The 14-year-old singer from County Durham, England, delivered a finals-worthy performance on Tuesday during the two-part finale of the NBC reality competition. Belting out Tina Turner’s 1988 classic “River Deep – Mountain High,” Hadwin channeled her energy and powerhouse vocals all the way until the end.
“You are on fire, you’re amazing. I love everything about you. We are watching a superstar in the making right here on America’s Got Talent,” Howie Mandel said.
“You’re just a free bird, you’re wild and crazy. At one point I thought your legs were going to snap!” Mel B said while Simon Cowell told the teenager: “Being a star is being remembered, and that’s what you do. You’re going to inspire people and tell them what rock n’ roll is all about it.”
Before taking the Dolby Theatre stage, Hadwin visited some of the most iconic venues in Los Angeles where her role models performed.
“I’ve dreamed since I was really little of coming to America. When I was 11, I saw a James Brown video and it changed everything,” she said in the video package. Though she said her music idols are “really inspiring,” Hadwin emphasized, “I don’t want to be Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, James Brown. I want to be myself.”
She added, “Because it’s the finals, I’m not going to hold back. I hope people go to the Dolby Theatre one day and say, ‘That’s where Courtney Hadwin performed.’ “
Hadwin previously wowed fans and audiences with her soulful renditions of Steppenwolf’s 1969 hit “Born to Be Wild,” James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle,” which garnered her the Golden Buzzer from Mandel.
But she has also faced backlash throughout the season 13 competition after fans discovered that the show had not completely disclosed Hadwin’s previous music stints.
Turns out, just last year, she made the top six on U.K.’s The Voice Kids, even playing young Cosette in Les Miserables in her home country.
Hadwin’s grandfather defended her, telling the Daily Mail: “We always believed she would do well in the U.S.A. We knew they would get it in a way that the U.K. didn’t. We knew she would go down a storm over there.”
The season 13 champion will be crowned on Wednesday.
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.