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Scotty + Josh, Lauren + Martina: Idols Duet With Their Idols at CMA Festival

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Backstage at Nashville's LP Field, when we learned that Scotty McCreery was about to duet with Josh Turner on "Your Man," I had one question for Turner. You guys aren't going to attempt to, like, harmonize, are you? Because if two voices that low could actually find a way to blend, it might throw the earth off its axis.

"No, I don't think you're going to hear us do any bluegrass harmonies," Turner assured me, acknowledging the absurdity inherent in the question. "We're going to be trading lines." 

The same went for the night's other Idol-meets-an-idol duet, which had Lauren Alaina alternating high notes—rather than offering any glass-shattering dual lines—with Martina McBride on the power ballad "Anyway."

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Of course, these were songs that McCreery and Alaina already sang on their own on American Idol. And in McCreery's case, it may be forever the cover he's most associated with, since "Your Man" was his legendary audition song, and the tune that, fairly or unfairly, got him pegged as a mini-Josh. It wasn't an association the 17-year-old was in any hurry to avoid on as momentous an evening as the penultimate night of the 40th annual CMA Festival.

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The unannounced cameos before a sold-out crowd of about 60,000 capped a busy week in Nashville for the fresh-faced, hurried-paced Idol alumni. Wednesday night, they walked the red carpet and presented at the CMT Awards; Thursday, they both spent 12-hour days in the studio commencing work on their debut solo albums; Friday, as previously reported at length in this space, they made their debuts on the Grand Ole Opry. (Saturday morning, they also took part in the annual CMA charity softball game, where McCreery sheepishly admitted he was "the losing pitcher.")

But things were hardly anticlimactic for the duo as they wrapped up their week with their first stadium show appearances Saturday night. As Martina said of Lauren backstage, "She's very nervous. It was interesting to me that the thing she was nervous about was performing in front of all those people." (McBride put air quotes around the phrase "all those people.") "I wanted to say, 'You know how many people watch American Idol, right?'" 

But, of course, all those eyes weren't in one intimidating place, and surely neither McCreery nor Alaina had ever heard a roar half as massive as the one that greeted each of their entrances. LP Field was filled with tens of thousands of flashes from fans not knowing or not caring that their smartphone flashes could hardly light up a stage hundreds of feet away. Each snap was an attempt to document that there were actually two stars on stage, even though, to the ear alone—at least in the vocal doppelganger case of Turner and McCreery—it could just as easily have been one.

"He seems to be a really good guy with a good head on his shoulders," said Turner. "We did a sound check, and it was good for me to help try to put him at ease a little bit and just make sure that he and I were straight on what we were doing." 

Turner was asked if he worries that Scotty might be horning in on his territory a little bit, since McCreery was seen from his very first moments on Idol as a teen version of Turner—partly by design, with that audition song, but partly by nature, with that baritone. Turner answered that he subscribes to the Waylon Jennings theory of competition in country music, which is basically that you shouldn't view anyone as competition. (Even, presumably, when his vocal cords seem to have been ripped out of your own throat.) 

Alaina isn't quite as much of a soundalike for McBride, so she's clearly not concerned about any All About Eve scenarios. And she had to have been flattered that Lauren picked "Anyway," one of the rare co-self-penned tunes in McBride's catalog (although Martina's upcoming album will be the first where she co-wrote a majority of the material). 

These two duets will presumably make the cut when ABC cuts down four nights of stadium show material to one two-hour time slot for a prime-time CMA Festival special. Although scheduling for the special hasn't been announce yet, traditionally it's been broadcast two and a half months after the festival, over Labor Day weekend.

If you missed our revealing backstage interview with Scotty and Lauren from the Grand Ole Opry, check out that exclusive story by clicking right here.

For more updates, be sure to follow Chris Willman on Twitter.

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