'American Idol' contestant sings about dad's struggle with addiction in emotional audition
"American Idol" viewers may want to break out the tissues after this emotional audition.
Sunday night's episode saw another round of singers step in front of the judges in the hopes of scoring a golden ticket to Hollywood. Among them was Ash Ruder, a 21-year-old social media manager from Turlock, California, who came to the audition accompanied by her dad.
Though Ruder's dad is the inspiration for her music, their relationship hasn't always great. According to the singer, her father has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction since she was very young.
"By the time that I got older, I was super angry with my dad," she said. "But the few times that my dad would show up, it meant the world to me, and I know that he felt ashamed and felt guilt."
She added that her dad decided to become sober two years ago and that "there is a part of him that is there now that I never saw before."
After telling the judges she'd be auditioning with a song she wrote for her dad, Katy Perry asked for him to come into the room so she could sing it to him. Coincidentally, Ruder's "Idol" audition also fell on her dad's birthday.
"We heard it was your birthday, and since we heard that 'Happy Birthday' is a really expensive song to clear on television, your daughter actually shared with us that she wrote a song for you," Perry joked.
Accompanying herself on the guitar, Ruder went on to sing about her dad's struggles and her journey to forgiveness:
"You moved out by the age of 17 / Got hooked on smoke and took up cards for gambling / You wound up in the wrong crowd / Couldn't figure this life out / Hey, dad, what were you thinking about?"
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Ruder's father teared up throughout his daughter's song, which ended on a positive note:
"But as your little girl, I just want you to know / I'm proud to see who you've become / I love the man I've come to know / And I'm your kid wondering / I'm just wondering / Hey, dad, how do I get it right? / Because I think you have / And I'm proud of your life."
At the end of the song, Ruder and her father embraced in a big hug while breaking down in tears.
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"I couldn't have asked for a better birthday than that," the dad said. "Holy smokes."
Lionel Richie praised Ruder's songwriting.
"You have found the only subject that does not go out of style: love," he said. "Your daughter witnessed your mistakes, and she writes a song saying, 'I forgive you for your mistakes.' I think it was a great performance, and you did well."
Perry agreed, calling Ruder's "healing" audition "so beautiful to witness."
After earning three yeses and her spot in Hollywood, Ruder dried her dad's tears by fanning him with her golden ticket.
Another memorable audition came from Alyssa Wray, an 18-year-old college student from the small city of Perryville, Kentucky, who belted out Jennifer Hudson's version of the song "I Am Changing" from the musical "Dreamgirls."
The performance brought all three judges to their feet before Wray even finished.
"The most challenging thing in entertainment is to have a presence," Luke Bryan said, with Richie adding that Wray's presence is "once-in-a-generation."
Before weighing in on Wray's audition, Perry took a moment to put on some lipstick.
"I just want to touch my makeup up, because this moment, when it goes down in history, I want to be looking my best as well," she joked.
But perhaps Bryan gave the highest compliment of all.
"How cool is it to be in the room with that?" he said of the teenager. "You just saw Beyoncé get born."
Ruder and Wray will be joined in Hollywood by 27-year-old U.S. National Guard soldier Re'h, 16-year-old high school cheerleader Cameron McGhar, 16-year-old high school student Caleb Kennedy and 27-year-old musician Murphy, among others.
Auditions continue next Sunday (8 EST/PST).
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