Lauren Alaina (L) and Scotty McCreery (R).
It don't mean a thang if it ain't got that twang.
At least not to American Idol fans, who've apparently gone country this season, voting classic crooner Scotty McCreery, 17, and 16-year-old popster Lauren Alaina into the finale.
Tuesday night on Fox and CTV, North Carolina's McCreery and Georgia's Alaina will perform their little hearts out for judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, and more importantly, for audience votes. On Wednesday's two-hour finale, the results will be unveiled, and one of them will trot away with Idol's 10th crown -- or perhaps, more appropriately, a Stetson.
Not only does the duo make up the youngest Top 2 in Idol history -- Taylor Hicks had more grey hairs than their ages combined when he won in 2006 -- but they're also the least diverse final two. Heck, there's only one state separating their hometowns, they've performed three duets together, and they even live by the same quote: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
If they weren't so young, I'd tell them to get a room, already.
Given their similarities, it would seem like this should be a close call. After all, as Jackson says, they're both "in it to win it!!!" But one of them has the advantage. Here's a look at each, and a final prediction:
Hometown: Garner, North Carolina
Influences: Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Elvis
Hank and Johnny would be dang proud (after rolling in their graves) if they heard what was being done with country music on American Idol this year, especially where Scotty is concerned. From Day 1 (he sang Josh Turner's Your Man at the auditions) he has stuck with what works for him and that's wholesome country tunes with a swig of sass.
Sure, he's a good ol' boy girls can swoon over and boys can respect -- his choice accessory is a cross pendant -- but those baritone/borderline-bass vocals, mischievous smirks, and cheeky covers such as Thompson Square's Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not also draw in older females, who should probably deny their attraction to him, for legal purposes.
The problem? Scotty doesn't need this show. Idol has already done what it needed to do for him, and that was to expose his natural talent. He'd be better off heading to Nashville where he'd undoubtedly get signed -- and be able to avoid all of the promo-hoeing he'd have to do if he won Idol's Interscope contract. But, um, I think it's a little late for that.
Hometown: Rossville, Georgia
Influence: Carrie Underwood
I betcha Lauren Alaina is counting her blessings that Idol lowered its audition age from 16 to 15 this season. The country-pop-singin' youngster who had judge Tyler hooked at I Don't Want to Miss a Thing (the then-15-year-old's second audition song, after Faith Hill's Like We Never Loved at All), quickly won over the rest of the panel, as well as America.
I mean, what's not to love -- from her contagious giggles to her aww-shucks modesty, to her gentle drawl. If we put aside her covers of The Beatles' Hello, Goodbye and Shania Twain's Any Man of Mine, her track record ain't bad -- but it also ain't nearly as consistent as Scotty's.
The problem? Lauren needs to win Idol if she's going to have, at the very least, a short-lived career. She's only recently started to figure out what kind of an artist she is (somewhere between Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood -- not a bad place to be), and she'll need a lot of help figuring the rest out.
WARD'S WORD: My gut instinct is that Scotty's going to win -- and so far, my gut has always failed me. Two years ago, I felt Adam Lambert had it in the bag. The year before that, I swore David Archuleta would rule with the teen vote. This year, however, I trust my gut. While it would be fabulous to finally see a female take home the prize -- Jordin Sparks was the last girl to do so in 2007 -- Lauren just isn't the best female to break the spell. While only a year younger than Scotty, she's less mature, and her nerves will get in the way of her talent on Tuesday's performance show. As long as Scotty sticks to his tried 'n' true croonin', he's got it in the bag.
Through the Ages
American Idol's past nine winners -- and their age at the time:
Season 1: Kelly Clarkson, 20
Season 2: Ruben Studdard, 24
Season 3: Fantasia Barrino, 19
Season 4: Carrie Underwood, 22
Season 5: Taylor Hicks, 29
Season 6: Jordin Sparks, 17
Season 7: David Cook, 25
Season 8: Kris Allen, 23
Season 9: Lee DeWyze, 24