Season 10 of "American Idol" started off as THE most diverse season ever: We had hard rock (James Durbin), indie-folk (Paul McDonald), gospel (Jacob Lusk), jazz (Casey Abrams and, to some extent, Haley Reinhart), classic diva balladry (Pia Toscano), R&B/pop (Stefano Langone and Ashthon Jones), Latin pop (Karen Rodriguez), and even reggae (Naima Adepado), represented by singers ranging in age from 15 to 26. That's why it's so ironic that we've ended up with the least diverse finale ever, with two
country singers who are roughly the same age, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, vying for the "Idol" title. Apparently this country really
likes country, since 70 million of last week's record 95 million votes went to Scotty and Lauren combined. But when the finale happens, how will the votes be divided once and for all?
To be fair, and to not oversimplify things, it should be noted that Scotty and Lauren don't exactly traffic in the same type
of country--Lauren does more modern pop-country, a la current country superstars like Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler (two of "Idol's" most successful alums), while Scotty's style is more vintage in vibe, reminiscent of hat acts like Garth Brooks and George Strait. So Lauren does seem more in tune with today's country scene. Still, I have to go with Scotty for my prediction. I do think it will be close, no landslide, maybe even the closest "Idol" race ever...but I simply believe Scotty's voter base is stronger. He's never been in the bottom three (Lauren has once); he's the only male contestant left (which means he'll probably have a lock on the important tween-girl vote, who've elected three guitar-strumming male winners in a row); and frankly, he's been unstoppable all season. It's like the boy is coated in Teflon.
On the surface, it does seem like Lauren would have the edge, and she certainly still has a good chance. First of all, a decent portion of the 25 million votes cast last week for golden girl Haley Reinhart will probably go to Lauren, not Scotty. Second, after three male winners in a row--the last female champ was Season 6's Jordin Sparks--it's obvious that the "Idol" powers-that-be would love a girl to win again, so they'll keep pushing Lauren as much as they can. Third, Scotty may not have the country audience all tied up. Quite tellingly, Stark Radio recently reported that country radio broadcasters are already resistant to Scotty
; WFRE's Jess Wright said, "If Scotty McCreery gets signed, I'm gonna need to change my phone number," and KUZZ's Toni-Marie quipped, "I'm calling in sick the day they bring Scotty by on the radio tour." (These same programmers also seemed to think the more marketable Lauren had a good shot, with the right single and proper handling.)
But it's not
radio programmers, or "Idol" producers, who vote here. It's regular folk, and I still think baseball-playing Scotty--a country boy so seemingly sprung from a Norman Rockwell painting, so totally all-American, he might as well have performed every song this season with a lit Fourth of July sparkler in one hand and a slice of apple pie in the other--who will have the most support.
I'd prefer to see Scotty win this Wednesday, personally. First of all, I think he is the better all-around entertainer. He's been consistent and unflappable throughout the season, and you have to admit, his rousing performances of Montgomery Gentry's "Gone" and the Coasters' "Young Blood" were a hoot, and the way he laughingly handled the situation when he was bumrushed by his idol Josh Turner at his homecoming concert
was impressive. But Scotty's finest moment was actually his subdued cover of Carole King's "You've Got A Friend," which demonstrates he does have some
Second, although he's not even a full year older than Lauren, Scotty carries himself with more maturity; Lauren has a fragile disposition and tends to crumble under pressure, resulting in flawed performances and onstage meltdowns that are actually a little uncomfortable to watch. (It would be great if Lauren could channel her all her teenage angst into delivering non-robotic performances, but she hasn't figured out how to do that yet. She will with age, and with time.) It's obvious how much Lauren wants
this victory--probably more than Scotty does, really--so I worry about how she'll handle it if she loses
this week. (Her reaction to coming in second place might be more dramatic than the way Casey Abrams melted down
when the judges saved him, when he almost got booted.) But the "Idol" winner's sales and success are scrutinized by the media very closely, so it seems Lauren would be better off just placing second, getting a record deal anyway, and then recording her debut album without all that added "Season 10 winner!" and "youngest winner ever!" pressure (not to mention the pressure of racing to get her music out first, and headlining the Idols Live Tour every night). There's a fair chance she might even outsell Scotty, anyway, in the long run, given her crossover appeal--especially if those aforementioned country radio programmers have anything to do with it.
Of course, it will all come down to Tuesday's final showdown--whether Lauren is able to bring it, whether Scotty is able to prove he's more than a one-trick country pony, whether the judges offer any truly insightful criticism for once, and of course, song selection, song selection, song selection. Having gone over all their performances of the season, I do think it's going to be pretty close, since both kids have each had their standout moments (Scotty with "Gone" and "You've Got A Friend," Lauren with "Flat On The Floor" and "Trouble") and their off nights (Scotty with "For Once In My Life," Lauren with "Unchained Melody"). I still
think Scotty will prevail, but if Lauren is able to get it together, she might fulfill her childhood "Idol" dream and end up victorious after all...and she'll probably sell more records either way.
Who do you think will become the new American Idol? And whose record would you be more likely to buy at the end of the day, regardless? Let me know on the message board below.
[photos courtesy of Fox]
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