Tears flowed freely when “American Idol” aired the footage of Candice Glover’s hometown visit on the show Wednesday — and again when she received prolonged praise from the judges — an “in it to win it” and a “another best performance ever on this show.”
Glover was emotional throughout much of the hometown video segment.
So were the judges.
And so were many of those who packed the watch party at Highway 21 Drive In in Beaufort.
The St. Helena Island native could barely speak after performing Emile Sande’s “Next To Me,” the judges’ song choice for the night.
What struck the panelists more than her “stellar vocals,” however, was her experience going home to Beaufort County last Saturday.
“That video was so emotional and so hard for me to watch. I could not even watch that screen,” judge Nicki Minaj said as her voice cracked. “You have come out swinging in this competition. I have to tell you that I am so proud of you.”
Judge Randy Jackson agreed.
“When we watch that video ... we all got lifted with you because we all know what the struggle is like to try and get out of somewhere and to come to a big stage like this,” he said. “This is one of the greatest things about ‘American Idol,’ that you can come from anything, you can come from absolutely nothing, and be somebody with your talent.”
Judge Mariah Carey noticed a new spirit in Glover.
“I feel like you were just rejuvenated by being there and seeing so much real love and passion for you as a person, as an artist,” Carey said. “Keep that with you.”
The fans were there for Glover during her hometown visit, and they were there again Wednesday night at the watch party.
Becky Wallace and her husband, Ken Rayburn, came to the drive in from Augusta, Ga., to celebrate her 68th birthday.
“(My husband’s) been asking me all week what he can do,” Wallace said.
Her wish: to drive to Beaufort, see Candice perform on the big screen and stay the night.
A longtime “Idol” fan, Wallace and her husband traveled to Beaufort Wednesday, where they were joined by hundreds of other fans at the drive in.
Wallace said she is torn between Glover and contestant Angie Miller. Miller, she says, looks like her granddaughter.
“And they both just know how to sing,” Wallace said.
At the end of Glover’s three performances, patrons at the drive in honked their horns and flashed their lights as they cheered, and again as approval of the judges’ comments.
For Glover’s first song, the show’s mentor Jimmy Iovine chose U2 and Mary J. Blige’s “One.”
“You are on your way. You are a diva. You did that justice,” Minaj said. “That didn’t feel like ‘American Idol.’ That felt like I was at your show. Work it.”
While Jackson said the performance wasn’t vocally perfect, he said he felt an emotional connection it.
“(That song) gives you room to grow and soar and sing like you naturally do,” he said. “What was perfect is the emotion was so on point. ... We all got lifted up here.”
Carey was confounded by how Glover, who was an excursions coordinator at Fripp Island before “Idol,” could have ever worked another job.
“You always bring so much to the table as a singer that I’m like, really? She was booking tickets? I’m so confused,” she said. “We really felt it.”
Judge Keith Urban echoed Carey, saying, “You start singing and there’s just so much power in the quiet of who you are and what you do.”
For Glover’s final performance of the night — the producer’s choice — she sang Barbra Streisand’s “Somewhere,” which Jackson called one of the show’s best performances.
Glover finds out if she made it out of the Top 3 and into the “Idol” final during the results show tonight, which airs from 8 to 9 p.m. on Fox.
The judges’ comments must have been sweet music to Glover.
“How do you do that? What is that?” Urban asked. “If you want to vote for Candice, dial the number on your screen. If you don't want to vote for Candice, call your doctor. You probably don't have a pulse.”
“Four words,” Minaj said. “See you next week.”