So it was an all-country finale, which was not what I was hoping for. But amazingly, the episode, packed with eight live performances, clocked in at just one hour, so it flew by. So fast, in fact, that the episode lacked any of the tension that Ryan Seacrest kept telling us was occurring, but frankly, at this point, I’ll take fast and ho-hum over excruciating drawn-out tension. There was a tiny bit of drama when Ryan announced that Lauren had had vocal issues earlier in the evening (and I heard some gossip right beforehand that Haley was in the wings, in case Lauren needed to bow out), but Lauren’s vocal health never turned out to affect the episode.
Scotty and Lauren each sang three songs, none of which required them to go out of their comfort zones. The first was a reprise of their favorite songs from the season, the second was chosen for them by their idols (George Strait for Scotty, Carrie Underwood for Lauren), and the third would be the shitty custom-written finale singles that we don’t know, yet already hate.
Scotty’s favorite song from the season was “Gone,” which was the right choice: Like the last time he sang it, his voice sounded strong, the tempo/tone of the song worked for him, and he looked quite confident, pulling fewer googly-eye faces than usual and finishing with a satisfied baseball swing with the microphone. (What if that’s what explains his weird mic stance all season? That he thinks that his mic is a baseball bat? That might explain also why his batting average is .001.)
Lauren’s response was “Flat on the Floor.” In a lot of ways, the kids’ first performances were identical: uptempo, sassy country songs featuring plenty of that flatironed-haired violinist and a definitive last-note flourish. (Lauren’s was a stomp, not a swing.) If the rest of the night went this way, the final vote would basically just be, “Who do you like more?” I gave a slight edge to Lauren in Round 1, and not just because I liked her gunmetal jacket and boots. I think she worked harder, vocally, and now, given the special drama of “will or won’t her voice give out?” I was a little more invested in how she handled a brassy song like that. Plus, she had a better entrance, what with the rising stage platform and hip-bumping.
For Round 2, George Strait chose “Check Yes or No” for Scotty, which was a pleasant, innocuous type of song, although I don’t think it did that much to make Scotty sound like a vocal superstar. Also, I don’t like it when Scotty sings songs about childhood romances. It’s odd, and it brings out his worst facial expressions. He looks lascivious and slightly insane, not wistful or sweet.
Carrie Underwood chose “Maybe It Was Memphis” for Lauren, who looked like a country Barbie while she sang in an apricot-colored tutu-type dress covered in rhinestones. Maybe Lauren had the slight edge in Round 1, but she mopped the floor with Scotty in Round 2. Carrie picked well for her protégé: It’s not an obnoxiously show-offy song, but Lauren’s voice sounded great, and her confidence seemed to be at its peak. It was arguably the best Lauren’s performed all season, which was fortunate timing for her.
Has there ever been an Idol single that didn’t reek? If so, I don’t recall it. Scotty’s song was titled “I Love You This Big,” which is a phrase not typically uttered by many people over the age of three. It was a sappy tune about dreaming big despite being young and so on. More importantly, aside maybe from a few parts at the end, it didn’t make Scotty sound particularly great. It reminded me a bit of the Taylor Hicks' “Are You Proud of Me” song, slightly creepy in its stale wanness. “I’m just a man, standing here before you. Love me!” The judges, true to Season 10 form, told him the vocal was brilliant, thereby pissing off actually brilliant things and people across the world. Randy said once again that Scotty was In It to Blah Blah, and I wanted to punch him in his mouth-face.
Ryan kept reminding us how much the pressure was mounting tonight as the episode moved along, but I felt no such pressure whatsoever. It helped that the episode sped along, but there was no mystery or tension. The singers had been prepped to just do what they do all season long without much challenge, and that flat, straight road led here tonight. Tomorrow, I think it’s going to lead into the reality TV version of a garage. The door will shut, and it will be dark.
Lauren’s song, “Like My Mother Does,” was no less cloying than Scotty’s, but she had the edge in a few ways when it came to this tune. While the song had lame lines like “She’s got my back,” at least it didn’t follow the strict “I’m on American Idol, look at me now, following my dreams” theme most Idol singles do. This could actually potentially be its own cornball standalone song. The moment where Lauren sang to and hugged her mother was a bit much, but basically, Lauren had a Moment or two during the performance (I sort of loved it when tuxedoed Ryan came to help her down the stairs). Most importantly, she just sounded like a better singer than Scotty. I think had she been feeling better and didn’t have to move around so much, she could have actually sung better, but still, she beat Scotty by far. Lauren, who seemed to struggle with her confidence all season seemed really poised tonight and so relieved when she was done singing. I’ve always preferred her to Scotty, but it was pretty clear tonight that of the two, she’s much more deserving. She leaves a lot more out there onstage (as they say on So You Think You Can Dance, starting Thursday!).
I think the judges agreed with me: They seemed to pay lip service to Scotty after his last song but were actually impressed by Lauren’s performance. In the end, Randy was too chickenshit to pick sides, but both Jennifer and Steven indicated that Lauren seemed like tonight’s winner.
The episode was closed out by David Cook’s rendition of “Don’t You Forget About Me,” which didn’t sound nearly as angry and menacing (“You! Don’t you forget about me! Ever!”) as it does in the videos.
So guess what we’re doing Wednesday night: That’s right, we’re chatting the finale! I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy the two hours than talking with all of y’all (that’s country for “you.”) So please come back here Wednesday at Idol time and be snarky and make jokes in real time along with Donna Bowman, Todd VanDerWerff, and yours truly.
- What was with Randy’s jacket? He looked like a gangster pumpkin.
- I’m not going to write much about the song Taio Cruz sung, since it was basically a glorified Coke commercial, but it’s reassuring that the following things will never go out of style, apparently: marching drummers, space helmets, and not knowing the song.
- Lauren had to deliver her triumphant moment in front of that footage of her falling down the stairs.