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'American Idol' judges say contestant covering Billie Eilish's 'Barbie' song is 'best we've ever heard'

We're only in the second auditions episode, and the "American Idol" judges are already declaring a winner.

Week 2 of "Idol" didn't end with a bang, necessarily, but with a heart-warming flutter as 21-year-old Abi Carter from Indio, California, delivered her ethereal rendition of Billie Eilish's awards bait "Barbie" song, "What Was I Made For?"

"That may be the winner of 'American Idol,'" Luke Bryan declared from behind the judges' desk as he and Lionel Richie issued a standing ovation, joined in by the crew's applause. Richie confidently stated, "We don't have to vote."

"I've never heard the crew clap," Bryan marveled. "That's the best we've ever heard on this show," Richie told Abi's family. "I'm not kidding."

Abi Carter reacts to the judges' response to her rendition of Billie Eilish's "What Was I Made For?" during her audition.
Abi Carter reacts to the judges' response to her rendition of Billie Eilish's "What Was I Made For?" during her audition.

"What were you made for?" Katy Perry asked Abi as she held the young woman by the arms. "You were made for this, 100%."

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It didn't just end with the judges' sweeping praise for Abi. During her hometown celebration in Palm Springs, she and her family learned she'd received the second of three platinum tickets (Odell Bunton Jr. received the first of Season 22 last week), which takes her straight to the second round of Hollywood Week.

Here's what went down Episode 2 of "Idol."

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Two golden tickets emerge from one Nashville audition

Sam Kelly-Cohen was happy just doing the piano accompaniment for his friend Abby Blake, who performed P!nk's "What About Us" for the judges, when he was called off the (piano) bench by one Katy Perry.

"Are you a lead singer or guitarist?" Perry asked the 23-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As she goaded Sam into doing his own performance, she declared "We don’t like to leave any 'American Idol' stone unturned."

Abby Blake and her accompanist Sam "Kayko" Kelly-Cohen audition with P!nk's "What About Us" on Season 7, Episode 2, of "American Idol," airing Feb. 25, 2024.
Abby Blake and her accompanist Sam "Kayko" Kelly-Cohen audition with P!nk's "What About Us" on Season 7, Episode 2, of "American Idol," airing Feb. 25, 2024.

After performing "Time Of Your Life," an upbeat original song about setting an ex free, Sam received the shock of a lifetime: three yeses from the judges (which is one more than Abby received, as Perry "wasn't exactly sold" on the 25-year-old singer).

"If you want to, I guess you can go to Hollywood as well," Perry said as she handed Sam the second golden ticket of the audition. "Sam, you're the kind of contestant that we look for: the ones that think they can't make it and have the great voices and then kaboom."

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Loretta Lynn's granddaughter scores a golden ticket with original song

Emmy Russell made her late grandmother and country music legend Loretta Lynn proud on Sunday, scoring a golden ticket.

"I know that your memaw would be so proud of you," Emmy's mom Patsy Russell said in a video package ahead of her audition. "You go out there and show them your heart."

Emmy had a shy entrance revealing that her grandmother was "one of the biggest country music singers of all time, but to me she's just my grandma."

The 24-year-old then sang an original song called "Skinny," which detailed her struggle with an eating disorder.

"Emmy, you're an A-plus songwriter," Perry told her. "So was your grandma. You have the gift. I don't think you need to compare yourself to what grandma was, you are totally different."

Perry then challenged Emmy with an exercise in confidence, telling the young songstress to repeat her name and hometown until she sounded more assertive.

"My name is Emmy, and I'm 24, and I’m from Nashville, Tennessee," she said with more emphasis each time, ending in emotional tears.

'Dutch Idol' alum Ziggy gives judges a 'Million Reasons' to say 'yes'

Aspiring pop star Ziggy, 22, was only 15 when he was among a handful of finalists on "Dutch Idol." Now, he's come to America "to show the world what I can do."

"The Netherlands is too small for a guy like me," he said ahead of his audition, sharing that viewers have called the pink-and-blue-haired young man "a cotton candy that can't do anything."

Ziggy performs Lady Gaga's "Million Reasons" during his audition on Season 7, Episode 2, of "American Idol," airing Feb. 25, 2024.
Ziggy performs Lady Gaga's "Million Reasons" during his audition on Season 7, Episode 2, of "American Idol," airing Feb. 25, 2024.

A less-than-perfect performance — Ziggy apologized for a voice crack as he headed into the second chorus of Lady Gaga's ballad, "Million Reasons" — still resulted in high praise from the judges: "God gave you a gift," Richie said.

Ziggy's was "one of the best performances of the day," Bryan added.

After hearing about Ziggy's difficult family life, Richie made a promise to the young singer: "You raised you. Now we are going to raise you up."

Katy Perry declares herself this Broadway singer's 'biggest fan'

Twenty-seven-year-old Nya blew "Idol" judges away by being exactly what they wouldn't expect from a Broadway performer.

The self-declared "superstar," who has performed in the off-Broadway musical, "Titanique," woke up the judges with her energetic and effortless cover of Willow Smith's "Wait a Minute!" She left the judges wanting just one more thing from her, though.

Katy Perry is Nya's "biggest fan" during the auditions round on Season 7, Episode 2, of "American Idol," airing Feb. 25, 2024.
Katy Perry is Nya's "biggest fan" during the auditions round on Season 7, Episode 2, of "American Idol," airing Feb. 25, 2024.

"I'll be your biggest fan," Perry said as she held a fan up to Nya, ensuring her long locks were blowing in the wind this time as she launched into an encore performance.

This was "maybe my favorite performance or audition this year thus far," Bryan announced. "The most impressive thing is you don't sound Broadway."

Richie agreed with his fellow judge's assessment: "What you have are the goods, I think, to go all the way. This is my best audition so far this year."

Season 21's Colin Stough makes a cameo during Tennessee barber's audition

Barber Noah Peters auditions with "I Won't Let Go" by Rascal Flatts on Season 7, Episode 2, of "American Idol," airing Feb. 25, 2024.
Barber Noah Peters auditions with "I Won't Let Go" by Rascal Flatts on Season 7, Episode 2, of "American Idol," airing Feb. 25, 2024.

The (apparently) only barber in the town of Benton, Tennessee, took time off from trimming his clients' hair to sing "I Won't Let Go" by Rascal Flatts for the judges.

Despite positive feedback for his performance, Perry issued Noah Peters, 24, with a challenge: "Do you think you'd sing better if you could give a haircut right now?"

After some crew members rolled in a cart and chair for Noah, a surprise guest also made an appearance: Season 21 finalist Colin Stough.

"I've never cut nobody like Colin," Noah said, clearly daunted by the possibility of messing up the touring singer's full head. Nonetheless, he persevered, launching into a second song (Chris Stapleton's "Broken Halos"), with Stough occasionally pitching in with backup vocals, as he mostly combed through his brown mane.

"I didn't cut much, I promise," Noah told Stough afterward.

It was three yeses from the judges, though Perry warned Noah his singing is "going to need a blunt edge here and there."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'American Idol' recap: Judges won over by singer's Billie Eilish cover