'American Idol' Premiere Highlights: Nick Townshend Touches Hearts, Myra Tran Soars

Nick Townsend
ABC/Josh Vertucci

Nick Townsend during the auditions on American Idol.

Laci Kaye Booth and Margie Mays also wowed the judes on Sunday night (March 3).

The budding superstars who auditioned for the judges on Sunday night's (March 3) season 17 American Idol premiere all had a few things in common: they, of course, could sing.

But Myra Tran, Johanna Jones, Margie Mays, Laci Kaye Booth and Nick Townsend also had stories that touched the hearts of judges Katy PerryLionel Richie and Luke Bryan, who were brought to tears of joy and heartache several times by the emotional, twisting journeys that brought a number of the singers to the Idol audition room.

None were more moving than that of Nebraska native Townsend, who shared the heartbreaking story of his two brother's deaths by suicide, a tragedy that hit home with Bryan, who was visibly moved during Nick's performance, sharing his story of also losing both of his siblings. In a season that producers recently told Billboard would focus more heavily on the stories of the contestants, Townsend inspired with his beautiful take on James Bay's "Let It Go."

Watch Townsend's performance below.

Nineteen year-old Vietnamese singer Tran said she's dreamed her whole life of singing in front of the Idol audience and viewers literally saw the judge's jaws drop, Richie's pen drop and Perry's eyebrows go up when they heard Tran's rich, powerful vocal prowess on Jennifer Hudson's "One Night Only." "Wow, wow, wow," Richie said after the audition, which Bryan predicted would make Tran the next Kelly Clarkson:

Some contestants simply had that It Factor that the judges could tell immediately branded them as stars, including 23 year-old Las Vegas native Jones, who bonded with Perry over the secret vocalist's trick of chewing potato chips before a big audition to reduce inflammation. And when Perry -- who shoved an entire bag of chips into her mouth, package and all, just for fun -- found out that Jones works at In-N-Out Burger, well, JJ's golden ticket was sealed since, as Katy shared, that was where she met the love of her life, finace√© Orlando Bloom.

It didn't hurt that Jones also killed with a subtle, beautiful version of Sam Smith's "I'm Not the Only One."

The silly was also strong with Mays, 25, whose wacky energy, uncontrollable burping and signature hand gestures enchanted the panel as much as her version of Lawrence's "Shot." "You're literally a star," Perry said afterwards. "That's the greatest person I ever met."

One of the night's other standouts was singer Booth's moving story of reconnecting with her estranged dad through their mutual love of music. The 23 year-old Texas singer/guitarist had them at hello, but when she unleashed a gritty, golden take on Merle Haggard's tale of misspent youth, "Mama Tried," Perry called her a "diamond in the rough," with Bryan saying she was already close to being "world-class."


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