan to tears and earned praise from Lionel Richie.
“So, my farm where my house is and my house, we named our farm red bird farm for that very reason, so we are not doing well right now, lord more tissue please,” Bryan said as he wiped away tears. “Beautiful song.”
“We have always been impressed by your talent and your commitment to those wonderful Veterans,” Richie said praising HunterGirl’s work with Veterans.
“This is not a karaoke competition, you are doing something special,” Perry said. “All three of you are doing something special and music is a lot of people’s therapy and sometimes it our own therapy and sometimes when we get raw and vulnerable is when people connect most.”
The Tennessee native delivered an emotional performance of the track, which she co-wrote alongside Austin Goodloe and Matt McKinney.
“Red Bird” brings the age-old belief that seeing a cardinal means that a loved one is visiting you from Heaven to life. Throughout the lyrics, Huntergirl begs for a red bird to appear to help her get through the tough times.
“My momma told me when I was a kid / When a red bird flies close your eyes / Makes a wish here it is / Right around the time my faith went missing / I was praying for angel, but the wings looked different / God if you’re listening could you send me one on down,” she sings on the chorus of the Jimmy Robbins-produced track.
The song is extremely personal to HunterGirl, who admits that she teared up during the “Red Bird” writing session.
“When I was a little girl my family always told me ‘when you see a red bird, it is a sign from Heaven that a family member is looking after you,’” Huntergirl explains. “Cardinals have been a big sign in my life and really important to my family. Red Bird is a song that I wrote from my heart with Matt and Austin. I cried in the writing room with this song. I want people to know that we are never alone and the ones we love are always watching over us. Sometimes you just need a red bird.”
Earlier in the show, HunterGirl performed the Bruce Springsteen hit “Dancing in the Dark.” The judges praised her performance and Perry told her she wasn’t a “star” but a “supernova.”
The three-hour Season 20 finale of American Idol also featured performances from the Idol judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, as well as the Top 3 finalists Noah Thompson, HunterGirl, and Leah Marlene.
Additionally, superstars Gabby Barrett, James Arthur, Sara Bareilles, Michael Bublé, Deana Carter, Earth, Wind & Fire, Melissa Etheridge, Flo Rida, Ben Platt, Thomas Rhett, Tai Verdes, and more also performed during the star-studded broadcast.
Several other contestants from Season 20 also returned to the Idol stage, including Mike Parker, Christian Guardino, Jay Copeland, Nicolina Bozzo, Fritz Hager, Emyrson Flora, and Lady K.
Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, the American Idol finale aired live coast-to-coast on Sunday, May 22, at 8/7c on ABC. The finale also streamed live on ABC.com and the ABC app and will be available to watch via Hulu on Monday (May 23).