updated 05/19/2011 AT 4:45 PM ET
•originally published 05/19/2011 AT 9:30 PM ET
It’s finale time!
Thursday night, American Idol’s top three contestants – Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery and Haley Reinhart – faced the last elimination before next week’s big finale, where one will be named the season 10 champ.
Keep reading to find out who will compete and who was thisclose to the big night but didn’t make it.
Ryan Seacrest, at the start of the hour, announced that Wednesday night”s vote had been 95 million – 15 million more than last year’s comparable night. Well, it’s a much better contest, isn’t it, America?
No matter who wins, the next American Idol will be a country artist: The competition is between Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery.
At just 16 and 17 years old respectively, Lauren and Scotty are also the youngest two finalists in Idol history. To the producers and the marketers, this must be demographic heaven.
What Happened to Haley?
Haley Reinhart’s surprisingly strong comeback finally petered out. She looked momentarily stunned when she realized she was done, but then she rallied and sang “Bennie and the Jets” with her usual parade of growls. She’s what in antediluvian times they used to call a trouper.
This season has seen the slow but steady elimination of all the “big” singers, starting with Pia Toscano through Casey Abrams and James Durbin and now Haley. She wowed the judges this week singing Led Zeppelin, but after all the opening fireworks she had a harder time raising much texture or technique out of songs by Stevie Nicks or Alanis Morrisette.
What we’re left with are two young singers who’ve shown impressive consistency from the start. Scotty, in particular, hasn’t changed a lick, except to shift his grip on the microphone: He seemed to know in auditions exactly how he was supposed to sound, even how to raise and lower his eyebrows for sentimental emphasis.
Jimmy Iovine, at the start of the hour, predicted that Scotty would make it. And his comments seemed to favor Lauren slightly over Haley.
Lauren vs. Scotty
My guess is voters will ultimately favor Lauren over Scotty, as well. Unlike Scotty, she has an unformed quality that’s very appealing. Iovine described the blue gown she wore Wednesday as a prom dress, but it was also something of a Disney princess dress. There’s the sense that she could be enchanted, transformed, by the title.
That is, assuming she sings well next week.
It was hometown night, so we got to see Haley touring Wheeling, Ill., outside Chicago, often in the shadow of an enormous security guard. Scotty headed cross-country to Garner, N.C., and sobbed in the back of the limo and during a parade.
“Scotty and I were both in tears a good part of the day,” admitted his mom. And Lauren was back in Rossville, Ga., crying as she witnessed the wreckage of the recent tornadoes. All very touching.
Performers for the night included the Italian trio Il Volo, a sort of Il Divo crossed with Justin Bieber.