A 20-year-old Indian-American contestant delivered the standout audition during the first episode of the final season of American Idol.
Sonika Vaid impressed the judges – Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr – with her soulful cover of Look at Me, the hit by former Idol winner Carrie Underwood.
“This is one of the only times this particular season that I saw somebody that I actually think can win this thing,” said Connick.
“You sang beautifully. Perfect performance. I was totally engaged. Terrific job.”
Lopez also congratulated Vaid, saying: “I love it, I love it a lot.”
Urban added: “How beautiful that you just let it go, too? You didn’t stack it with a bunch of clever runs. You just sang.”
No sooner had the episode been broadcast than Vaid was making headlines as the potential favourite to win.
“The sayonara season of American Idol has only just begun, but we may already have a winner,” The Boston Globe reported.
Vaid lives in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, with her Indian parents, who both emigrated to the United States.