American Idol: HunterGirl Earns High Remarks for Sugarland Cover

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Season 20’s American Idol aired live coast to coast for the first time on Sunday night (April 24), with breakout hit performances from the Top 14.

Thus far, HunterGirl, 23, has remained a frontrunner in the competition, breezing her way through each challenge with renditions of songs like Rascal Flatts’ “Banjo,” Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” and an original tune called “Heartbreak Down.”

This time, she delivered an impressive cover of “Baby Girl” by Sugarland. The Tennessee native and music therapist — who earned one of the three Platinum Tickets early on — dedicated her song choice to her parents, who were watching from the side-stage.

As the sole female representing the country genre in the Top 14, HunterGirl, full name Hunter Wolkonowski, was in good hands. In advance of her performance, she received some guidance from ex-Idol Gabby Barrett, who appeared on the episode to mentor the remaining contestants.

“I mean, you sound great,” Barrett told HunterGirl in rehearsals, calling her vocals “classic” and “old-timey.” “This is like an emotional song for you. Like an emotional connection to your parents. Really sing like you are feeling, like you are in that moment together, and I think your parents are going to be very proud.”

While on stage, HunterGirl took Barrett’s advice and gave a beautiful representation of the song. She appeared relaxed and in her element while backed by a group of harmony singers. She donned a white fringed jacket with matching knee-high cowgirl boots and strummed on her guitar as polaroid photos flashed on screens behind her.

“You just have a heart of gold and a voice of gold, and I just want to see you win,” Katy Perry told HunterGirl after the performance. “I think everyone in America wants to see you win because you are a legit great person with great talent. You are discovering all of the bigness of that talent right now on that stage.”

Luke Bryan followed Perry’s compliments with his own comments.

“That was, from top to bottom, I believe, the best moment we’ve seen from you on American Idol,” he raved. “It was the perfect song … when you dug in in the ending, I was hoping for that the whole time. If you hadn’t done that, that would’ve been the only thing, but you did it, and that just put the cherry on top. And as I said, it was my favorite performance that I’ve seen you do. And, you’re on your way.”

“I love the fact that you came looking the part, sounding the part, and what was that lyric like, ‘Looks like money?’ Well, you look like money, you sound like money, and actually, I’m going to tell you something right now, you look like an old pro on that stage. We’re so very proud of you,” Lionel Richie added.

For the episode, the voting window opened at the top of the show and ended before the last commercial break. Luckily for HunterGirl, she now finds herself competing as part of the Top 11.

American Idol airs Sundays and Mondays on ABC.

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