But her cover of “A Natural Woman” was not exactly well-received by the judges, especially Simon Cowell.
“We all know that Aretha Franklin is in the Dolby Theatre tonight. Yes, she is,” Banks said as she looked up to the heavens.
Meanwhile, Klum, who gave Wells a standing ovation, said, “I think you are the only person in this competition who has the moxie and the talent to sing that song on this very stage.”
However, Cowell and Howie Mandel couldn’t help but point out some “weird notes” during Wells’ performance.
“I had a feeling you might be singing an Aretha song tonight. For me, the song was over orchestrated maybe nerves, you hit some bum notes,” Cowell said. “But I am hoping that we forget all that and remember the great singer that you are and the person you are. This was not your best performance.”
Wells defended herself following the judges’ comments, telling viewers: “I stand here for people who don’t think they’re perfect. People who are maybe too heavy or maybe they thought they weren’t the right color or maybe you just didn’t feel like you fit in. So every minute that I stand here whether I sing every note right or not, I stand here and I am proud that I stand here.”
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Later in the evening, Klum called out Cowell for being “grumpy” during another vocalist’s performance.
Franklin died on Aug. 16 of advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type. She was 76.
Since her death, many have paid tribute to the Queen of Soul with their renditions of “A Natural Woman,” including Ariana Grande who tearfully performed the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon the night of Franklin’s death as well as at the icon’s star-studded Aug. 31 funeral.
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.