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American Idol: Will Lauren Gray Follow in Carrie Underwood's Footsteps?

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Warwick Saint/FOX; Michael Becker/FOX

Thursday’s American Idol started out with footage of a young Carrie Underwood on a road trip from Checotah, Okla., to audition for the show in St. Louis.

“Now a new crop of talent will take that same trip, hoping to create the magic all over again,” Ryan Seacrest said. “Can they do it?”

Lauren Gray of Arkansas certainly has a chance. “It would mean the world me to go to Hollywood,” the self-described “daddy’s girl” said. “It’s been a dream of mine, always. But also my father’s dream, as well.”

“You’re one of the best female voices we’ve heard,” Jennifer Lopez said after the seasoned singer, 22, performed Adele’s “One and Only.”

Gray got her golden ticket and called “the biggest thing ever in my life.” But Jennifer disagreed: “It won’t be the biggest thing ever,” she assured her.

Next week, Idol heads to Hollywood. Here’s who also will be there from St. Louis:

• Johnny Keyser, a heartthrob-in-the making from Florida, amazed the judges with his charm and a stirring performance of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” “Should we just vote now?” Steven Tyler said only a few notes into the audition. Jennifer asked him, “You know you’re going to be a star, right?”

• Rachelle Lamb, another single mom who divorced her no-good husband, said auditioning was “a way to show [my daughter], don’t let anybody hold you back You want to chase your dream? … You chase it, and Mommy will always be behind you.” She sang “Find Somebody New” by Faith Hill. “I think you got a great sense of melody,” Steven told her. “I like your moxie.”

• Reis Kloeckener spoke about being bullied in high school before finding a place in the choir. “It was a major turning point It’s made me who I am today,” he said before singing “Lean On Me.” Steven was all choked up: “That was so beautiful. You made me cry,” he said. “You made me tear up and get all crazy inside.”

• Ethan Jones dropped out of school to be in a band with his father, who was in rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. His version of “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain was a hit with the judges. “I could almost see you in a country video,” Jennifer said. Excited about his golden ticket, Ethan called his father. “I love you,” he told him, crying. “We got to get together soon.”