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Wisconsin singer Madilyn Bailey turns hate comments into a winning song on 'America's Got Talent'

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel logo Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 7/7/2021 Piet Levy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
a woman standing on a stage holding a guitar: Singer-songwriter Madilyn Bailey, a Wisconsin native living in Los Angeles, auditions on NBC's "America's Got Talent" in the episode that airs July 6, 2021. © Tyler Golden/NBC Singer-songwriter Madilyn Bailey, a Wisconsin native living in Los Angeles, auditions on NBC's "America's Got Talent" in the episode that airs July 6, 2021.

Singer-songwriter Madilyn Bailey went from growing up in Boyceville, Wisconsin — population 1,086, about 38 miles northwest of Eau Claire — to getting 13.5 million subscribers on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Instagram for her clever original tunes and covers.

Now she's bound to get a big new wave of fans, thanks to "America's Got Talent."

Bailey appears on Tuesday's episode of the hit competition series, but NBC released footage from her audition ahead of the show. It's already been seen 2.5 million times on YouTube. 

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"The dream for me is to sing songs that I’ve written that I love and get it out to as many people as possible," Bailey told judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and Howie Mandel ahead of her audition. 

For her audition, Bailey performed an original song with unlikely help — from several internet trolls. 

Subjected to dozens of cruel and sexist comments on her YouTube page — comments like "Just stop, quit YouTube," "They hauled the song away in a bodybag" and "Eat a burger" — Bailey used them as lyrics for a catchy original folk pop song.

The result is unexpected, and ultimately empowering.

"I love what you stand for, and you're a good singer, you're really good," Mandel told her.

"I love that it was so unexpected," Vergara said. "I can't wait to see what the future brings for you." 

"I just like hearing someone like you who has a great talent, and Madilyn, you have a great talent," Cowell said.

Klum, however, was on the fence, saying the performance was "so-so." But with some encouragement from Mandel, she decided to join the other judges in giving Bailey a "yes" to advance to the next round.

Bailey actually has multiple original songs using only social media comments — including hateful and creepy ones — on her YouTube page. All of those songs have been seen at least 1 million times on YouTube, with one video getting more than 23 million hits. 

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First posting covers to YouTube 11 years ago, she's amassed 1.1 billion YouTube views for her videos, including an acoustic rendition of EDM artist David Guetta's "Titanium" that's been seen nearly 115 million times. She's quick to cover hot new hits — she just posted a version of Ed Sheeran's new single "Bad Habits" — along with songs from superstars like Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish and Panic! At the Disco.

"I grew up with music all around me in my childhood," Bailey said on Tuesday's episode. "My dad played guitar. When I was eight years old my dad actually sat me down and taught me how to write a song."

Bailey has released several original songs, including one inspired by her home state, "Wisconsin," that came out last summer.

"When I was 16, I saved up enough money to buy my first plane ticket out to L.A. and I literally never looked back, until I wrote this song," Bailey wrote about the song on its YouTube page. "I'm lucky I grew up in a place like Wisconsin with so much nature and life around me. I had two amazing parents who always encouraged me to be creative. … Now I can look back and be proud I made it here but also proud of all the ways growing up in Wisconsin shaped me."

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Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or plevy@journalsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at facebook.com/PietLevyMJS.

Piet also talks concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Evan Rytlewski. Hear it at 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9), or wherever you get your podcasts.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin singer Madilyn Bailey turns hate comments into a winning song on 'America's Got Talent'

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