It didn’t take long for judges to realize there was something refreshing about Sam Finelli. When he walked through the door to audition for American Idol Season 20 on Sunday (March 13), Katy Perry even commented that the show saved the best for last.

Finelli has a deep passion for singing. But what’s even more impressive, is that he keeps surpassing expectations that he and his family didn’t think would be possible. According to his mother, Suzie, the 28-year-old bakery cashier from Peachtree Corners, Ga., was diagnosed with autism at an early age, but is high functioning.

“I don’t connect with people very well. It’s just a small part of who I am. It’s not all of who I am,” Finelli told viewers of his diagnosis ahead of his audition. “It was lonely growing up, but music was my best friend.”

“I kind of shy away from singing for people. I have done some karaoke around our town and that was pretty exciting and that’s about it. I am going to be honest with y’all. I never thought I would be here in a million years,” Finelli later revealed to judges Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie.

After announcing that he would be covering Kacey Musgraves’ “Rainbow” while backed by piano, Finelli gathered up his courage and took a deep breath. Upon delivering the first note of the song, it was clear to all three judges that the aspiring star was born to sing. He effortlessly showcased his falsetto on the high notes and held onto long notes, tackling the song with so much heart. He even managed to draw tears from the judges' eyes!

“I want you to know right now. We are so proud of you. Sam, you were born enough. What you consider your handicap is your gift. Do you understand me? You are enough,” Richie said, praising his performance.

“Sam, I think you picked the perfect song because I think there has always been a rainbow hanging over your head,” Perry added. “You are 28, and the moment is now. All you have to do is let go of all that fear and negativity and always sing from your heart. That’s all you have to do, and that’s what you did just then. We felt that.”

“I love an experience, and that felt like an experience,” Bryan said. “Thank you for being here.”

After sharing their comments, all three judges unanimously voted Finelli through to Hollywood.

“He gave us the pure Sam, and that’s all that matters,” Lionel later told Finelli’s mother of their reasons for giving the hopeful his much-deserved Golden Ticket.

See American Idol Contestants Then and Now

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