Having nearly perished in the first two weeks of the finals series, few would have predicted that Haley Reinhart would survive until the final three of American Idol. But survive she did – indeed she positively thrived, to the point where it actually felt like something of an injustice that she didn’t earn the right to have a crack at the title. That now leaves us with our final two, an all-country slugfest between the throwback sound of Scotty McCreery and the more contemporary country/pop crossover of Lauren Alaina. At 17 and 16, they are the youngest pair of finalists ever on the series.
Bye bye Haley
We had to negotiate an awful lot of filler this week before finally getting to the results. In a pre-recorded segment from last week, the final four (including James Durbin) visited writer/director – and Daney Gokey lookalike – J J Abrams to preview his new movie , Super 8. All three contestants returned to their home towns to be mobbed by friends, family and several thousand other people desperate to catch a glimpse of their local idol. And we had performances from Nicole Scherzinger and Italian operatic boy band Il Volo – who appear to be a cross between Il Divo and the cast of the film Stand By Me.
Indeed, the results almost felt like an afterthought in the entire process. But when we finally got down to it, Ryan Seacrest wasted little time in telling us that Scotty – surprise, surprise – was in the final, and that Lauren would be joining him.
Which confirmed it was finally time for Haley to return to Wheeling, Illinois – this time permanently. (Although presumably she will be back to perform in the results finale next week.)
There was no question that Haley had had the most rollercoaster journey of the final three, and that she had been this season’s surprise package. And yet, by my count, she had three genuine ‘moments’ which will be remembered long after the finale – more than either Scotty or Lauren – Bennie and the Jets, House of the Rising Sun and I (Who Have Nothing). But she had also had more bad performances than the others. When she got it wrong – Earth Song, I’m Your Baby Tonight, You Oughta Know – she could be terrible. Ultimately it was the combination of that inconsistency and the lack of an obvious fan club which saw her fall just short. And yet, of the final three, she has by far the best live voice. While I can see Scotty and Lauren sounding great in the studio or on the radio, I’m convinced Haley would be the best to listen to at a proper gig. I’m not sure she will have a successful career as a recording artist, but then winning the competition is no longer a guarantee of that either. (Is it, Lee DeWyze?)
Previewing the final
Having predicted a Scotty/Lauren final from the beginning, I’m now dreading next week’s finale. We are going to get a lot of country songs and at the end of it, regardless of performance, my head says Scotty will win – although I will be rooting for Lauren. Scotty has had a huge following throughout, and while I’ve been disappointed that he has rarely surprised us or exceeded expectations, there is no denying he has a fantastic voice and an endearingly old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness personality.
While Lauren has improved throughout the competition, she has never fully delivered on the promise of her initial audition. In Nashville we saw a young girl full of life and personality, who wowed us with her vocal power and tone, despite some obvious rough edges. And while some of that rawness has been knocked out of her, too many pf her performances have felt constrained and other flaws have emerged. Too often she has lacked the ability to fully inhabit the emotion and personality of a song, and the confidence to go for the really big notes. Whereas Scotty seems old beyond his 17 years, Lauren has frequently seemed a very young 16.
I know I said last week that I had a feeling Lauren would upset the odds and emerge as the winner, but although I still believe it is possible all the evidence points unmistakably to a Scotty triumph. We will know for sure next week. All I ask is that they don’t bore me to tears by singing nothing but country music staples. A national – an international – audience deserves better than that.
American Idol posts
Top 3: Performances
Link: American Idol website