It’s been four years since American Idol viewers saw Just Sam win the show after singing in the NYC subways. The singer made an emotional return to the series on April 28 for a powerful performance.

Sam, 25, performed Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time” in front of the live audience and judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. It was a special moment considering Sam performed virtually in the live shows amid the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020.

“This is way better than an iPhone from home,” the performer remarked after the spectacular rendition. Host Ryan Seacrest asked the judges to say a few words about Sam’s performance.

“I ain’t got notes,” Katy, 39, said. “But, what I will say is, you one hundred percent deserve that confetti. It was long overdue and it looks so great on you. I’m just so proud of who you’ve become.”

“I’m so glad you had your moment,” Luke, 47, added. “It’s so nice to sit here and hear your voice again in this room. You go through everything it took, from home to get you to win American Idol, for you to have your moment in time, it was really, really special.”

“I’m so proud of you,” Lionel, 74, said. “I know the challenges that you’ve been through and you have charmed us all. The fact that you have now come back all grown up and solid as a rock, I can only say, God has his hands firmly on you.”

American Idol Winner Just Sam Makes Return to Show
Disney/Eric McCandless

Sam previously revealed on social media that they had gone back to singing in the NYC subways after winning the show.

“Back in 2021, I was super embarrassed to be going back to the trains. I didn’t want people to know that I legit needed the money & I didn’t want people to know that it wasn’t optional,” Sam wrote in a since-deleted Instagram caption, per The Sun. “I was disappointed in myself for allowing myself to fall so low after winning Idol, but then I had to take it easy on me and remember that I started my journey with Idol at 20 years old. Not even knowing anything about Hollywood or the music industry.”

“Since then, I have learned so much and I’ve been able to take my experiences and share them with other artist in hopes that they don’t experience the same things that I did when It comes to making it in this life,” the NYC native continued.