Although she only lived to the age of 27, Janis Joplin remains one of the most influential rock singers to this day. Her voice was dominant, gruff and moving, all characteristics embodied by a young candidate for America’s Got Talent who left the judges stunned by her vision of Hard to Handle.
Stepping out on stage in front of the panel, 13-year-old Courtney Hadwin looks shy and nervous, but finds her confidence when the backing tape for the original Otis Redding (popularized by the Black Crowes in the 90s) begins to to roll. Instantly, she goes from a shy teenager to an authoritarian frontwoman with the embodied spirit of Janis Joplin and seasoned stage movements. Sometimes she wiggles around like a double-jointed Axl Rose, but it all adds to the star power of the performance.
“You were that shy little thing when you first went out and then you sing along and you’re like a lion – really amazing,” said the notoriously mean-spirited Simon Cowell, who earned his reputation slamming lower competitors than American. Idol. Howie Mandel said Hadwin was “not from that era”.
Lamenting the fact that he couldn’t sign Hadwin for a recording deal, Mandel reached out to the other judges to bang the golden buzzer on the desk, sending the contestant straight to the live show. Each judge is only entitled to one use of the golden buzzer for the duration of the season.
As the mainstream continues to perpetuate the narrative that rock is dead, it certainly seems to be catching fire with the younger generation. Greta Van Fleet, although she has yet to release her debut album, is being hailed as the next Led Zeppelin and maybe we’ll see a similar rock future for the up-and-coming Courtney Hardwin.