May 24, 2011

MUSIC: American Idol 2011: The Finale!!!

And here we are at the finale of Nashville Star American Idol, where Scotty and Lauren fight for the title of America's Favorite Country Teen. In retrospect, this shouldn't be a surprising final; Idol voters do love the southerners, and tonight's winner will be the eighth southern champ in ten seasons.

For Round One, we revisit songs from earlier in the season. Coincidentally, they've chosen songs from the same week.

Scotty, "Gone" -- A bit better than it was three weeks ago, I think; his upper register feels stronger, and he's working the audience even more than usual. There's nothing surprising about the performance, but we've surely learned by now not to expect surprise from Scotty; he's going to give us comfortable, mainstream country-pop performances.

Lauren, "Flat on the Floor" -- I'm a bit surprised she picked this one; I didn't think it was a particularly strong moment for her the first time around. Tonight was better, though some of the low notes are still getting lost, and I don't know why she's been styled to look like one of the Real Housewives of Bugtussle.

Round One: Narrowly to Scotty, though neither was very impressive.

Round Two features choices from the contestants' "personal Idols". (Of course, when asked to  choose their personal Idols at the beginning of the season, Scotty and Lauren chose Garth Brooks and Shania Twain; their tastes are apparently susceptible to the whims of TV availability.)

Scotty, "Check Yes or No" -- I said last week that I thought one of Scotty's problems was that he was a 17-year-old singing grownup songs for which he didn't have the emotional experience, and I'll take this as vindication of a sort. When asked to sing in flashback about the emotional life of a third-grader, he actually can connect to the material. High notes on the second chorus are a bit thin, though.

Lauren, "Maybe It Was Memphis" -- She still doesn't quite have the breath control to handle those long phrases, and is gasping in odd spots in the verses. On the whole, though, this is a very nice performance; the song is precisely her type of material, and (even though she's younger), she's a bit more convincing with the love songs than Scotty is.

Round Two: Narrowly to Lauren, though we still haven't had a "wow" moment that would make me excited about voting for either of them.

And we close with the potential first singles.

Scotty, "I Love You This Big" -- A song precisely tailored to a 17-year-old boy, and we get one of his better performances of the year. It's still lacking in the real passion and emotion that would take it beyond being just a very nicely sung song -- that emotional communication is the biggest thing Scotty needs to learn, I think -- but it's as close to it as he's ever come.

Lauren, "Like My Mother Does" -- Even more precisely tailored to Lauren than's Scotty's single was to him, and she delivers a lovely performance. There were a couple of moments in the second half that made me think her laryngitis was catching up to her (and I'll bet she's glad there's not a fourth round), but she covered them nicely, passing them off as emotional moments or a good old fashioned country break in the voice. The best performance of the night.

Round Three: Comfortably to Lauren, which ought to be enough to give her the title. It won't be, of course; Scotty is going to win this thing by a sizable margin.

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