WATCH: Kya Monée Performs Tearful Tribute To Willie Spence

On Sunday night, the 21st season of American Idol premiered, featuring returning judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie.

The reality TV singing competition has always captivated audiences with dramatic backstories of the competitors, but one audition on Sunday was exceptionally heartbreaking.

Kya Monée, a 21-year-old from Austin, Texas, returned after first auditioning for the show during Season 19. She made it to Hollywood Week before being cut before the live events.

In one of those rounds, her duet partner was the late Willie Spence, the cycle’s runner-up who died tragically in a vehicle accident last October.

The judges gave them a standing ovation as they sang a strong performance of Rihanna’s “Stay.”

Willie and Kya remained close friends after their time in Hollywood, and he encouraged her to try out again and pursue her aspirations. He had even intended to accompany her to the audition and had assisted her in selecting the appropriate song, “I’m Here,” from the musical The Color Purple.

Watch as Kya sings a moving tribute to Willie!

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