By Annie Barrett
February 03, 2012 at 05:27 AM EST

Okay, maybe not, but at least that’s the lasting impression American Idol wanted us to have after Thursday’s St. Louis auditions. The episode was framed as a Carrie Underwood tribute (the Oklahoma native had auditioned there), so naturally the final contestant of the night was a friendly down-home gal with a killer voice.

“Eight years ago Carrie Underwood launched her career in St. Louis,” boomed Seacrest. “Maybe this is the start for Lauren Gray.”

Jennifer Lopez said the 22-year-old Arkansas singer had “one of the best female voices we’ve heard.” Was it? I thought Lauren’s rendition of Adele’s “One and Only” was a bit too shouty, but after watching a few videos of her performing with her family’s band, I can appreciate that she was just making the song her own and that Lauren’s power rasp works very well for her. Take a look at Lauren’s audition and a couple other performances.

Lauren Gray’s ‘American Idol’ audition (Feb. 2, 2012)

Lauren Gray sings “Walkin’ Away” by Jonny Lang

Lauren Gray sings “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum

Did you find the pimping of Lauren Gray too heavy-handed or was this just par for the course?

I still think the heaviest-handed of all the “save the best for last” edits was Lauren Alaina’s in season 10. Steven Tyler practically pronounced her the winner on his way out of the convention center — after the crew had stayed for what seemed like a few hours to make sure her whole family could be present for Steven and Lauren’s magical duet on “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”

Then again, Steven himself had plenty to say about Lauren Gray during his episode wrapup interview: “You can’t be taught to sing that way,” he said. “You can only learn it on your own and have some inside influence passed down through generations.”

Or as J. Lo put it more succinctly: “I have two words for today: Lauren Gray.”

Did Lauren Gray win you over? Which golden ticket winner are you most excited to see compete in Hollywood Week?

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Read more:

Thursday’s ‘American Idol’ recap: Arch Angels

Wednesday’s ‘American Idol’ recap: Portlandia

‘Idol’: 10 Rejects Who Came Back Stronger (PHOTO GALLERY)

‘Idol’ Flashback! EW’s First Impressions of 24 Series Standouts

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