Photo Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Scotty McCreery went into last night's American Idol finals as the front-runner, and his poise and talent shined all the way through. In three spot-on performances, he showed his usual, rock-solid stage presence and command over his deep voice. But entering tonight's two-hour finale, airing at 8 p.m. ET on Fox, he's now the underdog.
Why? Because even before it began, Tuesday night belonged Lauren Alaina. News leaked that she'd lost her voice just hours before she was to take the stage. In fact, in the interval between rehearsals and her performance, she was reportedly communicating by writing on a notepad. And TMZ learned that the No. 3 finisher, Haley Reinhart, was on set and rehearsing to take Alaina's place if necessary.
Ryan Seacrest opened the show by questioning Lauren about this dramatic turn. (She said she was "fine" to sing.) Then he brought a doctor up on stage to explain to viewers that she "blew out one of her vocal chords" and had been given medicine that would allow her to sing. Idol associate music director and arranger Michael Orland told Entertainment Weekly, "I don't know exactly what (the doctor) gave her, but it just numbs the vocal chords a little bit so she can get through it."
All this led to a very suspenseful moment of truth. When Alaina opened her mouth to sing her first song, would anything come out? To everyone's relief (except for maybe Reinhart and her family), Alaina's voice was as lovely as ever.
Scotty and Lauren performed three times each. First, they were asked to sing their favorite of all the songs they'd performed on Idol. Second, they each sang a song chosen for them by their musical heroes, Carrie Underwood (for Alaina) and George Strait (for McCreery). Finally, they each sang the song that would be their first single if they won.
McCreery met the challenge head on, delivering a solid performance of Montgomery Gentry's "Gone," and looked calm and comfortable throughout his rendition of Strait's "Check Yes or No" (chosen for him by, ahem, Strait). His final song, "I Love You This Big," won him compliments from the judges like "amazing job" and "you nailed it."
But Alaina's equally good performances seemed harder-earned, and thus more moving. She would have won over the audience simply by making it through Underwood's "Flat on the Floor" in the first round but she also sang it beautifully. She maintained her poise and vocals during Pam Tillis' "Maybe It Was Memphis" (chosen for her by Underwood). And when she sang her final song, "Like My Mother Does," she hugged her weeping mom in an emotionally charged moment that seemed to clinch the competition.
Of course, both singers will win record contracts, whether through Universal Music Group (American Idol's partner) or another label. But who will wear the Idol crown?