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Emmy Russell takes spot in “American Idol” top 7 with heartfelt cover of Loretta Lynn hit

Kingston Springs’ Emmy Russell, 25, was voted into the top 7 of “American Idol” Monday night after a tear-jerking performance of her grandmother Loretta Lynn’s hit song “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” 


Russell will perform live from Hollywood for America’s vote on Sunday, May 5 on ABC at 7 p.m. for a chance to make it into the 22nd season’s top 5 contestants.


Confidence has been the theme of Russell’s journey on “American Idol.” When she auditioned for iconic judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie in Nashville nearly one year ago, Russell voiced her fear of never being able to fill her grandmother’s shoes. 


Loretta Lynn died peacefully in her home in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., on Oct. 4, 2022 at age 90. But the country music legend left behind a legacy. 


In her career spanning more than six decades, Lynn had 51 Top 10 hits, sold 45 million albums worldwide, and garnered dozens of awards, including four Grammys and a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.  


“I think there's a reason why I think I am a little timid, and I think it is because I want to own my voice,” Russell said during her audition for the reality singing competition.


During her “American Idol” performance on April 29, Russell got her own voice. 


Russell’s performance closed out the episode on Monday night, which was the annual “Judges Song Contest.” The three judges anonymously picked a song for each individual contestant, who then picked which song of the three that they wanted to cover. 


Emmy’s choices were “Here You Come Again” by Dolly Parton; “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn; or “Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall. 


Without skipping a beat, Russell chose to perform her grandmother’s song. 


Russell performed her grandmother's signature song "Coal Miner's Daughter" on a grand piano. It is traditionally sang with a banjo. / Disney's Erin McCandless

“I know ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ like the back of my hand. And so I think I want to do it more like an ode. Almost like a way of hugging her,” Russell said. “I’m literally just a granddaughter singing this song to her grandma. And I need to be proud that I am a granddaughter of Loretta Lynn.” 


“This song that I’m going to do, it’s an ‘I’m proud of who I am,’” Russell said. “I’m Emmy Russell, I’m 24-years-old, and I’m proud to be a coal miner’s great-granddaughter.” 


Russell’s rendition of her grandmother’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” wasn’t meant to be the identical country song Lynn always sang to close out her concerts. She wanted to make it her own, as she’s made it clear she’s been trying to find her own voice this entire journey on “American Idol.” 


There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Russell got up from her piano. The judges were left speechless and teary-eyed. 


“I chose this song not because Loretta Lynn is your grandma,” Katy Perry said through tears. “I chose this song because you are Emmy Russell and you can do anything now as Emmy Russell.” 


It’s clear that America felt the same, because they voted Russell through to compete for a spot in the top 5.


Sunday, May 5, the seven remaining contestants will be guest mentored by Ciara as they cover Adele songs for their chance to compete in the top 5 on Sunday, May 12. Tune in to ABC and vote live at 7 p.m. Text “17” to 21523; vote at idolvote.abc.com; and vote on the “American Idol” app.

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