Watch: Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter Emmy Russell stuns ‘American Idol’ judges, prompts Luke Bryan bear hug

Third-generation country performer Emmy Russell’s top 20 run on American Idol now includes a performance of her song, “Want You,” gaining viral steam.

Third-generation country performer Emmy Russell’s run on American Idol is gaining steam.

On Sunday evening, after being named in the current season’s top 20, her performance of her original song, “Want You,” was favored by the program’s judges, Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie. However, it also gained in social media popularity overnight.

After hearing the emotive ballad, Idol host Ryan Seacrest was emotionally overwhelmed.

Emmy Russell auditions for the judges on Season 7, Episode 2, of "American Idol," airing Feb. 25, 2024.

Upon asking if he needed a hug, Bryan ran onstage and lifted Seacrest into a bear hug.

Bryan joked that Seacrest was the most expensive thing he ever held.

Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter following a legacy

As the granddaughter of the late Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn1 (and great-niece of 22-time global country chart-topper Crystal Gayle), the first decade of Russell’s Nashville career has intermittently included the release of singles and in 2023, a debut at the Grand Ole Opry.

Another appearance on the Opry’s stage—along with Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas, at her grandmother’s CMT-broadcast memorial—earned her a Performance of the Year nomination at the 2023 CMT Music Awards.

For Russell, her journey on Idol is a personal one. At age 25, she is ready to define her own path in country music’s mainstream industry.

“I’m not trying to please anyone other than myself, but if people find themselves and their journeys in my songs, that will allow me to make this my work for the rest of my life.”

American Idol': Loretta Lynn's Granddaughter Emmy Russell Auditions With Emotional Original Song | Entertainment Tonight

“That was so you,” Bryan told Russell. “I loved it because it was so real, and I think you could really feel the emotion in that. That is what your artistry is about and don’t lose that. But listen, that thing that you did with that song really is your signature. It was very emotional and probably my favorite performance you’ve done.”

“First of all, before we go any further, (“Want You”) is a hit record,” Richie said to Russell after her performance.

“I don’t care. We can talk about the future, but that is a hit record, and my dear you are an incredible song writer. Incredible performance.”

“Miss Emmy, that was one of my favorite original songs you’ve sang,” Perry added.

“I know that you were just a little nervous. I just want more breath, more long notes. Girl, like go swimming, learn how to hold your breath more. We need longer notes from Emmy, and I know that you have them. We need power. C’mon, let’s go. The time is now!”

Watch Emmy Russell’s performance on American Idol

American Idol generating country success

In a recent Tennessean feature, Bryan, currently in his seventh season as an “Idol” judge, said that “as long as it (felt) fresh, fun and reinventing itself, plus developing artists who can break into music successfully, then I won’t feel like I’m spinning my wheels by remaining” on (‘American Idol’).”

This season sees the country singer celebrating his frequent tour opener and 2021 “Idol” winner Chayce Beckham’s 3-year-old single “23,” which debuted on “Idol”, finally topping country’s radio charts.

According to judge Richie, Bryan won’t be straying far from his Idol chair anytime soon.

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