Anna Clendening, a 20-year-old contestant on Season 9 of "America's Got Talent," did two brave things on Tuesday night's third installment of this year's auditions. First, she showed up, and for someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, that was no small feat. But the second thing, singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," was also a brave move. Why? It's such a well-known and overperformed song on reality singing competitions that it could have easily sounded hokey or uninspired or just plain bad. But it wasn't. In fact, Anna Clendening was nothing short of fabulous as she brought the house down and the judges to their feet.
BuddyTV recapped the show June 10 and noted with a bit of skepticism that Anna Clendening's backstory might be a bit much, pointing out that for someone with an anxiety disorder, she certainly has quite a few videos on the Internet. Being bedridden with depression four months ago and having a debilitating anxiety disorder, though, does not preclude one from making videos and posting them to the Internet.
Regardless, you could tell she was having trouble even going out on stage. Host Nick Cannon walked her partway onto the stage, motioning the audience to give it up for the girl. Judge Howie Mandel led her through the pre-performance interview, finding out that she has an anxiety disorder and empathizing with her, because, as is commonly known, Howie suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is an admitted germaphobe.
Viewers then got a little history. Anna Clendening was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when she was 14. But just four months ago, she was hit with a depression so intense she didn't want to continue living. Her parents were there for support and they maintain that she "found music," which basically saved her. (This being "found" is what BuddyTV had a problem with. Yet, it is possible that she had only had a passing interest in music prior to the depression and it truly was the finding of music that lifted her out of her depressive state.)
Judge Howie told her she also had America's support now...
But as Judge Howard Stern would say afterward, it wasn't so much her backstory as it was the emotional outpouring the young woman presented as her performance that got to the viewer and listener.
It is always an amazing thing when a song one has heard hundreds of times and performed by almost as many people becomes a new offering simply via the uniqueness of the performer. And that is what Anna Clendening did, her voice lifting by the second line, ringing with heartfelt emotion by the time she hit the first chorus.
It was beautiful...
The judges gave her a standing ovation.
When it came time to vote, Judge Howie asked how she had managed to find the courage to come and perform on the "America's Got Talent" stage. Her answer most likely melted every heart in the U. S.
"My parents... of course."
She wiped away tears of joy.
Now it can be said that there have been quite a few stirring renditions of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," from the haunting piece left us by Jeff Buckley to Jason Castro's plaintive rendition on "American Idol." And those special renditions can be lost in the mix after so many have performed the song in the last few years. But there are those special sometimes, where the vocal stylings are unique enough and the connection between audience and peformer is met, that propel the song and singer to another plane.
Anna Clendening went there... and took everyone with her.
Needless to say, the young woman was sent to the next round.
"America's Got Talent" airs on NBC Televison on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. (EST).