‘American Idol’ recap: Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina face off in finale

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Shortly before Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina faced off on part one of the two-night season finale of ‘American Idol’ Tuesday night, news broke that Lauren might not perform: She had lost her voice during rehearsals, TMZ reported, and third-place finisher Haley Reinhart was waiting in the wings to compete against Scotty in case Lauren couldn’t go on.

Was it a hoax? A ratings ploy? Surely Lauren, who had performed with a raging flu earlier in the season and had in recent weeks shown renewed confidence and appetite for a win, would not let a little laryngitis sideline her just as she was ready to cross the finish line. Right?


Right you are. At the outset of the show, Ryan Seacrest asked Lauren about the trouble she’d been having with her voice.

‘I’m here, I’m ready to sing, and I’m fine. Don’t worry about it,’ she said, clearly wanting to move on.

But before Ryan was willing to let the subject drop, he called up a doctor wearing black scrubs (ah, Los Angeles) who explained that, during rehearsal, Lauren ‘blew out one of her vocal cords,’ which he said was ‘kind of like a runner with a badly sprained ankle.’ However, the doctor said, she had been given ‘a lot of medicine’ and was ready to perform. In fact, he predicted, ‘she’s gonna do great.’

And so she did.

Scotty and Lauren faced off in three rounds: In the first, they reprised a favorite song from their ‘American Idol’ run. In the second, their own idols -- George Strait for Scotty, Carrie Underwood for Lauren -- picked the songs for them. And the third round was their ‘coronation’ song: an original song selected for them by show mentor Jimmy Iovine, which would also be their first official release should they win the competition.

Scotty, who had won the coin toss to determine the order of performance and then gallantly allowed Lauren to choose the slot she preferred anyway (she chose the advantageous second spot), opened the show with Montgomery Gentry’s ‘Gone,’ landing a solid performance that served as a reminder of how far he had come in and how much he had learned over the weeks. He also looked comfortably in command on his second tune, Strait’s ‘Check Yes or No,’ on which he also played guitar. (I like Scotty much better when he’s playing guitar -– it keeps him from pointing and waggling his mic, and it seems to help him keep the nutty camera-mugging to a minimum.)

Unfortunately for Scotty, the song Jimmy picked for him in the third round, ‘I Love You This Big,’ was only -- as Randy Jackson used to be fond of saying, back before his vocabulary narrowed to include the phrase ‘in it to win it’ almost exclusively -- just OK. ‘I’m not sure it was the perfect song for you,’ Randy said, ‘but the range was great.’ Jennifer Lopez praised Scotty’s storytelling skills and said he’d done an ‘amazing job’ with a song that nobody had ever heard before. And Steven Tyler said something about taking risks and not being able to land a three-point shot from beneath the net, adding that Scotty had ‘nailed it.’

Lauren’s performances, meanwhile, seemed to strengthen as the evening progressed. She quelled fears about her voice with her reprise of Carrie Underwood’s ‘Flat on the Floor.’ Then she upped the ante with Pam Tillis’ ‘Maybe It Was Memphis.’ Then she made everyone weep and reach for the phone to dial up their moms (or was that just me?) with a musical ode to her mom, ‘Like My Mother Does.’ After Lauren sang, walking down from the stage to sing directly to the mother who has steadfastly remained at her side, I noticed a video tremor -– and I found myself wondering if the cameraman, too, had been moved to tears.

‘Moms are the bedrock of American society,’ Jimmy had predicted before Lauren sang, ‘and they’re all gonna be moved by this song like crazy.’

Jennifer Lopez, a mother of two, was quick to prove Jimmy’s point. It was ‘very tight race tonight,’ said Jennifer, who has often declared her love for Scotty, ‘but Lauren, with that song, you may have just won.’

Jennifer and Randy had given round one to Scotty and round two to Lauren. Steven, who anointed Lauren ‘the one’ back during auditions, had been unwavering in his love, telling Scotty he felt Lauren won the first two rounds ‘only because she’s prettier than you are.’ Sweetly, Scotty seemed to understand.

But on the third-round winner, the judges seemed to agree: Lauren had emerged triumphant. Randy gave her a ‘slight edge.’ Jennifer hemmed and hawed, saying how much she’d adored Scotty all along and declining to repeat her prediction of a Lauren win. Steven declared, with apologies to Scotty, that ‘Lauren gets it hands down.’

It was almost enough to make Scotty, who has been widely tipped to win, look like the underdog. Which of course could be just the thing to fire up his fans and clinch his win.

What do you think of Scotty’s and Lauren’s performances? Who would you like to see -- who do you think deserves to be -– crowned the next American Idol? Weigh in! RELATED:

Nigel Lythgoe makes an ‘American Idol’ prediction

Scotty McCreery versus Lauren Alaina: Who will win?

Full Show Tracker coverage of ‘American Idol’

-- Amy Reiter