Tuesday night, country music fans across St. Louis and the nation felt the excitement churning as American Idol finalists Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina got set to take the stage for an unprecedented season finale. Season 10’s finale is like none other before as both contestants represented the country music genre. Furthermore, this season’s finale saw the youngest pair of contestants to ever face off for the title.
As the show began, it appeared that this might become another year in which skeptics and sore losers rushed to put their two cents in on forums across the internet, should one particular contestant be the second runner up. Just as in a World Series where an umpire makes a bad call, should Lauren Alaina have lost, it looked like we may be facing the never ending question of “what if” the circumstances had been different. To explain, at the beginning of the show, Ryan Seacrest addressed concerns over Lauren Alaina’s voice. A doctor on set took the stage and explained that Lauren had overstrained a vocal chord during practice. However, the doctor assured viewers that with the proper medications, Lauren would be able to perform to her usual high standard.
With the fear of a skewed competition behind, the contestants pressed on, Scotty opening the show with his favorite song from the season, Gone. Just as in the first go round with Gone, Scotty brought energy and spunk to the stage. He showed once again what a true entertainer, not just singer, he is. However, not to be outdone by a strained vocal chord or a formidable opponent, Lauren took the stage just minutes later, resurrecting her performance of Flat On the Floor. Not only was Lauren’s voice back, but so was her confidence. She owned the stage, showing that despite her youth, she knows how to put on a show that commands attention.
With judges divided as to who performed better in round one, the contestants moved on to round two. In the second round, the Idol contestants’ own country music idols had the responsibility of choosing the song. For many viewers, the second round was a let down after the strong, ramped up performances of round one. Scotty, whose idol is George Strait, was given Check Yes or No to perform. Though Scotty did a good job with the song, for many, it didn’t seem to fit his vocal style. When Lauren Alaina stepped out to sing the song chosen by Carrie Underwood, Maybe it Was Memphis, it too seemed a little underwhelming in comparison to her first song. Check Yes or No was originally released by George Strait in 1995, at which time Scotty McCreery would have been under two years old, and Maybe it Was Memphis was on the charts before Lauren Alaina was even born. Both song choices, though performed well, seemed a bit dated for these young contestants.
As the show moved into round three, viewers watched eagerly as two brand new songs were unveiled. The songs that each contestant sang in round three, would become the winner’s first radio single. Singing a brand new song is a challenge for the contestants, but sometimes, also the viewers. While contestants face the challenge of getting their audience to identify with a song and enjoy it the first time it’s been sung, viewers often have the hard task of choosing the better performance even though the opposite contestant may have been given the better song. This point is certainly up for debate in the season 10 finale.
Scotty McCreery was handed a new song called I Love You This Big, which told of the depth of emotion he feels despite his youth. Jennifer Lopez said that Scotty is a storyteller and that his ability to be so is what helped him perform a brand new song so well. However, some would argue that despite the grand-sounding title of the song, it didn’t really have the momentous expression one would expect. Scotty did the most with the song that he could, but for some people, it just didn’t have the same intensity as some of the songs Scotty had performed throughout the season such as Gone, Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning and Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not.
Lauren Alaina, on the other hand, sang a beautiful ballad, Like My Mother Does, that for most viewers and apparently the judges too, had the kind of instant appeal that makes for a hit single. A testament to the good qualities our mothers pass down to us and the love and support they give, Lauren sang the song with a personal touch, at one point during the performance even venturing to the audience to sing to her own mother. By the time the song was done, Lauren’s mother was reduced to tears and Lauren herself was obviously fighting back the emotion as well. With the touching end to the show, the judges, though giving high compliments to Scotty, predicted Lauren as the winner.
Though Lauren Alaina gave three solid performances on Tuesday, Scotty McCreery has been the clear frontrunner in terms of fan following and stability throughout the entire competition. For those reasons, it would be a shock to some if Lauren Alaina actually did clinch the win, but if she does, it will certainly be deserved. At only 16 years old, most likely knowing she may be the underdog and then struggling with an uncooperative vocal chord just before the biggest show of her life, Lauren Alaina took the stage Tuesday night with the confidence of a fighter who refuses to be down for the count.
Both of these young contestants deserve applause for their composure under enormous pressure, for their outstanding performances all season long and for their amiable nature toward one another, even as they battled for the title. Between songs, Scotty and Lauren could be seen talking, hugging or smiling at each other. The carefree way they approached the night was a great reminder to us all that in the end, it’s just a game and the friendships you make along the way are what really matters.
The St. Louis Country Music Examiner would encourage all American Idol fans to remember this as well. As we finally arrive at American Idol’s biggest night of the year, fans in St. Louis are expected to be under a severe weather watch. Just on the heels of one of the most devastating tornadoes in history in Joplin, Missouri, St. Louis residents will be faced with the potential for more tornadoes during the hours that American Idol will air.
Since St. Louis’ Fox station, KTVI, is also a main hub of weather alerts, it’s likely that St. Louis fans will deal with several interruptions or even power outages during the American Idol results show. It is times like these that we need to be more like Scotty and Lauren. Hug your friends, tell your mother you love her and remember that some things are far more important than television, even on the biggest night of the season.
Best wishes to both Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina as they move forward into promising careers – and condolences to the many tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri. Thoughts and prayers go out to you.
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