Wé Ani McDonald is an unassuming 23-year-old singer from Harlem with a squeaky speaking voice, but when she opens her mouth to sing something magical happens. On her American Idol audition, she sang “Anyone” by Demi Lovati and the judges could not believe their ears when she belted out the sonorous, low opening like an old-time R&B queen.
It was an unbelievable transformation from her speaking voice, which sounds like she was ready to take your Wendy’s order. But she can do more than sing low, as she also hit the strident high notes in the chorus with a jaw-dropping amount of power and emotion, as you can hear in the video below.
American Idol judges for the 2023 season Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan were visibly affected by the passion in her performance and gave her a standing ovation at the end. Richie was clearly blown away and declared the performance “amazing”, quickly giving a yes vote along with the other two judges.
Bryan weighed in with “you have an amazing voice; I don’t understand the science…” clearly at a loss for words at hearing such force of nature coming from the sweet young lady in front of him. Later in the season, we got to see a different side of Wé Ani, when she performed “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” by Christina Aguilera, showing off a change of style with a figure-hugging dress and a hard rock backing band. Naturally, she hit this out of the park as well, as you can hear below.
Wé Ani McDonald, who was born on 23 January 1999 in Harlem, New York, progressed quite far through the 21st season of American Idol, making it into the top five before being eliminated. It’s not the first time Wé Ani has made her mark on television, with the talented singer appearing on season 11 of The Voice as part of Alicia Keys’ team. On her blind audition for The Voice she turned all four chairs and eventually placed third in the competition.
Her first name Wé is Kenyan for “diligence”, which is quite fitting as the young singer has worked hard her whole life. Her father arranged for her to get vocal training at the Harlem School of the Arts and she’s just gone straight up from there. She used her passion for music to channel something positive, having faced a tough school life due to bullying about her high-pitched speaking voice and thick glasses.
Wé Ani hasn’t laid idle since her time as a TV idol, and has been busy building up her profile as an original artist. She released a series of singles since her debut in 2020 as well as dropping her EP Frantic 2023, which is her most successful release so far.
This five song EP featured “Disgusted” as the lead single, which is a collab with The Song House. The single has picked up some notable traction online, gaining 4 million streams on Spotify and showcasing her potential as a singer-songwriter. If you would like to see more from Wé Ani, you can subscribe to her YouTube channel or follow her on Instagram.