Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Join the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own articles.While an all-country "American Idol" performance night seemed to suit some fans just fine, there has been plenty of negative talk from journalists, bloggers and viewers who predicted a boring night. "AI" responded by leaking information that Haley Reinhart might have to perform on Top 2 night, instead of an ailing Lauren Alaina. Despite this last-ditch effort to create drama, the show was still basically a snooze-fest.
Get Lauren a Doctor!
Hopeful yet skeptical Haley fans tuned in to see if their favorite was subbing in, but Lauren joined Scotty McCreery on stage as planned. Lauren assured host Ryan Seacrest that she was fine and ready to sing, but Ryan urged a doctor to come on stage and "explain" her medical condition. We got the highly technical information that Lauren had kind of "blown a vocal chord" and got "lots of medicine" to help.
Get Scotty a Trapdoor
At first it seemed like it was probably nerves making Scotty appear a lot more low-key than usual. The country crooner has always been laid back, but usually in a confident, relaxed sort of way. Tonight he seemed gloomy, and not all that interested in hanging around. This could be because the giant wet sandbag the producers have been flinging at Haley each week had suddenly smacked him in the face.
From doctor's notes to sympathy votes, to judges' favoritism and manipulative song choices, Scotty drew the short straw in the "Idol" machine. Trends, polls and pundits have been calling Scotty the winner for weeks, but tonight the show seemed determined to get the vote out for Lauren by any means necessary.
The night began with two songs the contestants had already performed. Scotty chose "Gone," starting out in the audience and being the Pied Piper to his supporting band, leading them back up onto the stage. The annoying faux fans and their swaying arms were crowded up around the stage, blocking the camera angles as usual.
To his credit, Scotty did take his performance seriously, and drastically reduced the awkward side-mic, T-Rex arms and waggling eyebrows. Other than that, it was fairly unremarkable, except for the hot blond guy playing fiddle--Nathan Stoops. Though the dynamic fiddler has been playing with the "Idol" contestants often this season, it seemed he was featured a lot more tonight. Stoops definitely brought some life to the stage with his spirited playing and saucy smiles at the camera.
Lauren Alaina tackled "Flat on the Floor" tonight, and sounded fairly strong, despite her vocal troubles. The higher notes didn't seem to plague her as much as the lower and more gravely tones. The song was pretty lively, and once the show was over, was the only one that still lingered in my brain. Jennifer gave Lauren a standing ovation for her vocal effort, and Randy quickly jumped up to follow her lead. Steven remained seated.
The hook for tonight was supposed to be that the "Idol" contestants' personal idols would choose songs for them. While we heard the song choices from Carrie Underwood and George Strait, we didn't get so much as a recorded message from either of the two country stars. Strait chose his own "Check Yes or No" for Scotty, while Underwood selected Pam Tillis song "Maybe It Was Memphis."
Scotty did an okay version of the Strait tune, strumming on his guitar and directing some of the lyrics to the camera. A little of the hokeyness was back in his mannerisms, and he did strain for some of the higher notes. Lauren managed to belt out a few bigger notes in her song, but she sounded a little monotonous because she couldn't manipulate her range at all. While she held her own, the strain was showing in unsustained notes and dropped phrases--though that's always been a problem with Lauren's performances.
What's the Rush?
Ryan seemed to be keeping the performances running at a breakneck speed tonight, pretty much rolling us to commercial as soon as Lauren or Scotty finished their performance. The judges got no comments in after the first round. Three songs in, halfway through the competition, we were only at the 20 minute mark. At the time it felt like rushing to get more commercials in, but the additional motive was to squeeze in two guest performances.
Following the Script
The judges were intent on their notes when they finally did get to speak, and Jennifer even seemed to struggle to say what was in front of her. Randy declared the "American Idol" contestants "so even" at this point, giving a slight edge to Scotty in the first round, and then to Lauren in the second. Jennifer agreed, saying that Scotty's second song was "not as dynamic." Steven gave the hilarious critique of "If you sang that better, you'd be in the finals, but you're already here." Scotty looked a little dumbfounded, and I don't blame him. You could write it off as Steven rambling as usual, or as a little pointed jab about the two needing to sing better to deserve their Top 2 spot. Either way, it wasn't really a compliment.
Taio Cruz in Perfect Auto-Tuned Harmony
Cruz was on stage to promote the song "Positive," which was the result of a program sponsored by Coke. Aspiring songwriters sent in lyrics, fans voted, and Cruz incorporated those winning words into his song. It had a nice beat, and that's about all I can about it. Cruz was auto-tuned to the hilt, and the lyrics were repetitive, including a long stretch of singing "I'm positive" over and over. Underwhelming, and proof that writing songs by worldwide committee is not the way to go.
Original Songs (Sort of...)
Both "American Idol" singers were given songs by Jimmy Iovine, that will be their first single if they win. Most assumed these would be original songs, but Lauren's "Like My Mother Does" is actually from the album of a former "Idol" contestant, Kristy Lee Cook.
