Last night on American Idol, the two remaining contestants, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, squared off against each other in an American Idol face-off that ended up being a country music fest.
Like last week, they were each required to perform three songs: One song of their own choosing that they had previously performed, one song chosen by Idol producers, which will also be the winner’s first single, and for the first time in Idol history, their own individual idols selected a song for them. Scotty’s idol, country superstar and Country Music Hall of Famer George Straight made his selection, and Lauren’s number one gal, mega star and former Idol winner Carrie Underwood picked her song for her.
Thankfully, Evangelical preacher Harold Camping was wrong in his insane prediction of the Rapture and the world ending on May 21st and we were all on hand to watch this finale. This was one of the things I was a little concerned about missing, just on the very slimmest of chances that the crazy old coot was right. Along with the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice (the right guy won that, by the way). And I would have been pissed if I missed Torchwood premiering on Starz in July. I’ve really been looking forward to that too.
Scotty started things off with his second shot at Gone, by Montgomery Gentry. The first time he performed this song, during Now and Then week, he slayed it. This was one of the first times we saw him break out of his monotone vocals and show some depth and range in his vocals and show what kind of a singer he can be. And he did the same last night. It was a great song choice for him to show off his vocal chops and he had fun singing it. Something still important for a seventeen-year old.
Lauren chose to sing Carrie Underwood’s country-pop song, Flat on the Floor. I thought it was pretty good the first time she sang it and I think she sang it with even more passion and reckless abandon (for a sixteen year old) this time around. It was a good song choice, but she is still missing that extra little bit of pizzazz that Scotty has that pushes him over the top almost every time. She is still lacking that confidence that she needs to be a bona fide star. And, she is just not consistent. She has good moments and not so great moments. Scotty has been consistently good for several weeks now.
FIRST ROUND: SCOTTY
Scotty started off the second round and went all out country with Check Yes or No, chosen for him by his idol George Straight. It was pretty boring, even by Scotty standards. I’m sure the reference to playing on the playground and childhood romance should endear him even further to the young girls, if that’s even possible, but vocally, I think he took several steps back from where he’s been the past few weeks. His eyebrow raising into the camera when he was asking, “Do you love me?” was a little creepy, too.
Carrie Underwood, Lauren’s idol, chose Maybe it was Memphis by Pam Tillis for her song this round. Oh, more country. I guess I was hoping for more of a pop cross-over song by Ms. Underwood. She has some of those in her arsenal that are pretty popular (and I’m sure she knows some people who have some as well) and it would have been a nice change of pace from the hoe-down that this was turning into. But that being said, it was better than I expected it to be and it was actually better than Scotty’s performance.
Now that we know what he is capable of, he needs to stay away from the old school country music. He is better than that.
SECOND ROUND: LAUREN
Scotty sang I Love You This Big for the Producer’s Choice Round. This was a perfect song choice for him, chosen by season-long mentor Jimmy Iovine. It fell right into his range and his tonability (is that even a word???). He could make this song huge on the country charts, without question. The biggest problem I had with it was how silly the actual song title and lyrics were. It was like a toddler talking to his mommy. “I love you thiiiiis big, mommy.” Really??? He only made it dumber by spreading his arms wide during the chorus. The only thing that saved him was that he sang it so well and took a song that no one has ever heard of and convinced us that it could actually be a hit, on the country charts, anyway.
Lauren sang a song about mothers, Like My Mother Does, which is actually a Kristy Lee Cook song (remember her, from Season 8??). Her voice was more emotional and powerful than on most songs that she’s sang and as I’ve said in the past, these power ballads are where she is her absolute strongest. Having host Ryan Seacrest walk her down the steps to her mother and singing to her was a nice touch, if not a little schmaltzy. I’m sure it will win her some votes.
Personally, I think this was one of the more manipulative moves that the Idol producers have attempted to pull off in a long time. This goes right up there with Danny Gokey and his deceased wife that they threw in our face at every opportunity. They have been pushing Lauren in our face all season, starting all the way back at auditions week when she appeared and got Steven Tyler to sing with her. This was the culmination of all of that manipulation. The only thing that was missing was exec producer Nigel Lythgoe walking back and forth across the stage with a placard stating “VOTE FOR LAUREN!!” during her performance. I feel so used.
Anyway, the third round was certainly the closest, blatant manipulation aside, and I hope that Lauren doesn’t win American Idol based on it, as good as she was last night. That would be a shame because Scotty is far better. One good night does not an idol make. Or, as my younger daughter Nikki said, Lauren had a better night but Scotty had a better season. He may not be in a year or two when she realizes what a great instrument she really has, but right now he is better.
THIRD ROUND: LAUREN
A quick poll of my house revealed some interesting opinions:
My wife Lynn (judge #4) said, “Lauren did better tonight, finally came out of her shell, where Scotty has always been out. Lauren isn’t ready to be American Idol yet. Scotty should win.”
Daughter Tara (judge #5) said, “Lauren had a great night and I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t win.”
Daughter Nikki (judge #6) said, “Team Scotty all the way, since week one. I never wavered. I voted for him 100 times tonight!! (She’s a little obsessive).
MY PREDICTION: WINNER SEASON 10 AMERICAN IDOL: SCOTTY McCREERY