Scotty vs. Lauren: American Idol’s Country Showdown

Tuesday night, American Idol will begin its 10th season finale with a performance show that will pit two of its youngest contestants against one another as 17 year old country crooner Scotty McCreery will go head-to-head with 16 year old Southern belle, Lauren Alaina. It’ll be a country showdown for the Idol title and to get ready for the big night, ATC will analyze the showdown and offer our prediction of what the outcome will be.

Throughout this season, both Scotty and Lauren have delivered strong performances and have become fan favorites. Considering both have been two of the strongest contestants this season, it’s easy to believe that this could be the closest finale race in Idol’s 10 year history. Each contestant has many advantages and some disadvantages going for them. We’re going to pick a part each contestant to see who has the ultimate edge in the end.

Scotty McCreery
A year ago, Scotty was a 16 year old high school baseball player in Garner, NC who worked in a local grocery store. Now he’s a 17 year old American Idol finalist who, no matter Wednesday’s outcome, will go on to become one of country’s brightest new stars.

Scotty has consistently been a judges favorite each and every week by delivering solid performances. His shining moment came last week when he turned on the charm and personality while performing Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?”. However, like most contestants, he had a few stumbles thrown in including his version of “For Once in My Life.” Scotty’s key to success on Tuesday will be to continue to stick to his country roots and deliver each performance with as much heart, emotion, and southern drawl as he can to impress the judges.

When it comes to fan votes, I believe Scotty has the advantage because he has two primary support groups behind him: the “tween” girls and the conservative demographic. Throughout the season, Scotty has been a fan favorite for the young girls who seem to pull off upsets for their favorites (Lee DeWyze over Crystal Bowersox; Kris Allen over Adam Lambert) so he’ll continue to reap the rewards from that huge demographic. He’ll also have the backing of the conservative voters who love how he’s consistently presented himself as a down home, all American boy who is simply living his dream.

There has been one disadvantage that has plagued Scotty throughout the season and that’s the fact that he’s often seen as a “one trick pony.” Early on in the season, Scotty only performed hits by country crooner Josh Turner during his audition rounds (we can all remember how many times he belted out the line “baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low”) and when it came to the live shows, he continued to pick similar artists like George Strait and Garth Brooks. Though he showed his artistic preference, it was easy to predict that he’d have trouble with other genres and even with the new mainstream country sound that he’ll encounter after the show’s end. However, he’s done a good job at showing his versatility by performing songs like Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone” and Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?.” He’ll need to continue to take risks come Tuesday night. My suggestion would be tackling a song that shows off his strong vocal range yet sticks to his traditional roots much like Chris Young’s latest smash, “Tomorrow.”

Scotty’s bread and butter is in his ability to cater straight to his audience so if he does it three more times on Tuesday night, he’ll have done enough to claim the Idol title and become the show’s youngest winner.

Lauren Alaina
Lauren Alaina is a beneficiary of the new age range which allowed 15 year olds to audition this season. So when Idol held auditions in Nashville, a then 15 year old Lauren auditioned by singing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” with judge Steven Tyler. After her audition, Tyler famously predicted that they had found “the one.” Now she has the chance to make that prediction come true.

Lauren’s key to success this season has been her ability to belt it out with the best contestants on the show. From showing her country roots on songs like “Any Man of Mine” or Reba’s “Turn on the Radio,” to singing non-country classics like “Unchained Melody” and Elvis’ “Trouble.” Unlike Scotty, Lauren has always made an effort to show off her versatility. She’s delivered power ballads like Martina McBride’s “Anyway” as well as the rock classic from Melissa Etheridge, “Am I the Only One” and also rocking country songs like Carrie Underwood’s “Flat on the Floor.” She’s taken the advice of the judges and has always tried to push herself. Her shining moment came during this past week’s performance when she effortlessly delivered Lee Ann Womack’s smash, “I Hope You Dance.” It’s those moments that Lauren will need to recreate in order to take down the boy wonder that is Scotty McCreery.

Another advantage Lauren has going for her is the fact that her style of country caters to a larger audience than Scotty’s. Lauren has proven herself to be a perfect fit for the current mainstream/pop style of country. She’s performed songs by some of today’s biggest superstars in Carrie Underwood and Reba as well as some of country’s newest “it” artists like The Band Perry. She’ll need to stick to that style of country if she wants to have a chance against the traditional leaning Scotty. My suggestion would be to continue performing newer songs by artists like Underwood or even Miranda Lambert (she nailed “Gunpowder and Lead” during the top four results show).

Lauren’s biggest disadvantage could come in how she handles the big stage and big audience. In the past she’s seemed to buckle under the pressure of the moment and has often second guessed herself during her performances. During her “Unchained Melody” performance, mentor Jimmy Iovine tore her a part for not going for the song’s money note during the live performance. Even this past week, she got caught up in the moment during her performance of “If I Die Young” that she simply missed her modulation, but she recovered nicely. If Lauren can overcome her nerves and trust that she has the vocal ability to out sing her opponent, then she will have the ability to pull off the upset.

In the end, I have to say that country music will prove to be the true winner of American Idol. No matter who wins, both Scotty and Lauren have the potential to become future superstars of the genre. However, if I had to pick a winner, my money is on Scotty McCreery to take home the title. He’s been one of the best contestants this season and has one of the largest fan bases I’ve seen from a finalist. But, look for both of them to hit country radio soon, and who knows, maybe they’ll be competing once again in 2012, except it’ll be for a Best New Artist award from either the CMAs or ACMs.

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