Host Ryan Seacrest announced, "This is the final showdown, and this is 'American Idol.'"
This would be the battle between "the boy next door" and "the southern belle," Ryan announced, both teenagers. It would be the youngest match-up ever for the show. Ryan asked Lauren about news that she'd been having trouble with her voice in the afternoon. She said that she was fine, and Ryan brought out a doctor who said that she'd been pushing really hard and that she'd "blown out one of her vocal chords," like what happens when a runner gets a strain. But she'd received "a lot of medicine," he said, and should be fine.
Scotty, Ryan and Lauren
First, the two would be singing their own choices. Carrie Underwood would pick for Lauren and George Strait would pick for Scotty. Then the final round would be their singles. Scotty won the coin toss but deferred to Lauren, who opted to go second.
Scotty started out with “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry, strolling through the audience in a black leather jacket with violet T-shirt and jeans. He sang on the second stage behind the judges with a violinist and a guitarist and then moved onto the main stage, where he interacted with some of his screaming fans, bending down to grab their hands. He was definitely in his wheelhouse and made it seem easy, hitting an imaginary baseball with his microphone at the close of the song. [Scotty's First Performance]
Ryan immediately gave the numbers. Hmm. No judging tonight? Well, they would have just told him how much they loved him anyway, right?
For her first song, Lauren sang "Flat on the Floor" by Carrie Underwood, wearing a silver lame jacket, black sparkly top and black leggings. She did her patented hip swivels while singing. You could tell about halfway through that she was starting to have some trouble, but she finished strong and stomped her boot on the stage. Judge Jennifer Lopez gave her a standing ovation, but Ryan just announced the numbers again. No judges' critique. [Lauren's First Performance]
Next would be the celebrity picks.
No surprise, George Strait chose his own hit, "Check Yes or No" for Scotty to sing. The lyrics were a perfect fit for the young Scotty, talking about a schoolyard crush. He strummed an acoustic guitar, wearing a red plaid shirt, accompanied onstage by the violinist, guitarist, bassist and a keyboardist. I could definitely hear him recording a song like this. He seemed a natural. He's really grown a lot as a performer on this show. [Scotty's Second Performance]
Again, straight to the numbers with no judges' comments. I wonder what they did to get overlooked this way?
Carrie Underwood chose "Maybe It was Memphis" by Pam Tillis for Lauren to sing for the second round. She wore a pouffy party dress with a golden top and a matching butterfly necklace, and of course, cowboy boots. This was a great song with a great hook, and she might have been able to do more with it if she hadn't hurt her vocal cords, but it was a pleasant performance. [Carrie's Second Performance]
So far, they seemed pretty neck and neck, with Scotty edging Lauren slightly on the performance.
Finally, the judges got to speak. Randy Jackson said that he thinks the song choices were great. He thought this was very even. He thought Scotty's reprisal of "gone" was brilliant and the George Strait song was very good. But he thought that Lauren sounded great for the first song and loved that two. He gave a slight edge for round one to Scotty and a slight edge for round two to Lauren. Jennifer Lopez thought it was an explosive start from both of them. She thought "Flat on the Floor" was "crazy" (in a good way). She agreed with Randy on how to assess the rounds. Steven Tyler gave the first round and the second round to Lauren "only because she's prettier than you are." Randy busted out that old chestnut: "They're in it to win it." Sigh. [Judges' Critique for First Two Rounds]
Then it was time to debut the song that viewers helped to write, "Positive." Taio Cruz was singing it, complete with a drum line with red and blue lights in their drums.
Jimmy Iovine explained "I Love You This Big," the single that Scotty would release if he won. It's designed to capitalize on one of his great strengths, his confidence. He wore a gray suit jacket, white button-down shirt, and dark jeans while singing in front of a video montage of highlights of his time on the show. This was a ballad, and it was a typically maudlin single but he made it sound good, despite a few pitchy moments in the chorus.
Randy marveled at the fact that it was the two youngest finalists ever, both from the country genre. He thought the range was perfect for Scotty. In it to win...
Jimmy Iovine predicted Lauren's song, “Like My Mother Does,” would move mothers, since it was written for her mom. It was also a chronicle of her experience so far on the show. Lauren wore a white floor-length gown with embroidery at the hem. Cut to a shot of her mother in the audience, taking it all in. Of course, she walked into the audience, with Ryan's help (to get down the steps in her dress) and hugged her mom. She sang to her for a few bars before climbing the stairs again. This was honestly the first time this season I could see Lauren winning. The emotional connection to her mom will probably help her with voters, too.
Randy gave mad props to Jimmy for the song. "It was exactly the summation of her journey." He said, "Finally, it's the Lauren we grew to love" in the auditions. J. Lo said it's a very tight race tonight but "Lauren, with that song, you may have just won." Steven liked how she "gave it up to your mom like that." He said that he thought that America would agree with him that she was the American Idol. Lauren was emotioanlly overwrought, tearing up as she heard the praise. [Video about Lauren's Single; Lauren's Third Performance]
Ryan asked the judges to say who won round three. Randy gave a slight edge to Lauren Alaina. Scotty nodded at this, hugging Lauren on the stage. J. Lo said it was too hard for her to choose, because she really loves Scotty. Steven said that "Lauren gets it, hands down." [Judges' Ruling on Third Round]
At the close of the show, season 7 winner David Cook performed "Don't You Forget About Me," this year's "good-bye" song, over a montage of highlights from the season. Show them how it's done, Dave, also known as the last "American Idol" winner who got my vote in the finale. [David Cook's Performance]
I reluctantly agree with the judges that Lauren had a slight edge over Scotty in the performances. Apparently, she needed the pressure of the finale to finally bring it. I'll say, though, that I could see the final award going to either of them. I predict one of the closest finishes in "American Idol" history, although not necessarily one of the biggest totals (since I've heard of a lot of people who claimed they were going to sit out the voting). All will be known tomorrow!
It's possible to sing even with injured vocal cords... if you really want to.