Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Finale: A Country Showdown!

Article first published as American Idol Finale Performances on Technorati.

“Tonight, you change lives.”  That’s how Seacrest kicked off the Idol finale.  Wow – we’re going deep this year! In all seriousness, it is a big deal for the two youngest ever Idol finalists who went head to head on Tuesday night.  Both seem destined for Country stardom, but winning the Idol crown is still hard to beat as a launch pad.  We learned that Lauren, already an underdog if you believe the odds makers, had another disadvantage tonight, in that she has strained her vocal cords.  They even hauled out the Official Idol Doctor for those of us who think that strained vocal cords sounds like what you wake up with after a good night of karaoke.  The Official Doctor assures us it is MUCH more serious than that, so serious in fact that they apparently drugged her up for the evening. Now, I understand her calm sense of grace and peaceful smile…..she’s on painkillers!  Nice!

Scotty kicked things off with….wait for it….a Country Song!!  Just kidding.  Of COURSE he picked a country song.  That’s the girl that brought him to the dance, he’s not going to shift gears now.  He went with “Gone” and offered a really solid performance.  Not his best work of the season, not even very memorable, but very safe and entertaining, which is all Scotty needed tonight.

Lauren followed that up with “Flat On the Floor.”  Her stage presence was that of someone way beyond her tender years, and she sang it okay, although it did seem that she was holding back due to the aforementioned vocal strain.  Overall it was good, but not memorable and I think Lauren needed to take risks in the finale to improve her odds.

The second round is usually the Idol creator’s choice, but again, they’re really shaking it up on Season Ten, so this year, we got to hear the Idols’ Idols’ picks for them.  George Strait chose “Check Yes Or No” for Scotty.  It showed off his baritone and old school Nashville style reasonably well, and he managed to keep his often-goofy stage antics to a minimum.

Lauren’s Country Idol is prior winner Carrie Underwood.  She chose “Maybe It Was Memphis” for Miss Alaina.  Lauren sounded pretty solid and it was a match for her vocal range, but her stylist unfortunately chose a get-up that just screamed Tennessee’s Junior Miss Pageant, with glitter eye shadow and all.  Again, a little too safe I fear to bring it home for Lauren.

Speaking of poor style choices, Seacrest went to Randy for the first judge’s commentary of the night.  He was brief and mostly complimentary all around, but did give the slight edge to Scotty for Round one and Lauren for Round two.   JLo agreed with Randy, because that’s what they do.  Thanks RanLo.  Tyler gave both rounds to Lauren, but only because she “is prettier than Scotty.”  Hmm…maybe her stylist’s pageant-esque choice helped her after all!

So, the final song for the Idols is to be a song written specifically for them, that each Idol would release as their first single, should they win.  Before we heard that though, we got Taio Cruz and a band of neon-lit robot drummers (or were they startroopers?) singing something that I’m sure will be Number One on iTunes within the week.  I didn’t like it, confirming once more that I’m too old to be the target demographic for this show.

To introduce the final original songs, Jimmy Iovine (Best Idol Mentor ever) told each contestant why that song was picked for them.  He seemed genuinely excited about the song they chose for Scotty, “I Love You This Big.”   I wasn’t as sold on it as Jimmy, but again, it was a good, solid and very safe performance for the country crooner.  Randy said he was brilliant and “in it to win it”, blah blah blah…I was unable to concentrate trying to figure out where on earth Randy bought that suit?  Seriously!  JLo also loved it though, so maybe it was really good and I am just grumpy tonight?  Not that I thought it was bad, it just seemed like he was phoning it in and not really finale-worthy.

The last song of the night was “Like My Mother Does” chosen for Lauren.   It was a real crowd pleaser.  Jimmy eluded to the fact that it was chosen to really solicit emotional appeal (and votes) from all the mom’s out there.  The judges unanimously gave the final round to Lauren, who the producers clearly want to give a fighting chance, given the much better song choice on her behalf.  Tyler even said that she was always his pick for Idol – and then added, “hands down.”  Pretty bold prediction Steven.

Scotty went into the night as a 1:5 favorite (over Lauren’s 3:1 odds), and I think that through the first 2 rounds, she didn’t do anything to narrow that gap.  I agree that the third round went to her, but don’t know if it was enough to shift such a large fan base in the final hours.  Scotty was consistent and authentically himself, which may have been all he needed.  My kids love Lauren and made me promise to vote for her at least twice, so maybe my votes will be the ones to put her over the top!  Tune into Fox (http://www.americanidol.com/) on Wednesday night to find out for sure.  It promises to be a star-studded and suspense-filled finale for sure!  For me, I found myself saying “good”, “safe” and “solid” a lot, but nothing blew me away.  None of the songs brought me to tears (and yes, sadly, that has happened before).  Were the Finale performances as strong this year as in some other years?  Was it anti-climatic after a season so rife with talent and surprises?    

 Photo: Fox.

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