But a moment to pause to contemplate the absence of blatant staging manipulation: If the producers don't know who they're rooting for, and don't care enough to make sure you know who you're supposed to vote for, you know we're in trouble.
We have two competitors who are solid, capable, reliable, and consistent. None of those adjectives are what comes to mind when you think of a great singer. Instead, those are the descriptors of the kind of insurance agent you would want to sign with. And therein lies the problem with tonight's show.
I was chided in the chat room for using the word somnambulistic to describe one of tonight's performances, but I think the scolding was more for the affectation than accuracy in my choice of words. Because there was no question that the word for tonight was sleepy.
It occurred to me that when I think back on Season 10, I will remember Casey Abrams' borderline psychotic performances and Paul McDonald beyond the border silly ones, James Durbin's over-the-top staging and Haley Rinehart's quasi-burlesque act, but not one performance of either of the final two will be recalled. So it was really no surprise that the final competition pitting the two would leave no trace.
The first song was a reprise of the contestant's favorite performance from the competition. Scotty chose "Gone" by Montgomery Gentry. I haven't checked back to my earlier post, but I was told that I liked this in the earlier rounds. Perhaps, but tonight his vocals were far outmatched by his excellent baseball swing at the end of the song. When your arm movements are the most interesting part of a performance, perhaps there is something wrong. The song started so monotone and unremarkably you had to check the DVR description -- yep, this is the finale! It picked up by the end, but before the applause faded I would have been hardpressed to remember the performance.
Lauren did the Carrie Underwood song "Flat on the Floor" and it was only more interesting than Scotty's performance because we had been told ahead of time that Lauren had blown out a vocal chord during rehearsal. So it was inevitable that we would listen a little more carefully, and care a little more, about her performance wondering if she'd make it or not. But in the end it was what we've come to expect from her, good, a little breathless, but good. She sounded best singing the song's title, where she carried some power along with a lovely tone, but the rest of the vocals were too muted. After she sang I wondered, with all the medicine they gave her so she could perform, if she wins, will she have an asterisk by her name?
The next songs were chosen by the contestant's own idol. Scotty's, chosen by George Strait, was "Check Yes or No." I didn't like the weird looks into the camera that Scotty does, but I really liked his vocal on this song. It sounded a little different from what he has done on ever other single song since the beginning of time and for that I was grateful. But what's with the wide stance; did someone steal his horse right out from under him?
Lauren's second song was selected for her by former AI winner Carrie Underwood. It was Pam Tillis' "Maybe it was Memphis." Oh, if only Carrie had picked her dress as well. That was beyond unfortunate. Even on the most shoestring budget, no Little Miss pageant contestant would be caught dead in that outfit - it was tutu, too too much. But, Lauren at least sang like she cared if she won and tried to put some passion in her vocals. Her voice has so much potential -- just beautiful. If she weren't just a child, she'd really know what to do with it and she could blow us all away. Right now, it's just raw talent that needs to be worked with.
The last song was the potential single for whoever wins this season. Jimmy Iovine picked a song called, I kid you not, "I love you this big." Unless you're three, that is an unfortunate line to deliver, let alone sing on a stage before millions. Silly, insipid, ridiculous are some of the words that come to mind to describe the song title. None of this is Scotty's fault and I give him props for doing his best -- including risking mocking humiliation from his baseball friends -- to act out the lyrics. But if he wins, I'll be glad I don't listen to country radio so I won't have to hear this treacle. His voice though, as always, was good, fine, right on.
Lauren's last song was "Like My Mother Does" and it was a much better song than the one Scotty was assigned. It actually had a chorus, and told a story. Lauren sang beautifully, as always, and didn't let her emotion in singing to her doppelganger take away from her performance. There were some quasi-creepy Gypsy allusions hanging over the song, but Lauren showed herself to be the better singer, the one more able to put her heart and soul into her vocals and to connect emotionally with the audience. Too bad it won't be enough.
And there you have it. Two kids who probably still sleep with their retainers in, who will toast their victory with a milkshake, are our final two contestants of Season 10. They deserved to be there by virtue of their innate talent and poise, yet the very things that make them so attractive to a record label are what makes them not the best choices for an interesting finale. They are predictably good, but predictable is not the main ingredient for an exciting TV show. But on the results show, we get the train wreck contestants returning and while I might cringe at their vocals...at least I won't be bored.
Prediction? You don't have to be Nostradamus to know that Scotty will win. Even that guy who incorrectly predicted the Rapture realizes he has the tween vote locked up. I just don't see the middle-aged mom block, who had been supporting him, jump ship just because Lauren sang about her mom. But I'll admit that I texted quite a few votes for Little Miss Sunshine and am hoping for an upset.