Luke Bryan joined his American Idol judges in standing during Alyssa Wray's powerful audition on Sunday night (March 7). The country singer praised the Kentucky native's presence, while Lionel Richie and Katy Perry couldn't say enough about her potential.

The Northern Kentucky University freshman chose American Idol alumnae Jennifer Hudson's "I Am Changing" for her audition, beginning the vocal and piano ballad with soft control before letting free to the point that Richie seemed on the verge of tears. The lengthy performance was the trio of judges' last on that audition day, but Wray seemed to energize them.

"Did you just hear what I heard?" Richie asked. "How lucky are we to be able to say we knew you when — and we had something to do with it!"

Wray's audition was called the audition of the year by some publications, and compared in magnitude to Carrie Underwood's audition from 2005 by Yahoo Music Editor-in-Chief Lyndsey Parker.

The Danville, Ky., Advocate Messenger spoke to Wray prior to her audition and learned she was a theater major with Broadway dreams. Growing up, she felt like an "oddball" due to her height (six feet, two inches) and because she was one of very few Black students at her school. Now she wants to inspire young kids who may feel the same.

"I want them to feel seen because I feel like if I had seen more of myself on TV or in my community as I was growing up," she says, "just someone who was different and was unashamed to be different, I might have not have had to deal with so much insecurity and heartache."

The ABC reality show dedicated nearly eight minutes to Wray — a sign that she'll be sticking around, if not advancing deep into the competition. Of course, fans will decide that with votes each week, but of these kinds of emotional packages bode well. Laine Hardy nabbed significant television time before he won in Season 17; last year, Just Sam started her journey with a lengthy background video before winning Season 18 of American Idol.

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