Stephanie Rainey poured her heart into a haunting performance of “Please Don’t Go” on AGT, a poignant tribute to her late nephew.

Stephanie Rainey’s soul-stirring audition on America’s Got Talent has etched itself into the show’s history, earning accolades from Howie Mandel who dubbed her performance of an original pop ballad as “one of the most relatable, emotional moments” of Season 19.

Navigating the risky terrain of performing a self-written song for the judges, 36-year-old Stephanie Rainey introduced her piece, “Please Don’t Go,” with poise, immediately drawing the judges into her narrative even before the first note resonated.

Simon Cowell, renowned for discovering chart-topping hits, was visibly astonished, murmuring a genuine “What? Wow!” into the microphone. Stephanie revealed the journey behind her song, recounting how it swiftly garnered a million views after she independently released it. Despite a record deal slipping away after two years, Stephanie’s resilience brought her to the AGT stage, where she shared the deeply personal inspiration behind “Please Don’t Go”—a tribute to her nephew Fionn, who tragically passed away from meningitis on the eve of his first birthday.

Accompanied by her best friend and pianist Sarah Power, Stephanie’s performance evoked the emotional depth akin to A Great Big World’s hit, “Say Something (I’m Giving Up On You),” with its haunting melody and heartfelt lyrics piercing through to the judges and audience alike. Judge Sofia Vergara was visibly moved to tears by the raw beauty of Stephanie’s delivery.

Simon Cowell, typically candid, admitted, “Of all the new songs I’ve heard this year, this is the best by a mile. Even though it’s about something really sad, it’s real and your voice is beautiful. A lot of people are going to resonate with that song, and you. I absolutely loved it.”

Stephanie departed the stage with unanimous approval from the judges, earning four resounding Yes votes and advancing to the next stage of the competition. Since its release in 2015, the official music video for “Please Don’t Go” has amassed over 2 million views on YouTube, while Stephanie’s AGT audition has quickly garnered over 600,000 views in just one day, solidifying her impact on a global audience.

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