An emotional audition from a Popstars hopeful has left the show's panellists in tears after he sang an original song about his journey towards self-acceptance.
The original season of Popstars gave us TrueBliss and a new era of reality TV which unearthed global singing talent, and two decades later Kiwis are being introduced to a new slate of potential pop talent.
The rebooted show is fronted by panellists Kimbra, Nathan King and Vince Harder, who vote on the hopeful singer-songwriters hoping to advance their careers.
The search for New Zealand's next big name in music began at Auckland's Civic Theatre.
A quick explainer of how things work: Singer Bella Kalalo and Midnight Youth Frontman Jeremy Redmore screen auditions before they appear in front of the judges - giving them a yes or no.
From there, the cherry-picked few perform personally for Kimbra, King, and Harder, who give the acts one of three answers: A yes, no, or a maybe. The acts need three yesses to get a silver call-back card and progress to the next round. And maybe means they will be considered later for a coveted call-back slot.
During episode one, 19-year-old Alex Phillips graced the stage and had the judges floored with his emotional original song Overdose - a track he wrote about fitting in and how people may not appreciate what they have until it's gone.
Introducing himself in video clips he revealed he had struggled with bullying and coming out as gay to people in his life, and used songwriting as an outlet to process his feelings.
"I wanted to write [songs] to help other people through it as well.
"I think that I've been through stuff I don't think anyone should go through, and I think if I can write a song that can help somebody else in the position that I was in ... that's why I do what I do and that's why I write."
Nathan King was visibly overcome with emotion as he took in Phillip's performance, and had tears in his eyes, clutching Kimbra's hand.
Kimbra was floored by his song: "Wow, I did not see that coming!"
King added: "That just got me, man."
The panellists were quick to praise Phillip's lyrics and how he conveyed his emotions with every word he sang.
"You sold every line," Kimbra said. "I felt every word."
And all three judges gave the 19-year-old a yes, propelling Phillips to the next stage of the competition and earning him a standing ovation.
"I know you've felt like you don't belong in many places, but you do belong in this competition," Kimbra declared, signalling he may be one to watch as the competition progresses.
In clips of his home life, viewers got to know Alex's family life and discovered his Mum was one of his biggest supporters.
"Some of the stuff you've written has reduced me to tears," she told her son, foreshadowing how the Popstars panellists would react to his performance.
- Tune in tonight and Wednesday to see who else makes it through to the next round on Popstars on TVNZ 2 at 7.30pm
This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.