Not a dry eye was in sight during Matt Mauser’s heart-rending backstory and performance for his America’s Got Talent audition on Tuesday night.
While holding back tears himself, the 51-year-old Huntington Beach, Calif., native told the awestruck judges about how he lost his wife Christina in the same helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant and seven others on Jan. 26, 2020. The couple had retired from teaching so he could pursue his singing career full-time while Christina went on to become the Team Mamba assistant coach alongside Bryant.
“We met in 2004. She came in and saw me playing at this dive bar and I asked her out. And we sat in my car and we talked about music. She was just this very humble, powerful, beautiful human being,” Mauser told host Terry Crews in a behind-the-scenes video. “It’s been a rough year, but here I am.”
With his three children watching from the side of the stage, Mauser captivated the live audience by pouring his heart into a cover of Phil Collins‘ 1984 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now).”
“I wish I could just make you turn around/ Turn around and see me cry/ There’s so much I need to say to you, so many reasons why/ You’re the only one who really knew me at all,” he sang the devastating lyrics before taking a step back from the mic in an emotional moment at the very end. “So take a look at me now/ Oh, there’s just an empty space/ And there’s nothing left here to remind me/ Just the memory of your face.”
Howie Mandel commended Mauser for his ability to “move strangers” and their hearts before he, Simon Cowell, Sofia Vergara and Heidi Klum gave him four yeses.
“When I was out there tonight, I was singing to her,” Mauser of his late wife said at the end of the audition montage clip. “And I wanted to make her proud. I think I did that. I felt her in my heart, which was nice.”
Watch Mauser’s tear-jerking AGT audition performance below.