'American Idol' Judge Says They've Found The Next Kelly Clarkson In Grace Kinstler

Lucille Barilla

American Idol judges heaped praise on the final contestant of the show's first audition episode of Season 19. They compared her performance to that of first Idol winner Kelly Clarkson.

Grace Kinstler from Chicago, Illinois, was the last hopeful to stand in front of Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan during Idol's season premiere.

The 20-year-old first showed off her vocal prowess with "Midnight Train to Georgia," made famous by Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1973.

She was asked by Luke to sing a second song. Grace pulled "Natural Woman" out of her arsenal. Her intent to perform that tune did not come without a warning from the "Daisies" singer.

"The legend that is Carole King wrote it. The legend that is Aretha Franklin sang it. You need to sing it like the legend you want to be. Tall order. Don't just phone it in; make me feel it. Sing 'Natural Woman' to me like I've never heard the song before," Katy instructed.

After a mesmerizing performance of the 1968 song, Katy was the first to speak up. She said there was not a whole lot of critiquing she needed to do. She admitted she felt waves of full-body chills twice and added that Grace's delivery was "true magic."

"I get brought to tears by stories and backgrounds of what people have been through and their struggles, but this is the first time in four years that just someone singing made me cry," Luke said.

He added that Grace's performance was up there with Kelly Clarkson's and Jennifer Hudson's auditions.

She was awarded a golden ticket to the Hollywood portion of the audition process.

Grace tried out for American Idol to honor her late father, who passed away suddenly one year earlier. He had always encouraged his daughter to pursue her dreams. She currently attends Berklee College of Music in Boston.

She revealed in an interview segment that she used to watch American Idol with her parents. She imagined that if she ever auditioned for her show, her father would be there to support her.

To honor his memory, she wore a charm on a long chain around her neck. It was a symbol of the Leo astrological sign which belonged to her father. She wore the charm as a good luck talisman. Grace said it helped her feel as if he were in the room with her as she faced the judges.

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