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Thursday May 26, 2011 1:00 am

American Idol 10: Top 2 Perform

American Idol 10 - Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery

American Idol kicked off the first installment of its finale shows with clips of past Idols and its two current contestants. The stage was set for drama, the Nokia Theater was packed with people and we were all ready to count the cowboy hats as the hour-long performance episode kicked off.

Ryan Seacrest called the battle “the boy next door versus the southern belle.” They are Idol’s youngest two contestants to face off in the final round. Both gained early attention from judges and fans, both are absolutely country singers, both want to win badly. Despite reports from TMZ that the finale might have been otherwise, Lauren Alaina was indeed ready to perform on Tuesday. According to the doctor that Idol trotted on stage, Lauren belted too hard in her rehearsal and blew out a vocal cord.

Think it’ll affect the voting? Doesn’t everything?

Scotty McCreery kicked off the show with a performance of “Gone,” appearing out of the crowd to casually deliver the tune. Scotty was a little too cavalier on the stage, but his vocals are still amazing. His high-energy performance quickly set the tone for the night.

Lauren Alaina chose “Flat on the Floor” for her first number, and as promised her voice sounded great. Wearing silver, with her blonde curls flowing, Alaina looked like a true country singing star. The vocal wasn’t perfect, but Lauren’s performance was entertaining, and that’s what it’s all about.

Country singer George Strait chose Scotty McCreery’s second song, “Check Yes or No,” interestingly enough a George Strait tune. But Scotty delivered it like it was his own, strumming his guitar and wearing the requisite blue jeans and plaid shirt (the look of choice for any male country singer). Will the Idol voters check yes for Scotty? The answer won’t be revealed until the end of Wednesday’s episode.

Idol superstar Carrie Underwood picked Lauren Alaina’s tune. She asked Lauren to sing “Maybe it Was Memphis,” a Pam Tillis song. Lauren wore gold to deliver the sleepy little tune. Not the best song choice for Lauren, perhaps, or something was lost in the delivery. She did belt the tune out with uncustomary big vocals, but something in it was boring. Happily, Lauren’s voice sounded healthy.

Ryan Seacrest addressed the judges at the end of the round. “America, these are your two that you chose, and you did a fine job,” Randy Jackson complimented the Idol voters, clear pandering. He found Scotty’s version of “Gone” to be “brilliant.” The “George Strait thing was really good as well.”

Jackson then turned his attentions to Lauren Alaina. “I thought [“Flat on the Floor”] was really good.” As for the second song, “love that, too.” He gave a “slight edge to Scotty” for round 1 and a “slight edge to Lauren Alaina” for round 2. How diplomatic.

Jennifer Lopez found that both had an “explosive start.” “Lauren, you came out, you attacked it.” Scotty’s second song, however, “wasn’t as dynamic.” She agreed with Randy’s assessment of the first two rounds.

Steven Tyler gave the first round and the second rounds to Lauren, “Only ‘cause she’s prettier than you.” Meaning Scotty, of course.

“Most importantly, Ryan, they’re both in it to win it!” Jackson screamed his catchphrase before Ryan Seacrest re-gained control of the show.

The show took a break to feature a performance from Taio Cruz, a surprising development. He performed “Positive,” the song written by the winner of Idol’s songwriting contest, sponsored by Coca-Cola (and the show isn’t about to let you forget it).

Scotty McCreery also sang a new song: “I Love You This Big.” This is the tune that will be released if Scotty wins the show. As he gently crooned the tune, video clips of Scotty played in the background on the big screen. The song is fairly catchy, and Scotty delivered it with sensational conviction.

“Wow, man,” Randy Jackson searched for words. “The range was great, because you sung low, and you sung really high… Scotty, you are here, you are in it to win it.” Jackson finally summed it up as a “brilliant vocal.”

Jennifer Lopez again praised Scotty’s storytelling. “I think you did an amazing job with that song.”

“Scotty, man, you’ve come a long way,” Steven Tyler praised. “You took your chances, you ran with it and you nailed it.”

Lauren Alaina’s song, “Like My Mother Does” was previously recorded by Kristy Lee Cook (remember her?). But it was Lauren who sold it on the Idol stage, in a floor-length white gown, with great conviction. As with Scotty, videos of Lauren played while she belted out the tune. Ryan Seacrest appeared out of nowhere to help Lauren down the stage, where she went to the audience to embrace her own mother. It was an engaging, heartfelt performance, and could be enough to win Lauren the Idol crown. The song she sang was from Kristy Lee Cook’s Why Wait, released in 2008.

She was in tears at the end of it all. Randy Jackson repeated “wow” several times as the audience roared. “That was an amazing song that you chose for Lauren,” he praised Jimmy Iovine. “You sang that little Mariah Carey soft, whisper voice thing at the end… Lauren Alaina has arrived at American Idol! That was amazing!” He stood up to applaud her.

“This is a very tight race tonight, but Lauren, with that song you may just have won,” J-Lo told her. “[The song] was perfect for you.”

“As far as I’m concerned, the first time I saw you, I thought you were my American Idol,” Steven Tyler told her. “You are, in my eyes.”

Randy Jackson picked Lauren as the winner of the last round, but Jennifer Lopez hedged on an answer. “Lauren gets it, hand down,” Steven Tyler wasn’t shy about his opinion at all.

David Cook closed the show with her version of “Don’t You Forget About Me,” the season’s “good-bye” song.

On Wednesday, one of the Top 2 will win the tenth season Idol crown. Re-cap their entire journey with our American Idol 10 posts.

Gallery: American Idol 10: Top 2 Perform

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