It was pretty obvious--after three consecutive seasons of cute, guitar-strumming male "Idol" winners--that the "American Idol" powers-that-be wanted a female champion this season. And in finalist Lauren Alaina, a girl that judge Steve Tyler declared "The One" after her very first audition--they had a very strong contender. Many fans actually thought she did better than Scotty on Tuesday's final showdown. But even Lauren, a likable girl next door in the Clarkson/Underwood/Sparks mold, could not break the girls' dry spell on this show. Yes, baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low, because it's just been announced that, despite all of the show's blatant Lauren pimping this week...Scotty McCreery is the tenth American Idol.
This is hardly an upset, of course. Lauren was a season-long favorite of both the judges and viewers, but if there was anyone who seemed even more of a shoo-in than her, it was Scotty. Unlike Lauren, he'd never been in the bottom three before, and the boy seemed to be coated in Teflon no matter what he did. He forgot the words to one of his songs during Hollywood Week, was peripherally involved in the Hollywood Week bullying of Jacee Badeaux that ended up ruining Clint Gamboa's chances, and delivered similar live performances week after week without the judges ever encouraging him to mix it up...and he got a free pass every time. Scotty was simply unstoppable. It almost seemed like his ascendance to the "Idol" throne was pre-ordained, since he was glowingly mentioned in some of producer Nigel Lythgoe's promotional interviews before Season 10 even began.
It's also not a huge surprise that Scotty won considering that, while he hardly had the stronger voice of these two (Lauren was one of this season's best singers), he was the better all-around entertainer. Scotty always projected a certain unshakable confidence that Lauren sadly seemed to lose after her stellar first audition, as the pressures of live competition clearly got to her. Lauren's confidence probably received another big blow when she lost this week, but she may be better off coming in second and having a little more luxury of time to mature outside of the "Idol" bubble.
But now, of course, the real work begins, for both contestants. While Scotty is "Idol's" first male country winner--which, to be fair, differentiates him from previous male winners Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen, and David Cook--it's unclear whether the country world will accept him (Stark Radio posted a surprising report about country radio programmers already snubbing him), or if, at such a young age, he will be able to establish an identity outside of the country stars he sometimes imitates (like Josh Turner). Meanwhile, Lauren, who obviously wanted to win badly (she actually used to entertain her relatives by pretending to perform on "American Idol" as a little girl), might have been a little disappointed when she came in second, but she may end up victorious in the long run; considering that her pop-country style has more crossover potential than Scotty's more old-school, hat-act style, she could sell more records when she inevitably lands her own record deal. (It should be noted that the last two "Idol" runners-up outsold their respective seasons' winners.)
However, both contestants are very young and have a lot of growing up to do, and now they'll be growing up on the road and in the studio. So let's hope Interscope and 19 Entertainment surround them with the right people.
Do you think viewers elected the right American Idol? And who do you think will ultimately be more successful, sales-wise? Let me know on the message board below.
[all photos courtesy of Fox, except top photo courtesy of AP]