This 16-year-old is certainly a top contender on the reality singing competition.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
April 12, 2021

"Well, judge looked down, gave me forty days / Instead of the fine that I could not pay / Said 'Walk right, you'll soon be home / Cross the line, you'll be on your own..."

From the first verse of Chris Stapleton's "Midnight Train to Memphis," off of his 2017 album From A Room: Volume 2, you're drawn into the renegade tale and his guttural vocals. On a recent episode of American Idol, 16-year-old Caleb Kennedy of Roebuck, South Carolina, sure catapulted us towards that midnight train with his voice.

Clearly, the judges are eager to see more of this young singer, too. "I am convinced this brother has ice water in his veins...You come up on stage, sing the hell out of the song, no reaction," Lionel Richie commented post-performance. "The band is killing it, and you're standing there stone-cold. Caleb, that was brilliant."

"It's almost like I can never see your eyes and I kind of like it. Who are you? I want to know more. You just have like this grit, this real country. You are becoming the outlaw," said fellow judge Katy Perry.

Then, judge Luke Bryan shared his ever-astute feedback: "You know Caleb, man, to be 16 and to really be able to stick to your guns on what you are and to not be manipulated by everything going on around you speaks that, hey, this guy has a course he wants to stay on, and that's very hard for a 16-year-old to do," he began.

"And he's driving his truck there," joked Perry.

"You're driving a big old jacked-up truck right down the path you want to go. Great job," Bryan riffed on his fellow judge and concluded. Watch the performance below.

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We're happy to report that Kennedy has advanced to American Idol's top 16. Tune in to ABC tonight at 8 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. CT to see if he advances to the top 12.