Scotty debuted "I Love You This Big," the title a fingernails-on-chalkboard moment for grammar-lovers everywhere. The performance itself wasn't much better, Scotty once again getting stuck with a song that was out of his range. He strained, his voice got thinner, and the tune never built any momentum.
The red carpet rolled out for Lauren, however, as she donned a flowing dress and sang this emotional ode to mothers. This manipulative moment included Lauren strolling down the stairs, with an instantly-appearing Ryan to take her hand and help her. Lauren waltzed into the audience, sang to her mother, and hugged her during the performance. Then she gave small treats to children, cuddled a bunny rabbit, and donated her winnings to the poor, all seen through a soft-focus lens with tiny birds and fairies floating all around the edges. Or something like that.
The best shot of all was of Jacob Lusk, staring open-mouthed at the mother-daughter love fest spectacle from the second row, no doubt wondering why he couldn't have gotten such a made-for-TV moment during his run.
Scotty got the wonderful non-feedback we've come to know and love, with Randy waxing poetic about the "two youngest finalists" and saying "You're here!" Jennifer called him the "storyteller of the competition," and Steven talked about Scotty's basketball skills--which I think was supposed to be a metaphor about long shots or something. Scotty's reply echoed Randy's critique. "I'm here," he told Ryan unconvincingly.
Randy gave Lauren a standing ovation, and said that the girl from Nashville was "finally here." Number one, are we supposed to be impressed that it took the girl four months to finally get it right? Number two, hasn't Randy been saying "the Lauren we fell in love with is back!" for at least six weeks now? Jennifer decided that Lauren "might have just won," and Steven said, "You're my 'American Idol.'"
When Ryan got both Scotty and Lauren together on stage, Scotty leaned in and whispered something to Lauren. My guess was "You've won." Lauren shook her head adamantly. Then Randy announced that Lauren was the winner of the night. Scotty grinned at Lauren and you could tell it was "See, I told you." Scotty knew the score, as far as the "American Idol" machine was concerned. They've been pimping Lauren as "the One" since audition round. Whether Scotty's horde of fans will let them get away with that storyline is another matter.
David Cook performed the final song of the night, "Don't You Forget About Me." I love David, but there was something not quite right about his vocals tonight. It sounded like maybe he needed to see Lauren's doctor and get some of those "medicines" for his own raspy chords. The verses seemed set just a bit too low for him, and it felt like he was tensing his whole body as he strained for power on the notes. Growly singing can be hard on the vocal chords, so here's hoping David hasn't damaged his voice.
Last season's Top 2 performance night was a total dirge of dry performances and drab clothing. This year we got Scotty, who started out in a tee-shirt and jeans, on one of the biggest nights of his life. He finally worked up to a white shirt and jeans...and an actual blazer. On the other hand, Lauren was all glitter and sparkle from head to toe. Her first outfit of asymmetrical layers of black and shimmer was flattering, and her long, white gown suited the more emotional third number. Most viewers will be talking about her peach cupcake dress, however, a strapless concoction with skirt puffed up with mountains of tulle, paired with cowboy boots. Princess square dance dresses can be cute, but they look awfully silly as a micro-mini.
The judges panel should also really coordinate better, Jennifer's St. Patrick's Day green sparkle dress clashing with Randy's strange 70s brown, wide-collared number. Then there was Ryan, in a tuxedo, and Steven in some sparkly, Steven-esque number. It was a very strange group sartorial statement.
The Final Verdict
Last year's Top 2 night was pretty dismal, and it's a tough call, but this one seemed worse. The performances mostly fell flat, and there was little fanfare worthy of a Top 2 competition night. The whole production seemed rushed, and the producer manipulation was so obvious that the outcry was all over Twitter minutes after the show began.
While country music can be lively, emotional and inspiring, the inexperience and immaturity of the final two teen contestants prevents them from really selling any of their songs. It's okay, or pleasant, and nearly always forgettable. While both kids have talent that can hopefully be nurtured, they just don't have enough power or stage presence yet to carry a Top 2 show.
"American Idol" also did them a disservice tonight, with a lackluster production that seemed to say, "Yeah, we're not that excited about it, either." Why not have a duet with the two contestants, rather than the totally misplaced Cruz number? Or a wider variety of song styles? Would it have been too much to ask Scotty to sing a Tom Petty number--heck, the two could do their duet on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" by Petty and Stevie Nicks. Or maybe that's just a residual idea from a Haley/James Durbin finale. With all the producers that have been on the show, though, certainly someone could have arranged a non-country song to suit the two contestants' styles and ranges.
In the last three years, the judges have unfairly pimped contestants David Archuleta, Adam Lambert and Crystal Bowersox. We all know how that turned out. This is not to say the eventual runners-up didn't deserve accolades, but the obvious pimping of favored contestants tends to make voters angry enough to vote the other way. With that sort of track record, you have to wonder why they would try it again, unless it's now intentional to get the opposite effect. And now you're going down an "Inception" path of conspiracy theories within conspiracy theories.
What do you think, Yahoo! readers? Did Lauren do enough to beat out Scotty's rabid fan base? Did the show's favoritism towards Lauren affect your vote? Was this the worst Top 2 "American Idol" night ever?
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