Taylor Fagins’ Black Lives Matter Ballad Called One of the “Most Powerful Moments” in ‘American Idol’ History

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Taylor Fagins, American Songwriter’s 2020 song contest winner, kicked off the Season 20 premiere of American Idol with an audition called one of the most powerful moments in the history of the show, according to longtime host Ryan Seacrest.

Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan got their wish for another Kelly Clarkson, who  won the very first season of American Idol 20 years ago. “Hail Mary full of grace, please have a Kelly Clarkson show up,” Perry joked before going through lighter auditions leading up to UC Irvine graduate Taylor Fagins.

Fagins told the judges that he’s a songwriter who also writes movies and plays before performing “We Need More,” an original song about Black Lives Matter, which pays homage to Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, who were both killed by police in 2020.

Silence filled the room as Fagins sat at the piano singing through chilling lyrics Ahmaud Arbery / You went for a run ‘cause you probably felt free / Ahmaud Arbery / Your run had an end that nobody could see / Little black boys don’t run outside or play with water guns at night / They run away from red and white, blue lights / Little black boys don’t go to stores or use their pockets anymore / Can someone tell them what they’re living for? / They want more.

“We Need More” also pays homage to Breonna Taylor and the continuing struggle of little black girls in America. Fagin told the judges that he wrote the song days after the death of George Floyd in 2020. “I wrote ‘We Need More’ sitting on my bed,” shared Fagins, “telling myself that I have to say something.”

The lyrics also continue on the overall plight of black Americans. 

Little black boys and girls are scared, their parents feel so unprepared
The world sees black no matter what you wear
So, little black boys and girls, don’t cry
We’ll fight to find an alibi, so you can go outside and never die.
We will try…
We will try to run outside, try to close our eyes
Try to walk the streets and never die
We will try to open doors, try to go to stores
We’ll try to find the light we’re living for
We need more.

The performance left the room in pin-drop silence before Richie finally spoke up. “How do you feel?” said a stunned Richie. “I’m shaking,” replied Taylor. “Me too,” added Lionel, who called Fagins’ song “very powerful” and “very heavy.” 

“I wasn’t birthed until what was happening until the ‘60s, and those [political] songs were there too,” said Richie. “What I am emotional about is that we need your song in 2022. How disgusting.”

Longtime AI host Ryan Seacrest called Fagins’ performance “one of most powerful moments in Idol history,” while judge Bryan called it “a really magical kind of moment,” before all judges gave the contestant a resounding yes.

The performance came at a pivotal time as Black History Month comes to a close and in relation to the previous cases in 2020 as Ahmaud Arbery’s killers were sentenced to life in prison and three former Minneapolis police officers were found guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights.

Though Fagins’ performance captured the judges, he wasn’t given a “platinum ticket,” a new twist added to AI to celebrate the shows 20th anniversary, which is similar to the America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer, which allows contestants to go directly to the finals.

The AI “ticket” will allow three stand-out contestants to bypass the first round of Hollywood Week. The first platinum ticket was given to contestant Huntergirl, who sang her rendition of Rascal Flatts’ “Riot.”


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Photos: ABC/Eric McCandless

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