Wednesday, May 25, 2011

'American Idol 10' - Was Scotty thrown under the bus?

Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina at a press conference May 23 (Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup)
It's no surprise that there's been a lot of Internet chatter about last night's Top 2 performance show concerning what many perceive as the judges' over-hyping of Lauren Alaina and sabotaging of Scotty McCreery . Was all this a conscious effort on the part of the 'Idol' powers-that-be to take the focus off Scotty, who had been considered the frontrunner or did Lauren really deliver?

Prior to the final performance show, Lauren lost her voice. TMZ "leaked" this information (complete with a photo of Lauren and Scotty in makeup - how did they get that, I wonder?) and in case we missed all of this, Ryan trotted out the doctor who had been treating Lauren to reiterate this tragic news. According to TMZ, Haley Reinhart was standing by, ready to step in and steal Lauren's thunder.

But Lauren soldiered on, and while her vocals were ragged at times, her determination was admirable. Combine that with her "moment" (singing "Like My Mother Does" to her mom), her performing second, and the judges whoopty-doing over her every move, it's not surprising some fans of Scotty are a bit miffed. I mean, really, we closed the show with everyone in tears over Lauren's devotion to her mother. Could there be any more of a tearjerker?

There are some who believe Lauren's vocal problems were exaggerated by TPTB in order to get her the sympathy vote as well as to entice viewers to tune in. And what about the two contestants' "coronation" singles? Jimmy Iovine knew exactly what he was doing when he chose "Like My Mother Does" for Lauren. The song, which was originally recorded by Kristy Lee Cook (Season 7), played to all of Lauren's strengths as well as the viewers' emotional heartstrings. As Ryan carefully escorted poor, frail little Lauren down to the audience to hug her mother, you could almost hear the collective sniffling throughout the land!

On the other hand, Scotty's original song, "I Love You This Big" was wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to start. In my recap, I called it a "dirgey ballad." Even the title is awkward if you think about it! Scotty never seemed to find the melody in this and it felt under-rehearsed. He didn't transition well and seemed befuddled at times. It was the first time all season he didn't seem to be comfortable on that stage.

The biggest difference between the two was that overall, Lauren performed like someone who really, really wanted it, while Scotty was almost too relaxed. Of course, Lauren had something to prove and Scotty really didn't. Rather than roll over and use her vocal problems as an excuse, Lauren gave him a real fight.

I have absolutely no doubt that 'Idol' leaked the news of Lauren's vocal collapse to TMZ in an effort to drum up viewers for what looked like the most boring finale ever. How else can one explain the dressing room photo? This clever little ploy ensured that people would at least tune in at the beginning of the show to see if Lauren made it. These initial viewers would count in the ratings even if they turned it off after five minutes.

Was this an intentional effort to steal some of Scotty's thunder? The producers desperately wanted a girl to win this season to break the three "white guys with a guitar" run. Scotty, while country to the core, also fits that description. Lauren was their last hope, really, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if they didn't push her a bit. And how better than to publicize her vocal problems before the show and then watch as she overcame this obstacle and wowed everyone in the 'Idol' universe!

The thing is, over the years,  'Idol' viewers have stayed one step ahead of the producers and have become wise to their attempts at manipulation. Sure, Lauren may have had vocal problems and her performances were inspired despite all that. But in the cold light of day, it really does seem more than just a little manipulative.

Excessive praise by the judges during the finals can also backfire. Remember Season 7? David Archuleta was proclaimed the winner after the performance show, but ended up coming in second to David Cook. Adam Lambert was also the assumed champ, but we all remember how that one worked out. 'Idol' viewers do not like to be told who is going to win and sometimes will double their efforts simply to ensure what they believe to be the proper outcome!

Personally, I think the goal of all of this was to make a predictable outcome less so, and it worked. People are talking, that's for sure. In the end, I really don't think anything can stop Scotty from claiming the title and the producers knew this.  Dial Idol shows him with a substantial lead (5:3), and while their software doesn't take into account text and online voting, it's a pretty good indicator. At the end of the night, I firmly believe Scotty McCreery will once again be singing "Love Me This Big." 

I am still trying to decide whether or not to live blog the two-plus hour finale. There will certainly be many moments to cherish and I haven't missed an episode all season. This is, after all, the last one. On the other hand, I've got a bad cold and would like nothing better than to sit in my bed and watch the show from start to finish. Just two more hours, though, and it will be over! Just two more hours and we can move on to 'The Voice' where rockers still rule!

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